anak verhoven margo hayes rock climbing

Pushing Limits: Margo Hayes, Anak Verhoeven Send 5.15a Projects

Two of the hardest climbs in the world just saw groundbreaking firsts.

anak verhoeven margo hayes rock climbing
Anak Verhoen on the left; Margo Hayes on the right. Photo credit respectively: Richard Sébastien, Matty Hong

Margo Hayes joined the short list of climbers, and became the first female, to reach the top of Biographie/Realization, a 5.15a sport climb in Ceuse, France. Anak Verhoeven, meanwhile, created the list for climbers to strive for with Sweet Neuf, a new 5.15a sport climb in Pierrot Beach, France.

These ascents are remarkable. The holds are tiny and the moves dynamic. Biographie/Realization is long a climb, stretching 120 feet. And Sweet Neuf extends far overhead, an overhanging route that demands endurance.

Earlier this year, Hayes became the first woman to climb 5.15a, a landmark met only by the elite. She did it again in short time, sending Biographe/Realization on September 25.

Verhoeven established Sweet Neuf, becoming the first person, male or female, to climb that 5.15a on September 11.

Realization/Biographie: Margo Hayes

In an Instagram post, Hayes explained she had her eyes on Realization/Biographie since May: “Biographie tested my commitment, my fortitude, and my belief in myself.”

MY HEART IS FULL ? I am grateful to Jean-Christophe Lafaille for envisioning this graceful line, Biographie, in 1989. In 1996, Arnaud Petit completed the pitch to the first anchor, and five years later, in 2001, @chris_sharma became the first person to complete the line to the highest anchor, simultaneously sending the first ever 9a+. Thank you for giving Biographie / Realization to our community! In life, we are tested. Biographie tested my commitment, my fortitude, and my belief in myself. In May, I touched Biographie for the first time. Ever since, the route has been ingrained in my mind and body. In one week, I will leave France, the country that I have lived in and learned from for the past year. Just yesterday, I realized this dream. The difficulties of this endeavor were overshadowed by the sound of the birds, laughter of friends, and the changing of the seasons. To experience the delicate power that Biographie holds is a true privilege. I am so grateful for the support that I have received from the climbing community throughout this process, especially from @arnaudpetit_climb , my mentor on this journey. Thank you, @alexandermegos for the send belay and @jan_novak_photography for this image. @thenorthface @petzl_official @lasportivana @frictionlabs @dogearedjewelry

A post shared by MΔRGΩ HΔΨΣS? (@margojain) on

Sweet Neuf: Anak Verhoeven

Verhoeven’s ascent harbored serious ground fall risk, with reachy moves tucked between the second and third clips. Its crux involves moving feet high up on tiny vertical holds, moving feet high again, and reaching for a sloper hold.

She tried Sang Neuf for three days in April of 2016, but was forced to abandon the attempt due to bad weather. So, she returned this September, crushed Sang Neuf (5.14d) on her first try, and then went to link a climb above Sang Neuf. This link up became Sweet Neuf, 5.15a.

After resting a day, she sent the link up. Quentin Chastagnier bolted Sweet Neuf in 2016, but it had never seen a complete ascent. The whole climb became Sweet Neuf, 5.15a.


5.15a Rock Climbing

2017 continues to be a standout year for rock climbing. Hayes became the first female to complete a 5.15a on February 26, while Verhoeven’s first ascent was the first 5.15a established by a woman.

Climbing 5.15a is insanely hard. In fact, most climbers never come close to that level. Those that do spend weeks, months, and even years “projecting” the route. The truly dedicated learn the moves, dial in a strategy, and train specifically for one single climb.

Woman Just Climbed The Hardest Route Yet
Woman Just Climbed The Hardest Route Yet
Margo Hayes became the first woman to climb 5.15a this weekend with a send of 'La Rambla' in Catalonia, Spain. Read more…

But this year’s 5.15a ascents are different, and extremely promising for the climbing world. For Hayes to cruise up two 5.15a routes within five months raises eyebrows. And for Verhoeven to finish a first ascent of 5.15a after spending less than five days on the climb is unheard of.

As with any first ascent, the grade receives some speculation. The first person to send the route gives it a grade, and since no other climber has finished the route, its accuracy remains unconfirmed.

Congratulations go out to Verhoeven and Hayes on these incredible accomplishments. Given their current trajectory, it might not be too long until another record-setting ascent occurs.

Nate Mitka

Midwest born, Nate Mitka is based in the GearJunkie Denver office. He is an advocate of all outdoor activities and has developed some habits, like running without headphones, eating raw vegetables, and fixing the chain on his ratty old bike.