For the past few months, I’ve devoted much of my outdoor climbing to the coveted flash ascent. I’m referring, of course, to sending a route or boulder problem on your first attempt. Flashing is an element of bouldering that I really enjoy, and is something that a lot of people overlook and I think it is unfortunately neglected. There’s no question that everyone can benefit from improving his or her flashing skills. Learning how to climb problems quickly saves your skin, your strength, and your time. It also improves your technique, mental game, and motivation.
I’ve honed this skill over the course of my climbing career, and I’d like to share what I’e learned along the way because I think there is significant value in attempting and successfully flashing a boulder problem.
Select the right boulder problem. The first step is rather obvious, but is one of the most overlooked. Selecting the right problem is critical and can dictate success or failure. For starters, pick something roughly 2-3 grades below your hardest project send. I’ve found that medium length problems (7-10 moves) are optimal. Anything shorter and you run the risk of encountering a crux move that is hard for the grade. Anything longer and you run the risk of pumping off the climb.
The second step is also obvious. Obtain as much information about the problem as possible. Get beta online: Don’t just watch one video, watch three videos! Watch videos with alternate beta. Get beta from a friend: Find a friend who has done the problem, or who is working on the problem. It’s very important that this person climbs near your same level and has your same general body type. If they’re too strong, they may use beta that isn’t suited to your ability. Too tall, and their advice on which feet to use is useless.
Pay particular attention to the end of the problem. From my experience most climbers, myself included, fail at the final 3rd of the problem, even if they’ve already successfully flashed past the crux. In the final 3rd, you’re tired and not thinking straight. When you’re previewing the route from the ground, really engage your mind and observe all possible methods for the final section of the problem. Once you’ve selected what you think is your best option, commit to it.
After you’ve previewed the problem but before you’ve tried, think about any techniques that may be critical to your success and rehearse them while warming up. If the problem requires a crucial heel hook, warm up on problems with heel hooks. The same thing applies to the style of holds (crimps, slopers), and the style of the problem (slab, vert., overhanging, techy, powerful, etc.).
Mentally rehearse the beta you’ve decided upon. Rehearse the end. Rehears the end, again. Believe me. There’s no place as common, and no place as painful as falling at the end.
After you’ve rehearsed the beta, you should be getting nervous. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but when harnessed, it can help your performance. Don’t fight your nerves. Reframe any nervous energy into excited energy.