That moment of the perfect union between your straining muscles and firm rock under your fingers and feet. The sport of rock climbing provides an adrenaline surge seldom felt in the rhythms of our daily lives.

Whether you climb in a natural vista or are scaling vertically in a rock gym? Learning the terminology associated with this unique sport will help you acclimate quickly. Let’s start slowly with what is a flash in climbing? 

What Is a Flash in Climbing?

When you ask what is a flash in climbing, you’re asking an excellent question. Flash climbing is one of the most important terms a new climber should familiarize themselves with. 

As you begin to consider ascents, flashing is what you strive to achieve: doing a route or a boulder ascent on the first try without falling. You are not climbing cold when you flash: another group of climbers have mapped the route for you and placed bolts and set points to assist you in your ascent. 

Water Climbing

What is a Flash in Climbing and What is an Onsight?

When an athlete attempts flash climbing, they have already prepared before beginning their ascent. In the case of an onsight climb, there was no pre-planning involved. You geared up and will be climbing a rock/boulder that nobody has scaled before, or you will be pioneering a new route for future climbers to follow. 

Not only that? You successfully completed it on the very first try without a single fall or near miss. You will be setting your own bolts and rack points on the way, and onsight climbing is generally recommended for more advanced rock scalers.

What Counts as a Climbing Flash?

As we described before, you will have successfully flashed when you don’t fall during an ascent on a previously prepared route.

Climbers are a supportive community, and you may often hear people alongside you yelling for you to “send it” as you are scaling well. Be proud of every flash climbing achievement as you develop your skills.

What is a Flash in Bouldering?

Similarly to a flash in rock climbing, where climbers are using a harness as well as going vertical 30m or more above the ground, a flash in bouldering means you are successful in your first attempt at scaling a rock that is 12 to 15m above the ground free from any harness or rope apparatus. 

Bouldering is a popular type of free climbing that relies heavily on leverage, spatial perception, and physical conditioning. Although bouldering is considered free of harness or rope assistance. There are boulder-specific safety equipment purchases you can and should make before attempting your first ascent.

Climbing Etiquette

Good manners on the ground and when you have begun your ascent are essential in climbing or bouldering, as in life. You should never attempt to push past another climber or group without warning or permission. Your lives are literally in each other’s hands. 

Also, if you are climbing and find a damaged set point, bolt, or grip? Replace it if you can, and if you cannot replace it, remove it to prevent less experienced ascenders from using defective equipment. Make sure in your post route summaries that you share you relay the information.

Always prepare for any type of ascent (boulder or rock climb) with some basics: a bare-bones first aid kit on-site and within easy access of your spotters or following climbers, water, and good climbing shoes. 

Always inspect your gear on-site, even if you have checked it at home. A climber is only as good as their equipment. Don’t alter the safety mechanisms of your harness, as it may render it less effective. 

Will Reading a Guidebook Ruin My Onsight?

This depends on whether you consider yourself a purist. A truly unscored climb generally isn’t in any guidebook and is something you are pioneering first. You will be writing the guidebook. 

However, there isn’t too much ground that our colleagues at the United States Geological Survey haven’t covered domestically, so a general knowledge of the climate, weather patterns, geographic landmarks not directly related to your ascent and local places to camp, eat, and play following your workout might not be a bad idea.

After all, while the climb is the goal? The adventure only starts at the summit.

Rock climbing shoes and water rappelling

What Happens if You Fall on a Flash Attempt?

It happens. You are climbing exceptionally, and you lose grip, or your foot slips, your harness, and the ropes taking your weight. Did you fail? No. While you may not have flashed, you are giving it your all. And no self-respecting fellow climber is going to give you grief over it. 

You can always try again, regain your footing, grab your hold more securely and continue to ascend. The climb now becomes a pinkpoint attempt (anything other than the first attempt at an onsight climb, route, or ascent). 

Can You Onsight on Top Rope?

Again, this comes down to the purest level. If you are doing a rappelled descent, or are the lead climber setting bolts and mapping the route for your peers to follow you? 

Absolutely. You are the first to figure out the plotting concept, which counts as an onsight climb in your ledger. 

Can You Flash a Route Indoors?

Why not? If it is the first time that you have completed the route without leaning on your rope and harness with the spotter taking your weight? You flashed! Send it!

What is the Hardest Climbing Flash?

Rock climbs are rated on a common scale from 1 to 6 (described in more detail below). Mt Everest, for example, is a grade 6 ascent. As you gain more experience climbing and become familiar with your body’s responses to the ascent process? You can begin considering more difficult or rigorous climbs. 

Free Solo Moments

Climbing Grading System with Estimated Completion Times

  • Grade I: A couple of hours;
  • Grade II: Closer to four hours;
  • Grade III: Four to six hours (most of the day);
  • Grade IV: One very long day;
  • Grade V: Two days (requires an overnight stay);
  • Grade VI: Two-plus days.

What is the Hardest Bouldering Flash?

The next most common question, given the difference in equipment used for each style of climbing as well as the height of the ascent, is how boulders are graded. Bouldering has some differences in this aspect as well. Boulder ascents are graded on two scales, the V scale, and Font scale, usually simultaneously.

The V scale refers to the number of problems a climber may encounter on the route, with 0 being the easiest ranging to 10 for the most difficult. Indoor gyms may modify the V scale based on the facilities available and grade more simply using 1 to 4.

The Font scale, short for the Fontainebleau scale, is more popular on rating climbs in the European Union and Asia among the climbing communities there. Like the V scale, it is the first numeric rating problem the climber can expect from 1 to 6. 

To offset the decreased number value, at level 6 Font, climbers begin assigning alphabetical subheadings. For example, a 6A climb will be far less difficult than a 6H, BUT it is still much more rigorous than a 2. 

The largest Font-rated bouldering flash currently being ascended as of August 2020 was the Hanshallaren Cave in Norway, with a grade of 5.15D. Adam Ondra first achieved this flash.

The highest-rated boulder on Earth as of publication is Japan’s Mount Mizugaki, rated by most experts as 8B+ difficult. Tomoa Narasaki has navigated flash attempts on this boulder, but little else is known about further attempts to ascend the rock face at this site. 

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