How to Flash Routes

The world is a playground. Might as well have some fun on it.

Hey there climbers! I figured I’d share with you some things that I like to do before I try to flash routes. Recently, I just flashed my hardest grade and am so proud of it! At the end of my spring 2021 season, I was so psyched to add The Force (5.13a) at the Dark Side in the Red River Gorge to my flash list! So great! Over the next couple of weeks, I considered what it was that allowed me to flash such a difficult grade. And here are some techniques and strategies I believe have helped me achieve my hardest flash grade to date.

I think the best beta (as well as the following tips) I can give any climber is to just climb your heart out! Every climb teaches you something. So take what the route gives you, and run with it.

Enjoy! Also, feel free to find me on Instagram @teachonclimbon. Happy climbing!

Just breathe.

Sounds silly, and some might even be wondering why this is even a piece of advice. But seriously, breathing works! It’s helps you climb in a rhythm. But most importantly, it forces you to pump that oxygen through your stressed out body while climbing.

Breathing is a technique many climbers overlook. It changes your red point and flash game if you can establish a good breathing game. If you’ve never thought about how breathing can improve your climbing game, here are a few steps to help you incorporate breathing rhythms into climbing:

Looks like I’m puckering up for a kiss, but I’m actually breathing deep. Don’t judge!
  1. Start taking a deep breath in, fill those lungs up! Don’t start on the wall. Start in a quiet place, or somewhere you can really focus on these deep belly breaths. If you start from the ground without having to worry about anything else, you can develop a habit to introduce while climbing. In other words, if you’re aware of your breathing off the wall, you’ll have a better chance of doing so while climbing.
  2. As you exhale, try to time it with making a move on the wall. It’s easiest to start this on your warm ups. Then, you can sort of make it become a muscle memory thing for when you start projecting. In other words, inhale as you wind up for a move, exhale as you go up for the move.
  3. Secondly, breathe deeply while resting to get your heart rate down. If you can slow your heart rate on those rests, your muscles start to feel relaxed, your head clear, and you can start to feel that pump release from your arms.
  4. There are all sorts of breathing exercises you can do. And each serves a different purpose. The deep breathing I’ve recommended here is a great place to start. Click here to read more on breathing techniques and how it can improve your flashes.

Training Beta also wrote an interesting article on how to improve your strength and power through breathing. I think this is important, because it definitely changes based on whether you’re bouldering or rope climbing. Our breathing tempo, rhythm, and frequency adapts for what we need while climbing. Breathing is DEEP. There’s so much to it! Click here to read Training Beta’s take on breathing.

Get a good read. And I don’t mean a book.

My buddy, Ty, reading the route while I show him what NOT to do! He’s thinking side pull where I did undercling.

Check it out from the ground… Not gonna spend too much time on this one. It’s sort of self-explanatory. But in plain terms, watch climbers before you, like this guy in the picture above. Also, take some legit time for yourself to visualize movements you might do on the route.

Read that route from cover to cover! Consider where rests might be, clipping stances you might take, and where the crux(es) could be. If you’re not against it, read up on it! Mountain Project has some beta I’ve found helpful sometimes.

Get a good spray.

So as mentioned at the beginning of this little post, I shared that I recently flashed my hardest grade to date. A huge contribution to that flash was the detailed spray I was getting from fellow climbers at the crag. Those of you who don’t quite know the definition of ‘spray’, it basically means someone telling you all about the route: how to move, where the cruxes and rests are, what they did on the route, etc. Whenever you can – if you don’t want to try to onsight – get a good spray!

I was fortunate enough to have two people sharing their betas with me. This was cool because neither really climbed sections of the route the same, so I got two different options while I was up there pumping my brains out! I would visualize what they told me they did and calculate in my head if it was something I could do or not based on my strengths, style of climbing, and how much juice I had left in me. Now, don’t get me wrong, the world’s best sprayer could be giving you beta while climbing, and you still might not flash it. But it certainly increases your odds.

That’s why my next tip is just as important as getting your breathing down and finding someone who can spray you down.

Focus on what’s ahead.

When you’re on a good hold, MILK IT! Don’t leave that hold until after you’ve gained some recovery and definitely DON’T leave that hold until after you’ve mapped out at least the next few moves. If you go completely blind, you might as well not be looking at what’s ahead. So, take any opportunity on the route to visualize the upcoming movements.

Reading the next few moves on a good rest.

Again, if you’ve never been on this route before, the way you thought you would climb something might not go to plan. In fact, that happens more often than not. But what you’ve just done for yourself is getting familiar with the holds coming up. You’ve been able to find hand holds and foot holds to use whereas if you’d have just gunned for it, you’d be looking all over.

Focusing on what’s ahead gives you some time to plan, visualize, and execute. Think of it this way: if your college professor or boss were to give you an outline to what will be on an exam or evaluation, wouldn’t you want to look at it to prepare you for what’s to come? Same principle in climbing: preview your route as much as you can so that there aren’t as many surprises.

Focus, people. You’re trying to flash after all!

Nothing matters except the here and now.

Now, this last tip does sound similar to the one before: “focus on what’s ahead”. But I do think there’s a huge difference. You MUST remain engaged in that route the entire time you’re rock climbing. It’s not over until after you’ve clipped those chains – or for the bolder climbers taken that victory whip.

I used to dance quite a bit before I picked up climbing, so I like to think of it as a dance routine where every move I make connects fluidly. My entire dance routine doesn’t end until I’ve taken that bow at the very end of the song. Once you get on the wall, it’s just you and that route. Do whatever it is you do to stay focused and keep it until the end. Don’t celebrate too early, and don’t give up!

Here and now. That’s all that matters… for real! What else do you have to worry about except that route you’re trying to flash, bro!? Next time you flash, I want you to be so engrossed in that route that by the time it’s over, you are astounded by how quickly that time passed. Almost always, I get so into the climb that I don’t even realize how close I am to the chains until I’m climbing up to them. That’s the kind of focus I’m talking about. Don’t worry about how many bolts you have left, if your foot will give out, or if you just messed up your sequence. It’s your flash go! So, if you didn’t fall then it was the right beta. And it was definitely the right beta for you if you flashed!

Stay calm. Forget expectations. Believe in yourself.

So ironically enough, my flashes and red points ALMOST ALWAYS happen when I least expect it. It’s when I get on a route with no expectations, try to stay calm, and just enjoy the movement and quality of the route.


No flash. Proud send of Great White Behemoth. (5.12b)

Don’t go in placing bets or anything. And most importantly, don’t be bummed if the flash doesn’t happen. Be psyched that you got on a cool route and look forward to the red point go. You learn more about yourself and the movement with each climb you get on. Treat it as a learning experience. But I will say that you’re likely to flash if you use all the tips I’ve shared with you today 🙂

These tips aren’t going to make you flash 100% of the time. I wish they did! But in all honesty, if you really do up your game on some of these tips, I do believe you’ll find improvement in your climbing and flash grades might just go up!

Good luck flashing

That’s all I have for now, guys. I hope you can walk away psyched to get out there and flash! I’m stoked to learn about your adventures. Please feel free to comment below with any additional beta on what you do to flash routes. Also, feel free to reach out to me on Instagram @teachonclimbon.

Elephant Man (5.13b)

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