Defining a flash

Defining a flash

Posted on 16. Feb, 2015 by in News

Recently, an ethical issue in regards to bouldering has arisen and I’m compelled to share some thoughts, and hopefully start a discussion.

Climbing is often touted as a lifestyle sport, with vaguely defined rules and regulations as to how to participate. People climb for many reasons, one of which being that they don’t want to be told what to do or how to do it. Yet our sport is grounded firmly in the achievements of our athletes. Lynn Hill climbing the first free ascent of The Nose, Lisa Rands climbing the FFA of The Mandala, or Daniel Woods flashing the first V14, Entlinge. What do these ascents actually mean, not only in and of themselves, but in the greater context of our sport? Sometimes it’s hard to understand, because while many of the ethics which define climbing are well understood by the community at large, these ethics have also not been clearly written down.

There are many ways in which this lack of structure has played out, and over the years I have argued hundreds of times, on this site and in person, for more standardization, more definition, and more structure to what we are doing (by defining starting holds, stand/sitstart ethics, uncut footage, etc), in an effort to give more meaning to the achievements of our sport and in turn the sport itself. We’ve decided in a public and communal sense on how to define (with our language, actions and ethics) climbing, bouldering, first ascents, repeats and flashes, and that these things hold meaning. Without this meaning, achievements in bouldering are little more than playing in the woods. The ascents and the ethics by which those ascents are achieved and the terminology used to talk about those ascents quite literally define our modern sport. Unfortunately, climbers try all the time to take advantage of the lack of complete structure that pervades the system, in an effort to gain some kind of perceived advantage.

The reason for all of this is a recent ascent by Francesca Metcalf of The Chattanoogan V12, in Little Rock City. Francesca claimed to have flashed the problem, which would be the first flash of a V12 by a female. Interestingly enough, she had climbed the second half of the problem, a V7 called Midway, weeks prior. Because she climbed the harder part of The Chattanoogan on her “first attempt” of trying, she credited herself with a flash ascent. She was honest about the fact that she had tried the problem previously, and even so, her ascent of a V12 is up to par with other talented females across the country.

Her use of the word flash is specifically what I’d like to challenge, as it is far different from the one myself and many, many other climbers have come to understand over the years, which is this:

Flash: to climb a boulder problem from the start on the first attempt, having never pulled off the ground on any part of the climb whatsoever. Forbidden: hanging from the holds, climbing other sections as a warmup or otherwise (difficulty being irrelevant), climbing a shared start or finish with another problem. Allowed: Feeling holds, receiving beta before and during the climb, brushing holds, watching videos of other previous ascents. This definition is admittedly incomplete, but for the sake of this discussion it will suffice.

It is imperative we clearly define the standards by which achievements like this are measured, and that those standards are exactly the same for everyone. By making her ascent public, and disregarding the standards that have been laid out by climbers over the years, the climber implies somehow that she wants to compete on the same public playing field as everyone else, yet not by the same rules. It’s not clear to me what has entitled her to think so. While her ascent of the climb is legitimate and impressive, claiming the ascent as a flash does nothing but attenuate the rules and definitions by which we all play.

Some will argue that they don’t want to be hindered by rules or told what do, and that they climb to get away from all that. Or that all they really want to do is play on stones in the woods. That’s fine, we should live in a free society. But you can’t have it both ways, making real and public claims about achievements intended to mean something (I made the first female flash of a V12…) but not using the proper structure or definitions to back those claims up (…but I had already done part of the problem). I think most people would agree that while people can and do have the freedom to bend the truth, outright lie about ascents, or chip boulder problems, this is not the best expression of our sport or ourselves. Bouldering is built on the achievements of boulderers, and those achievements are defined by the language and ethical structures we use. With clear and meaningful definitions, ascents can represent real tangible progression.

I would love to hear thoughts on what you think constitutes a flash, and whether or not Francesca’s ascent should be considered the first female flash of a V12.

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82 Responses to “Defining a flash”

  1. Jens

    19. Feb, 2015

    I just think that as there are many different opinions and that many dissagrees with you it is not correct to say the the “rules” are “clear, simple and definitive”.

    Let us say that the 8B+ traverse finished in a 4A slab that you had done before. Please do not say that you can not flash the 8B as you had climbed the 4A finish.

  2. B3

    19. Feb, 2015

    Jens, I’ve made it very clear. why is it beyond your comprehension that climbers would actually take responsibility for their actions? If you want to flash something don’t climb on it! And if you happen to do the end and the climb the problem “first try” it’s not a flash! Why bend the rule because someone almost did it? Do you award someone a goal who almost put iron the net? A touchdown to someone who almost put the ball over the line? No! Of course not! What you feel really bad for them because they got so close and they’re a really nice person? again it obviously undermines the achievement to do so.

  3. Chris

    19. Feb, 2015

    That´s right Jens! Seems like you finally get it!

  4. Jesse Bruni

    19. Feb, 2015

    Jamie,

    I’d like to start out by saying that I find your comments to be insightful, and I very much enjoy the voice you bring to the climbing community. I think the role you (seem to) play as ethics police is a necessary one in the climbing community and I’m glad that someone is willing to play the role.

    Having said that, I’m curious if you reached out to Francesca before posting this article to get her side of the story? She recently posted on her Facebook that she hadn’t even thought about the fact that she’d done Midway before when she originally posted that she had flashed the Chattanoogan, and personally I’m compelled to give her the benefit of the doubt. It seems to me that this matter could have been handled more tactfully had you simply reached out to her first, you then could have gotten her side of the story, posted her own reply where she states “Just to clear the air: I didn’t flash the Chattanoogan” and then had a discussion about ethics.

    Aside from the above, which I personally believe would have been a simple professional courtesy I want to add a few points.

    1) To my knowledge Francesca never claimed to be the first woman to flash a V12. She did claim a V12 flash, but since she only did so on Facebook, when posting a video of the ascent, at a time when she was obviously very excited, it would be understandable for her to have not taken enough time to consider whether she should reword it as “on my first try”.

    2) Despite the fact that this ascent was not a flash it was still groundbreaking. Very few females (if any) have completed a V12 in such a short amount of time, in such few attempts, and yet apart from 8a.nu none of the mainstream climbing media even reported the ascent until a week later. The two biggest publications in the USA, R&I and Climbing, still haven’t said anything about it. So if Francesca was trying to profit through dishonesty (which I doubt) then she didn’t do a very good job as hardly anyone even knew about the ascent until much later.
    Personally I think if we’re going to have ethics conversations maybe we should have a conversation about what we consider newsworthy and what we do not. Climbing V12 is not unheard of for a woman, and one could argue that it’s done often enough to not be newsworthy. When a woman climbs V12 on her first try though, that sounds like something worth writing about. I would be willing to bet that if Alex Puccio had made this ascent, all else being equal, R&I and Climbing would have published it within 48 hours.

    Anyway that’s my two cents. I do agree with you on the definition of a flash and the need for honesty and transparency and, more importantly, I think Francesca agrees with you. What I disagree with was the way in which this discussion was handled, as well as what appears to be a double standard in how climbing media treats different athletes. I have to wonder Jamie if you know Francesca personally, and if you had, would you have reached out to her before hand for her side of the story before posting this article? And if so, then maybe we need to have another community conversation on nepotism in climbing.

  5. Stampede the Bosanc

    19. Feb, 2015

    Jens said: “Let us say that the 8B+ traverse finished in a 4A slab that you had done before. Please do not say that you can not flash the 8B as you had climbed the 4A finish.”

    Yes, that’s exactly it. You get one chance. No “yellow card” bullshit, no “last hold” bullshit, one chance per ascent. You can, however, report it as “I flashed 8B+ part of this traverse”, but you SHALL STILL report it as a redpoint. Everything is muddying the waters.

    And, seriously, consider hiring an english teacher – your articles on 8a.nu are painful to read. Also, while I’m at it, why do you need to repost same old (and at times incorrect) articles every few months?

  6. Jesse Bruni

    19. Feb, 2015

    My mistake: Climbing Magazine actually shared her video on Facebook the day after the ascent, although there was no word on their website.

  7. Jens

    19. Feb, 2015

    I think it is equally misleading to say first try on something you have worked on maybe for months before.

    Could you please give your exact definition for “first try” and I am sure many will disagree with you?

  8. kim

    19. Feb, 2015

    i think there are 2 sides. ppl that want recognition and ppl that want to climb. for me, i dont have time or money to invest in a lot of climbing stuff, so i just climb what i can when i can, titles, achievments and public notoriety are far at the end of my priority list. just as anything else in the world people start with nothing and something forms as they go. from older climbers on there have been systematic developments in an attempt to control and keep things simple and in some kind of order. like creating language, common ground for communications between like minded ppl. i really think ppl that strive for notoriety should follow the standard of the mainstream side of the sport and go with the majority, or at least learn the lingo and adapt. if u want to use the lingo, gotta learn the meanings and contexts in which it is used. i am more a freesolo climber and boulderer. i have no clue what the terms mean and i dont really care, i just want to climb and achieve my goal. i think when u go to the structured public stuff, use their terms, when u do your own thing call it what you want. shit i see something i like and fuckin climb….when its off somewhere ppl ne er climb and i hit it with vid evidence, does that mean i did a first ascent,redpoint flash?? kinda sounds silly to me. it seems more than ethics it is a thing of simple communication and ego. the last freesolo i did was a 5.8tr climb. i hadnt climed it in over a year. showed up and nailed it in one shot. i could argue its a flash since for me a year of not climbing it and not gym training at all for it, it is like doing it onsight for the first time and flashing it essentially because in my mind, it is new. so then there is another issue that arrises, context of time. i think and feel the more rules and classifications there are the less free we become as climbers. why not just let people be and call it what they want and climbers just seek understanding between differences and appreciate those perspectives of other climbers? i get dogged a lot for freesolo climbing because ‘im not experienced enough’ to be doing that. fuck you and your legalistic shit. all i know is legalism destroys true freedom in anything and it seems like climbing is becoming more legalistic because some narcissist wants to remain at the top of the pyramid.

  9. Tom

    19. Feb, 2015

    Congratulations Francesca Metcalf! I hope you continue to push yourself and reap the rewards of your dedication!

  10. Mike

    19. Feb, 2015

    Couple hypotheticals and questions . . .

    Do you apply the same rule for extensions and variations on roped climbs? For example, at a local sport climbing area, a 5.10 and a 5.12 both share the same first three bolts before hitting a large ledge and splitting into two different routes. The first three bolts are 5.8 climbing and clear to read. If someone climbs the 5.10 first, does that render the 5.12 unflashable?

    Secondary question – do you believe in ethical gray areas in general? For example, let’s consider a three-strike system for penalizing crime in which on the 3rd strike, there is a punishment of life imprisonment. If that is the established system, do you feel there should be no leeway on the types of crime committed, as long as they add up to three?

    I know it’s a stretch, but I do understand Jens’ point about such thing as an ethical gray area existing in climbing. If a V10 and a V0 share the same finishing hueco, and the climber scopes the V0 because it is the downclimb on the boulder, invalidating the V10 as a flash seems like holding to a rule for the sake of holding to the rule, rather than establishing context.

  11. Luke Bohanon

    19. Feb, 2015

    Well said, Jesse Bruni.

  12. B3

    19. Feb, 2015

    Lots of great comments but one in particular and I would like to thank Jesse Bruni for commenting. I’ll try to address your points as best I can.

    “I’d like to start out by saying that I find your comments to be insightful, and I very much enjoy the voice you bring to the climbing community. I think the role you (seem to) play as ethics police is a necessary one in the climbing community and I’m glad that someone is willing to play the role.”

    Thanks so much! It can be burdensome but I do enjoy it and reading comments like yours make it very worthwhile.

    “Having said that, I’m curious if you reached out to Francesca before posting this article to get her side of the story? She recently posted on her Facebook that she hadn’t even thought about the fact that she’d done Midway before when she originally posted that she had flashed the Chattanoogan, and personally I’m compelled to give her the benefit of the doubt. It seems to me that this matter could have been handled more tactfully had you simply reached out to her first, you then could have gotten her side of the story, posted her own reply where she states “Just to clear the air: I didn’t flash the Chattanoogan” and then had a discussion about ethics.”

    The first thing I did was to reach out to her. I just wanted to be sure that the photo of her on Instagram a few weeks ago was actually her trying Midway, and I was curious to see if she’d offer up an explanation. She did, saying that while she understood that it was difficult to label what she had done and that it was up for debate, she felt like she had done it first try in her mind. She also simultaneously posted on Facebook “…I flashed The Chattanoogan”. Additionally several professional climbers reached out to her a few days later and asked her very nicely to take down the flash comment (as you suggest there is a real need to police other climbers in some sense). She basically said no. I waited a few more days to see if anything would change. At least two other websites reported it as the first female flash ascent, to which she again (knowing there was controversy) did absolutely nothing. If her argument is that she’s just out having fun with her friends, it’s hard not to escape the blatant inconsistancy that she is also a professional climber. It was at that point I felt ok about moving forward with the post I would have written anyways. The one that to it’s core is about definitions, language, and ethics. Her ascent (which I was rightfully congratulatory of) was a great example. I understand that people are very sensitive these days. But that doesn’t mean that the rules should change because they might feel some emotional pain. Again, we would have no system if that were true, and achievements would mean nothing.

    “Aside from the above, which I personally believe would have been a simple professional courtesy I want to add a few points.

    1) To my knowledge Francesca never claimed to be the first woman to flash a V12. She did claim a V12 flash, but since she only did so on Facebook, when posting a video of the ascent, at a time when she was obviously very excited, it would be understandable for her to have not taken enough time to consider whether she should reword it as “on my first try”.”

    Other sources reported it as the first female flash of a V12, Francesca did not. But she also didn’t correct them, which would have been easy to do given how easily it was for her to update her status in the first place. It was clear to me and to the others I talked to who had talked to Francesca, she definitely considered it, she just did care to act on it.

    “2) Despite the fact that this ascent was not a flash it was still groundbreaking. Very few females (if any) have completed a V12 in such a short amount of time, in such few attempts, and yet apart from 8a.nu none of the mainstream climbing media even reported the ascent until a week later. The two biggest publications in the USA, R&I and Climbing, still haven’t said anything about it. So if Francesca was trying to profit through dishonesty (which I doubt) then she didn’t do a very good job as hardly anyone even knew about the ascent until much later.”

    She is a professional climber (she’s listed as an athlete on Fiveten.com) so I assume she receives some form of reimbursment for her public position in the climbing community. Knowing that what she did was questionable at best, and that respected athletes verbally and privately disapproved of what she’d done, and asked her to change it in a private forum, and pretending like nothing had happened is disingenuous at best.

    “Personally I think if we’re going to have ethics conversations maybe we should have a conversation about what we consider newsworthy and what we do not. Climbing V12 is not unheard of for a woman, and one could argue that it’s done often enough to not be newsworthy. When a woman climbs V12 on her first try though, that sounds like something worth writing about. I would be willing to bet that if Alex Puccio had made this ascent, all else being equal, R&I and Climbing would have published it within 48 hours.”

    I don’t control or have much impact on how other sources report what happens, and that’s an entirely different issue, which of course I would love to delve into, but my time is somewhat limited these days.

    “Anyway that’s my two cents. I do agree with you on the definition of a flash and the need for honesty and transparency and, more importantly, I think Francesca agrees with you. What I disagree with was the way in which this discussion was handled, as well as what appears to be a double standard in how climbing media treats different athletes. I have to wonder Jamie if you know Francesca personally, and if you had, would you have reached out to her before hand for her side of the story before posting this article? And if so, then maybe we need to have another community conversation on nepotism in climbing.”

    I’ve never met her but I did reach out to her before hand as did several other professional climbers. She was unwilling to change her stance. I guess according to her argument it’s because she is just having fun. Surprising then she would accept a sponsorship and help sell shoes. As a final note, I would also like to add that those who know me know that I would not hesitate to say any of this to her face. I call people out in person all the time.

  13. Jesse Bruni

    19. Feb, 2015

    Jamie,

    Thank you for clarifying that you did in fact reach out to Francesca before posting this article. I obviously had no way of knowing short of commenting and, in lieu of waiting for a response, I went with the assumption that you had not reached out to her as it allowed me to address a few points I wanted to make.

    Since you have clarified that you did reach out to her before hand then I am happy to retract any comments I made that implied lesser character on your part.

    In fact your comment above sheds much more light on the situation and, I think, adds an invaluable piece to the conversation. Personally at least I think it adds enough context for me to say that, while I think my points are valid in a general sense, they aren’t all applicable to this conversion.

    Thank you again for clarifying.

  14. Jesse Bruni

    19. Feb, 2015

    One other perspective to consider is how hard are the moves of the Chattanoogan before reaching Midway if it were considered it’s own boulder? If those moves could be called V12 on their own, then one way to solve the dispute would be to say “I flashed the first half of the Chattanoogan, which is V12 in difficulty”. Would she at that point be credited with flashing a V12? It would certainly not be “The Chattanoogan” that she flashed, but some variation on it, lets call it ‘The Half-a-noogan’ less impressive but if you can still give it the same grade then the rules for flashing a problem have not been broken.

    The problem here is that if we say “No, the line continues and so you can’t call ‘Half-a-noogan’ a real boulder problem” then we have to consider all the other drop-offs and traverses around the world, like Adam Ondra’s V16 “Terranova” for instance. Why can’t someone come along and say that Ondra’s ascent is invalid because he didn’t go one hold further? Another issue would be real boulders that aren’t topped out due to a highball factor. If you climb “The Mexican Chicken” at Hueco Tanks can you claim a V6 if you dropped off once your were able to stand up on the headwall? Or do you have to climb the additional 40 feet of deathball free-soloing in 5.6 terrain to claim your V6?

  15. B3

    20. Feb, 2015

    One subject at a time Jesse…If you’re curious I’ve posted and commented numerous times on how to define a boulder problem.

  16. m

    20. Feb, 2015

    no, we don’t have to consider any other drop off. if a problem has been established as a drop off, that doesn’t mean it’s invalid, just that said problem has been first climbed as such. you are entitled to question the quality of the line, and if you find a top out can be climbed, than by all means improve the style and do the full line.
    I’m not familiar with Mexican Chicken, but if the problem was first climbed to the top of the highball easy slab, then yes, if you want to claim a valid ascent you have to do it. of course you’re free to climb whichever portion of the problem you like, drop off, pat yourself on the back, and be proud of your achievement. this doesn’t mean you’ve made a valid repeat of Mexican Chicken.

  17. Jeremy Tyler Tyler Walton

    20. Feb, 2015

    I’ll be the one to say it, since everyone has ignored the underlying issue thus far:

    Please stop congratulating Francesca on her “proud send”. We all know that traverses don’t count as real boulders. Flash or no flash, traverses are invalid. Congrats on climbing nothing.

    On a serious note:

    I’m really glad that Francesca claimed to flash The Chattanooga, because otherwise this post would be about how a Southeastern v12 should be downgraded now that a girl climbed it. I believe this entire event was cleverly orchestrated in an effort to shift the attention away from the downgrade. Well played, Metcalf.

    If it’s not one thing to complain about, it’s another. This website helps remind me why I hate climbing. Not everything is a conspiracy theory. Sometimes people define words differently, and sometimes people make honest mistakes. There is not a textbook definition of a flash, and that allows room for interpretation. However, by revoking her flash comment, it sounds like Francesca agrees with the definition you are proposing. Some of us don’t spend our whole day thinking about climbing, and so we don’t consider these issues until they are brought up. This is not the ploy of a professional climber; since when is there money in climbing? The last time I saw her, she was wearing blown-out FiveTen shoes.

    She’s pretty cute, huh? How come we’re not all talking about that?

  18. pooty

    20. Feb, 2015

    CHALKBAG DAB.

  19. Francesca Metcalf

    21. Feb, 2015

    I think it’s a good time to step in here and tell my side of the story, since this article and your comments are full of assumptions presented as facts, and I’d like the chance to clear my name.

    I figure we should start with complete transparency to avoid any more confusion. The first I heard about there being a possible issue with the climb being labeled as a flash was from a lovely lady from Boulder who sent me a message the day after I posted the video saying that she saw that I had done Midway before and wanted to let me know that the climb “in some circles, would negate the flash.” She ended the message with “really, I hope this doesn’t come across wrong. I only mean to point out that some people might take issue with this, especially as a girl flashing 8a+ is a big deal.” I didn’t respond to her, because I wasn’t sure how to. I wasn’t expecting something like this to come up- at the time I hadn’t considered the fact that Midway might negate my flash- and I wanted to see if others would have the same opinion.

    That night I got a very polite message from you. Here’s our conversation so everyone can see how closed minded I was towards the situation:

    “Jamie: Francesca, we’ve never met but My name is Jamie. I run a website, b3bouldering.com and I try to report interesting news especially from female climbers. I noticed you recently climbed The Chattanoogan at LRC. Nice job! That’s a great problem. I was excited to hear about such an ascent and I posted about it on the b3 Facebook page. On your personal Facebook page I noticed you claimed a flash of the problem. However it was brought to my attention that you’ve tried the end previously as you posted a photo of yourself on your Instagram 14weeks ago. It’s my understanding that to flash a boulder means to have never tried it previously. Perhaps we have a different understanding? I thought it best to write you first before posting anything. I’d love to hear what you have to say, and again congrats on climbing the boulder! Jamie

    Me: Hi Jamie, thanks for getting in touch with me. Long story short, there’s a V7 called Midway that starts halfway through the Chattanoogan, and that was the climb that I had been on and posted pictures of. Before Sunday I had never even touched the holds on the V12 half of the climb- it actually would’ve been an onsite for me if I hadn’t done Midway before. But I’m not looking to be put into any Guinness World Record Books and if you’d like to get technical, I’m sure you could debate how to label my send, but in my mind I sent the Chattanoogan first try and so that’s what I said. I hope that clears things up for you a bit.

    Jamie:Thanks so much for the response!”

    And that was the last conversation I had with anyone about the flash label. I had absolutely no one else reach out to me after you. These “several other professional climbers” reaching out to me that you mention, may I ask who they were? I have no messages, emails, posts, calls from anyone asking me to change anything. I had no “stance”. I would really like to know exactly what you are referring to here because as I said, and I think it is worth repeating, NO ONE else got in touch with me personally and asked me to clarify, delete, change or discuss anything. I really have no idea where you got that idea from because it’s a blatant lie and libel.

    Secondly, I am far from a professional climber. Yes, I have sponsors but I’ve received no money from them since high school- so about four years now. Jeremy was right: I was climbing in blown out FiveTens when I sent the Chattanoogan, and still am actually. I wouldn’t consider myself a notable figure in any kind of way and being in the lime light is not what I want from climbing. Climbing is a hobby for me: something I do in my free time to keep me from going crazy from school, and I happen to be good enough that some awesome companies are willing to relieve some of the cost burden for me. The idea that I might be doing this for money purposes is so absurd, it’s funny.

    Lastly, I didn’t try to correct people on whether it was a flash because I felt no need, and I have more pressing things going on in my life than roaming the internet to correct people. People can say what they want to say about the climb- what others think, and what the climb is labeled as doesn’t change anything about my climb. I did it, and that’s it. However, I’ve felt the need to step in here because of your unprofessional journalism that is not trying to respectfully discuss the definition of a flash- which I would love to have a mature conversation about- but is attacking me personally with outright lies.

  20. Jeremy Tyler Tyler Walton

    21. Feb, 2015

    Correct, I am not a fan of the climbing media, but I am a fan of sticking up for people when they need to be stuck up for.

  21. B3

    21. Feb, 2015

    Francesca, thanks so much for your response! I really do appreciate you reaching out in a thoughtful way and I’m happy to have your voice on here to give the viewers a more complete picture.

    First of all, I would like to reiterate what to me is probably the most important thing, and that is what this post was about. As I stated previously: it is fundamentally “one that to it’s core is about definitions, language, and ethics.”

    As I wrote, “what I would like to specifically challenge is (your) use of the word flash”. My interest in challenging you revolves around the perceived ambiguity of the definition of that one word, and it is most certainly not to personally slander you.

    I want to be very clear that you understand the reason I tackled this topic in the first place was because of my ongoing interest in generating a timely public discussion about a relevant ethical issue in the bouldering community and not as a personal attack towards you. There is much evidence over the years that this is what I’ve done. While I do understand the post may feel directed at you personally, it is not.

    From my perspective, this kind of complicated ascent had never been addressed in such a public manner (not only did I see it posted as a flash on your completely public Facebook profile with 117 likes and 114 shares and we’re not even friends, it was reported on CruxCrush as a flash and on a video featured on DPM as a flash). I’d assume that most people who are serious about what’s going on in the bouldering world saw it. It’s been a personal mission of mine to be a voice for the bouldering community and to address key ethical issues as they arise, as I’ve done for years. Your ascent and subsequent public posting of it offered the perfect opportunity to lead an interesting public ethical debate about the way we participate in the sport of bouldering and how we define the language that defines the achievements of our athletes. I was grateful to read the kind of interesting, thought-provoking and intelligent response generated by this post, the kind this site is known for.

    Now, I respect your concerns and I take your accusations seriously. First of all, I raised a question to you in a private, that perhaps you and I have a different definition of the word flash. As I wrote, I was happy to read your response. Furthermore, I was told from a reputable source who I trusted (that you clearly disagree with) that several members of the community had written to you or about you both publically and privately. I know for certain that someone who messaged you is a professionally sponsored climber and she got no response. Perhaps this is the “lovely lady” you mentioned.

    When I messaged you, you did respond and I appreciated it. I was supportive and encouraging of your ascent. But I questioned your use of the word flash. I tried to be as polite about it as possible. But it also became clear to me that you had considered that what you had done was something “I’m sure you could probably debate”. After almost three weeks it was obvious to me you weren’t going to change the fact that you were going to call it a flash. You changed the definition of a previously well-defined word and made no effort to change it anywhere after being politely and privately called out by several members in the community. Had I not written the post, there’s nothing to suggest you’d have changed anything in your use of the word flash. To see a professionally sponsored climber benefit in a public forum knowingly bending the rules, it’s hard for me to not feel skeptical about their intentions.

    You are a sponsored climber. You write blogs for a climbing company. You’ve finished 2nd at a World Cup, and 3rd in ABS Nationals. People look up to you! Certainly as one of the strongest climbers in your region, if not the country. As evidenced by your recent FB post almost 200 people liked your status. It’s evident that you’re an active, popular and well-liked climber, regardless of the condition of your shoes. You made a real and conscious choice to become a sponsored athlete, climbed in some of the biggest comps, and have a public presence on the internet. Clearly climbing is more than a hobby! The reason I say this is that the words you say hold a lot of meaning. More perhaps than you even realize. Kids read your status. Junior climbers. People who want to know what the leaders of the sport are doing and which ethics they care about. This gives weight to every word you type, even if you’re just out having fun with your friends. Your words are very public and they mean something to everyone, even me!

    Finally, B3bouldering has and always will be my own personal blog. I have the freedom to write about and conduct discussions in whatever way I see fit. It’s not a newspaper. It’s not a news source. I’m not a journalist, I’ve never claimed to be a journalist, and this piece certainly isn’t reporting anything. It’s generating thoughtful discussion about an interesting ethical issue in a creative and inclusive way, the same as it has been for the last 8 years.

  22. James

    21. Feb, 2015

    Firstly I would just like to say thank you Jamie for providing a platform for honest discussion. I appreciate it is a personal blog, however there are few places where such an ethical discussion can take place internationally without descending into idiocy (see 8a.nu, more of which later).

    I have been climbing and bouldering for over 25 years and seen many things come and go; from Ben and Jerry demonstrating to the rest of the world what real power and training were, through Malcolm Smith taking the idea to extreme levels (still probably the strongest I have ever seen), the style master that is Fred Nicole, the birth of Sharma and Graham, Sam Edwards and Klem (plus too many others to mention)… right through to the current climate we find ourselves in. A long ramble to basically say I have been around the block.

    In all that time, there has only ever been one definition of a ‘flash’ and it has remained the same since I first started, which is the very definition you provide Jamie. It really is a simple concept and should be a complete non-issue. If you have climbed part of a problem before, even if it is only 5+ (or any other arbitrary number), it cannot be a flash.

    Some definitions are painfully simple, and this is one of them.

    Just to be clear, I think there are only three important definitions:

    Onsite: Not particularly applicable to bouldering, but basically climbing from bottom to top without falling or jumping off, with only guidebook and basic visual information. (much discussion could generate from this definition as mine is particular to Britain).

    Flash: Already previously provided.

    Redpoint: Everything else.

    For any climber operating at an important level who wishes their ascent to be known; an uncut video and a few sentences of how the problem was honestly climbed should solve any issue. Climbed any part of the problem before (however small), no flash.

    I don’t care what the ‘first try’ definition is, or retro-flash, or any other silly definition created to bend or obfuscate. People will always muddy the waters so to speak (intentionally or otherwise) and that is why clear definitions are required.

    Moving on to a slightly wider point, since the internet has had the effect of reducing the size of the world (metaphorically speaking), these discussions will crop up more and more. There are also lots of other emotive subjects I would love to be able to discuss rationally across an international platform (e.g. the use of performance enhancing drugs and how much they will (and probably are already) change the face of climbing, pro-climbers continuously flouting access regulations e.t.c) and yet with the exception of here, there appears to be no other place to discuss such matters.

    Of course there is the dreaded 8a.nu but with Jens being the most obvious troll I have come across on the internet I find myself increasingly concerned that people are going to start to believe the rubbish that is often spouted by him on that site and help to ruin a pursuit that I hold dear. Not to mention the fact he spends the vast majority of time criticising others but is unable to accept any form of criticism whatsoever.

    In the wider context I am sure that others see straight through the facade and with Britain having pretty set ethics should have little effect on us. However, as climbers travel more and more I think that a set of international ethical standards should be thrashed out… without any interference from 8a.nu/jens (whichever one he is at the time).

    Apologies to everyone for drifting off topic, I just think this case is actually potentially part of a much wider and interesting discussion.

  23. James Lucas

    21. Feb, 2015

    One of the biggest goals in Yosemite is a continuous, no falls, first try ascent of a free el cap route. Recently, a UK climber claimed to flash the route. He swung leads with his partner but descended after heart ledges due to a traffic jam. He returned to the route and swung leads to the crux. He fell off the crux and then redpointed the pitch. His partner was unable to complete this boulder problem so they retreated two pitches and climbed the Teflon corner, a difficult variation. He sent the teflon first try and swung leads to the summit without falling. Is this a flash?

  24. B3

    21. Feb, 2015

    James, I’m not really a route climber. Defining ethics on big walls is ridiculously challenging because there are so many more variables. But it’s a good question! Without understanding fully all of the details I would say no, because they fell. If that were considered a legit flash, then it seems like no matter where you fell on your attempt you could lower to some other point and try again on some different pitch (or perhaps swing over?), which defeats the purpose of a flash. This is only based on my a priori knowledge of climbing on El Cap. Seems hard for me to get around the idea that if you fell you could still claim a flashed.

    How about some ridiculous scenario where someone leads 10 pitches to a 5.15 section of rock they try but can’t climb. Then they move over 10 ft. chip a 5.11, “flash it” then continue on in that fashion, chipping holds every time they fall to take a new way and to preserve the flash. Lot’s to think about.

  25. dpg

    22. Feb, 2015

    Very impressive, but NOT a flash.
    I disagree with boulder problems that share holds having completely different names. If Midway was put up first, should be no such thing as Chattanoogan, Just Midway Low, Or Midway Low Left. I only mention my belief on naming as I think it would make it clearer whats a flash.”I climbed Midway, then flashed Midway Low” – not.

  26. DaveH

    22. Feb, 2015

    Not a flash. Jamie’s definition is good.

    I also hate it when people give a low start or extension a completely different name.

  27. Daniel

    24. Feb, 2015

    So the Yosemite example for a proposed flash of el cap is interesting to think about. But it seems like that would be the equivalent of a boulderer attempting to flash a problem, falling at the crux, then on the second attempt using a different foothold to get through the crux, climbing to the top and saying it was a flash because they did it first try with “that beta.” But big walls are tricky.

    Flash definition provided by Jamie is perfect.

  28. Matt

    05. Mar, 2015

    OMG it really doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong in how you define a term, and IMO that 12 yr old girl kind of just made you look foolish. She is, in fact, a climber- she is, in fact, playing in the woods… and that’s what climbing really is, nothing more. If she has an open public FB page, a simple comment there would have sufficed- done- end of story- no further publicity required.

    What a 12 yr old says or does (or posts on FB) doesn’t make or break “climbing” as a “real sport”, but getting so worked up as if it means anything to anyone outside of Boulder reminds others what a tedious, over commercialized, ego driven haven for corporate interests this sport has so quickly become (interests which btw only want to GROW their markets annually, and which drive the unsustainable numbers of new climbers in the sport so people will buy their stuff).

    Lastly, 3 or 4 years from now, so many 12 yr old girls will have flashed v13 that this will even more clearly look like the non-issue that it is.

    You can’t live in SF and expect other people to see politics the way you do, you can’t live in NY and expect others to see fashion the way you do… and there are more than a few people who live in Boulder and take this stuff a bit too seriously.

    [/rant]

  29. pj

    07. Mar, 2015

    This entire debacle, made exceedingly worse by this god-awful blog post, reminds me that for every climbing having fun out there, there’s another tightwad, douche-nozzle (probably living in Boulder), with fingers on the keyboard, ready to defame. Isn’t all this self-righteousness supposed to be from trad climbers ;)? It’s unbelievable that people take climbing this seriously. I have a lot of sympathy for the party in question. The (shitty population) of the online community tore an otherwise commendable ascent to shreds. Nice work!

  30. char

    11. Mar, 2015

    Jamie, I now apply your definition for a flash, although I think the definition may have changed slightly over time. When I started climbing the definition for a flash (as I knew it) included not touching the holds. It could be that it just wasn’t well defined then and several variations existed. Seems like no one really includes that in the definition anymore.
    Now I will touch the holds and still claim a flash, but I recognize that as a dilution of the definition as I once understood it. I follow the definition as you’ve described it, but only to make sure that I’m playing the same game as everyone else. Thoughts on that shift? Did you ever hear it defined that way?

  31. V

    23. Mar, 2015

    Jamie, you’re a little fucking bitch. You think being the self appointed “ethics sheriff” of the climbing community makes you hot shit? Can’t wait to see you in person, woop your ass, and proudly take that little plastic toy sheriff badge off you. Good luck little man.

  32. […] In the end, rather than brave a potential quagmire, the publication chose to pull any mention of first ascents. It was easier than trying to tease apart the intricacies of the matter—particularly for a general audience, most of whom couldn’t explain the difference between a flash and an onsight. (A surprisingly difficult differentiation, it turns out, even for climbers.) […]

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