This weekend the hubby and I had the unique opportunity to send a project together, one that was equally meaningful to us both, but for very different reasons. For Steve, Flash Point was about redemption. After a pretty successful toprope run this past January, he tied in on the sharp end with no expectations and shocked everyone (but probably himself the most!) by making it through the first two cruxes clean before pumping out one move before a good rest 80 feet up. After jugging back up he found some better holds that probably would have kept him on had he seen them in time, and finished the route easily from there. After being haunted by that mistake for 4 months, he returned this weekend ready to step his climbing up to the next level.
For me Flash Point represented a complete shift in perspective with regards to my style of climbing. This particular route is the one that prompted the “TRY HARD” mantra I’ve been trying to focus on ever since I humiliated myself on it 4 months ago. Unlike Steve, my attempt on this line back in January was about as unsuccessful and anti-climactic as you could get – I bailed at the first hard move and slithered away in defeat.
But enough about us, back to this route which is, in my humble opinion, one of the best, if not THE best at its grade at a world class climbing destination. Flash Point is situated in the middle of Endless Wall, towering proudly out over the rest of the gorge. It features 100+ feet (better have at least a 60m rope!) of engaging movement on perfect stone. It features three very distinct cruxes, and while the sequences are varied, there’s a common theme – most agree that the moves are easier if you’re tall. Now the term “height dependent” gets thrown around a lot at the New, but I actually think that term tends to be overused. This is not to say I’ve never been shut down by a long reach – it happens all the time…and probably more at the New than anywhere else! But I can also think of numerous times where I’ve been able to find beta that works for me just fine – and besides, utilizing an excuse that downplays the accomplishments of my taller climbing partners doesn’t seem fair. Everyone has to figure out what works best for their body, and we all have strengths and weaknesses. That being said, the moves on Flash Point are HARD for my body. Height-dependent? That seems a bit strong, but “not short person friendly” seems fair to say.
The first crux happens about 40 feet off the ground, after a nice 5.10 warm-up. In January I desperately flailed around trying to do the same beta all the guys did. This time I got creative and used a completely different set of holds to get my feet up into an awkward stance that I could hold just long enough to snag the next hold. First crux – check.
The next section feels a little insecure because it gets thin fast, but the moves aren’t really that hard, and you’re rewarded with a couple of great shake-out jugs before making a traverse out to the second crux. The next struggle for me was actually somewhat of a non-move for my taller friends, who just reach up over a small bulge for a full-pad crimp rail. But my problem came when I was nowhere close to reaching those holds from the foot ledge everyone else used. At first I tried to just dyno, and was actually able to stick the hold a few times, but then found myself far too extended to move – time to get creative again. I ended up finding an unlikely smear on the bulge and making a big deadpoint to the rail – with the higher feet I could then do a hand/foot match which actually set me up really well for the rest of the sequence. Second crux – check.
The third crux is the biggest reach yet, but was also the most technical – way too precarious to be dynamic. This one is a long move for pretty much everyone, and is the last thing standing in the way of 25 feet of technical 5.10 before the chains. The sequence is probably a familiar one for those that frequent the New – get your feet up, lock off as hard as you can, and reach high. Unfortunately for me, I straightened out my legs, stood tall…and came up short by a solid 7 or 8 inches. Really? At first I was pretty stumped – there was absolutely nothing by way of intermediate holds, and my left foot was as high as it could go. But on a whim I decided to see if I could turn my hand position from a sidepull to a mantle – and that gave me a couple more inches! Still nowhere close, I then carefully walked my fingers up so that I was balancing on my fingertips – a whopping 4 more inches! At this point my balance was pretty shaky, but I wasn’t about to give up the ground that I’d gained – so I slowly started inching my right foot up a little bit higher. Right when I started to lose my balance I turned my head to keep my body close to the wall and slightly pushed off of my right foot – and breathed a sigh of relief as I snagged the hold I needed! Third crux – check. Time to put it all together.
Since Steve had sent in fine style hanging the draws earlier that morning, I cheered for him and my friends over on a nearby route while I waited for my turn to climb again. When I tied in a second time, my mantra as I left the ground was to BE AGGRESSIVE (I won’t lie, the familiar chant from high school basketball games went swimming around in my head for a while…) The first crux went off without a hitch…and so did the second, although the rest right before the third crux was well-needed. I started my sequence (“Aggressive, aggressive,” I told myself), executed my beta, and…got impatient when I couldn’t reach the hold I needed. I bumped my right foot up higher than it had been the first time, which gave me more height, but completely shifted my center of gravity. All of a sudden I was horrified to find myself falling away from the wall in slow motion! Next thing I knew I was dangling on the other side of the arete 15 feet below my last bolt, with that sinking feeling of failure welling up in my stomach. I jugged back up and made the move first try. A slurry of expletives ran through my mind, but the only thing that came out was, “Next time.”
Unfortunately for me, the third time was NOT the charm – the sun had moved around the corner and was baking the whole route, not to mention I was tired and less motivated than I had been before. But FORTUNATELY for me however, everyone was willing to come back the next day – Steve was on cloud 9 after sending everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) on his tick list for the day, and my other partner still had unfinished business with Jesus and Tequila (5.12b). After a quick warm-up, Steve was kind enough to hang the draws for me while I went through all the sequences in my head.
As soon as I touched the rock, my confidence grew. The rock felt dry, cool, and unusually grippy. If Flash Point was gonna go, now was the time. The first crux felt easier than it ever had, but I was a little rattled after coming up just shy of the second crux hold. I managed to stay on though, reloaded, and fired again, this time getting it right. When I got to the rest stance, I waited a full 5 minutes, forcing myself to slow down and shift gears from “a muerte” to zen. I waited for the adrenaline rush to end, took some deep, calming breaths, and this time as I went through the last crux sequence, I resisted the urge to rush. Apparently that made all the difference, because when I opened my eyes (yes, at some point I’d closed them lol), I was still on! I was so stretched out I felt like even the wind could blow me off, but I methodically matched my foot to my hand, and stood up to clip. Three bolts later and I was clipping the chains!
And thus, Flash Point is sent! Grade-wise, it seems as though other routes that I’ve done should be far more impressive. But the feeling of accomplishment has always meant far more to me than the actual number written in the guidebook. And if I’m going off of that mentality, this line is probably one of my proudest sends. I can only think of one other route I’ve done at the New that took so much physical and mental effort, and required such a unique balance of strength and finesse. (Freaky Stylee, 5.12a). And snagging the “family send” makes it even more special, as it’s unusual to find ourselves projecting the same routes. Imagine how fun it will be when the crag-kiddo can hop on the send train too! If you haven’t done Flash Point yet…you should go there this weekend and do it. You won’t be disappointed, I promise. Bring your big girl (boy?) panties and go-go-gadget arms, and you are guaranteed to have fun!