Climbing Vernacular



Over the Phone

May 26, 2020

Informant Data:

CS is a 20 year old climber and student at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. She grew up in the Pacific Northwest where she developed a passion for being in the outdoors. She is an avid climber, skier, kayaker, and participant in many other daring sports. These intense interests were fostered and encouraged by her family. At Dartmouth, she is interested in subjects such as Earth Sciences. She is also involved with the paddling and climbing communities, as well as being a Ski Patroller.  

Contextual Data:

Cultural Context: While climbers often have favorite crags and routes, they also enjoy challenging themselves and trying new climbs. Unfamiliar climbs are fun because they challenge climbers. They have to figure out how to start the climb and where to position their hands and feet all the way up the wall. Rock climbing already requires its participants to be daring and open to risk, so it makes sense that climbers enjoy attempting new routes.     

Social Context: I collected this folklore through an interview over the phone. The term describes the circumstances and outcome of an attempted climb. It can be used before a climb, as someone states their desired outcome for the climb. It can also be used while reflecting on someone’s climb. However, the term is only used in the situations when you are describing someone’s first ascent of a route. This means that the term is most often used when a group of climbers is at a new and unfamiliar location, or is joined at a familiar location by a climber new to the crag.


The following text paraphrases what CS told me in our interview. I did my best to stay true to her description and not add anything she didn’t mention.

To “flash” a climb is to successfully lead climb the route on your first attempt. Unlike “On sighting” a climb, you can use prior knowledge and intel from other climbers to complete it. “Flashing” a climb marks someone as a skilled climber. The term is often used in conversations describing someone’s successful first ascent of a route. For example, someone might say, “I can’t believe Ben flashed that route” after watching the feat. It’s important to remember that this term refers to lead climbing and not top rope climbing. When lead climbing, the climber clips their rope to bolts as they attempt to reach the top. In top rope climbing, the rope is already threaded through an anchor atop the route, so a climber typically won’t fall far or lose their position when they slip off the wall. In lead climbing, you can fall much further. This is dependent on how far above the last bolt you clipped into you are. This lack of top rope support and security makes a successful first attempt so admirable.  

lead climber

Henry Chamberlin, 18

Dartmouth College

Russian 13

Spring 2020