For me, flash or onsight (1) climbing is one of the most challenging aspects of rock climbing. It’s pretty rare I ever flash something the first time. I think it’s apparent why this would be true for me. When you can’t see the face of the rock formation, it’s hard to plan your moves ahead of time.
Everything I do is very choreographed, and mapped out. Rock climbing has helped develop my tactile photographic memory, if that makes any sense.
But with my life, everything I do is memory based, when you can’t see well, you have to resort to memory as a way of envisioning your surroundings.
I’ve been doing this since I lost my sight, and when I started climbing this became especially important. Not only do I need to be able to remember exactly what to do with perfect clarity, I need to be able to, as quickly as possible, find my hand holds and foot placements. Since I can’t hang on forever, learning to react quickly has become one of my best skills.
Usually when I flash something, it’s easy enough for me to just lock off and feel around for a hold or the BP(2) is low enough to the ground that I can put my hands on the holds, and memorize the beta(3) through touch.
Sometimes we will set up a top rope on the boulder (I know this is common) so I can rappel down and feel the rig(4). If it’s a hard route I will actually try the moves up at the top on TR(5) so there is less of a chance I take any unnecessary diggers for any reason. But, if I think I can flash it, I won’t try any of the moves on TR so I can try for my flash go.
1 completion of a climb first try with no falls
2 the path that a climber takes in order to complete the climb, Boulder Problem
3 helpful information about a route, like sequence of moves
5 a rope used for the climber’s safety, Top Rope