This is an old, familiar story of rock climbing. “I went to Millson (a cliff in the Peak District of England) and headed straight for Bond Street (Classic Climb HVS / 5.8). I was worried that I would be forced out if I did not climb immediately.” I asked curiously. “A scary show,” my friend grinned. “To begin with, I misjudged the size of the crack and tried to put the wrong parts in for protection. Before I knew it, I was under tremendous pressure.” He swallowed his face. “You can guess the rest. A minute later, I was sitting on the rope. I was just blurring my vision. The game is over.”
My friend was the prey of one of the biggest enemies of the rock-rolling dreaded pump. It does not matter if you press 5.7 or 5.14. A flash pump is about as fast as you can shout, “Get it!”
What causes a pump in rock climbing? The simple answer is that lactic acid builds up in your muscles until they no longer work properly. Imagine someone throwing pork slurry into your gas tank. Go on the gas and … you stop. It weakens the spirit, for sure.
The term “flash pump” refers to the first time on the day of the climb that your muscles are doing intense activity. My friend wanted to do his outstanding project on Bond Street before he became psychotic. Fair enough, but he also thought he would continue to do so with complete rest and maximum physical advantage. Big mistake.
How to prevent the dreaded flash pump? it’s simple. You warm up before climbing and before climbing anything that is hard. There are many ways to warm up (and I will cover them in other articles), but practically any warm-up that does not put pressure on the muscles is better than none. Your warm-up should be general (eg jogging) and specific (climbing). I am one of those climbers who need a long (long!) Time to warm up, so I have learned to do it slowly. It will take me three or four minutes to get on strike. My best vision is done after a short break, but I may have tightened (old age!) So another warm-up may be on the way. The best time to ensure my eyesight will not be the first step. The ground may be five or six. But experiment – find what works for you – and stick to it.
An important point to avoid the flash pump. In mountaineering warm-ups, it is tempting to stay away from your visual challenge with route scores based on the fact that you do not want to get bored. do not do this. It is best that your third or fourth track / ground is close to the level of visibility. You need to “wake up” your muscles and “adjust” them for the next challenge. It is as if they are creating a “memory” only for the right effort and the right approach.
Everyone – even the best climbers in the world – can surrender to a regular pump. But none of us should fall victim to the flash pump. Once you know how, this is extremely avoidable. And now you know how. So warm up – reasonably well.