The flow of the line should be smooth. It should be picturesque. It should look like moving art. It should feel like you are water flowing up the side of the rock.
Many times we get caught up in the numbers –
How hard did I climb?
Is a 5.9 worth my time?
I’m going to train until I can on-sight 5.12’s.
“Well, it’s an old school 5.8, so it really counts as a 5.10.”
And others it’s all about the climbing style –
I only climb overhanging jug routes.
You’re not really a gifted climber until you can do technical slab.
I never do sport. Bottom-up trad climbing is the way climbing was meant to be.
But what if you only cared about flow?
Would not every route give you the same satisfaction as increasing your grade?
Would you not finish the day feeling calm and relaxed and accomplished?
I admit, I have not been climbing long, and damn near took an entire 7 months off due to life. But I have found an appreciation for that Zen-like flow. Whether it’s a cruiser 5.8 with gastons and stemming moves or a vertical 5.11 with heel hooks or requiring cutting your feet loose, flow can be found at any grade.
The best days climbing are the days when all the routes seemingly flow. When you’re able to block out the rest of your life, your belayer, your fear, and you are simply climbing. Moving with the rock, in the direction it takes you, and dictating your movements. Like a delicate dance on the side of a wall.
It’s days like this I seek out. Whether it be sport climbing, trad climbing, alpine, or even bouldering, I want that flow. I need it. It is my release from this world. It is where I am free. It is where nothing else matters but completing the climb and coming back to the earth safely.
Without the flow of the line, my head is still elsewhere in the world. It is too scared of falling. It is thinking how awkward the moves are. It may be relating the terrible movement of the route with the struggles of everyday life.
Do I seek to become a stronger climber? Yes. Do I seek routes that push my limits? Yes. But above all else, I seek to forget my world. I seek to be present with the rock. And when I return to the ground, everything else has deeper meaning. The friends I’m climbing with. The belayer that holds my life in their hands. The burrito I’m going to eat later. The beer I’m probably already drinking. Everything is richer. Fuller. And allows everything else to make sense.
And that’s what flow does for me.
It enriches. It fulfills. It clarifies. It cleanses.