The Climb Fit guide to Climbing Terminology

At Climb Fit Kirrawee, we know how difficult it can be to converse with an experienced rock climber. They’ll throw confusing terms at you, shorten words until they stop making sense and use acronyms you didn’t know existed.

So to make things easier for you, we’ve put together this handy rock climbing terminology guide to help you decipher what they’re trying to say. Sooner or later, you’ll probably be using the same terms, so do remember to save this page and share it with your new rock climbing friends in the future.


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Important Rock Climbing Terminology That you Should Learn

A

Abseil - European and Australian word for “rappel”. Means to descend a cliff by lowering yourself on a fixed rope with your feet against the wall. A belay is typically used to enable a controlled descent.

Aid climbing - Climbing that makes use of equipment such as ropes, bolts and slings. This is the opposite of free climbing which doesn’t use any equipment.

Anchor - The word used to describe a fixed position at the top of a climbing route. This is often a large tree with a sling around it or a sturdy fixed position using long bolts.

Arête - Word used to describe an acute rock ridge that separates two valleys. Can be blunt, rounded or even sharp.

B

Bashies - When climbing a route, you might use a malleable anchor that is quite literally bashed into small cracks in the rock to help you ascend. These are known as bashies.

Belay - Belaying usually refers to a couple of techniques that rock climbers use to exert tension on climbing ropes to prevent a falling climber from plunging to their doom. This typically involves the rope itself, anchors, belay device and the belayer.

Belayer - The belayer is the person that manages the rope of a climber at ground level, managing the tension and slack to assist their ascent. Their responsibility is to catch the climber on the other end in case they fall, slip or trip off something.

Beta - Beta refers to tips that are given to rock climbers when they are new to a route. They’re usually given by someone that has climbed the route before and has a good feel for where all of the difficult spots are and how to overcome them. A “running” beta is information given out while the climb is in progress.

Big-wall - A large rock climb that can often take several days to complete if you’re new to it. These are epic climbing routes that take an incredible amount of patience, skill and mental fortitude. Some of the most famous include Yosemite, Mt Asgard, Trango Towers and Le Petit Dru.

Biner - Outdated slang term for a carabiner. Could be offensive to some people of Mexican descent, so don’t use it. Use “crab” if you’re a regular climber or “snap link” if you’re in the military. Alternatively, just call it a carabiner.

Bivouac - A temporary camp that has little to no shelter. For rock climbing, this could mean an overnight stay while hanging on a wall, such as during a multi-day climb. Could include sleeping without a tent or in a specially-made bivouac sack.

Bolt - A bolt is a permanent anchor that has been drilled into the climbing surface. Incredibly sturdy and typically used in sports routes. They’re also designed to be used for belay and rappel anchors.

Bombproof - An anchor that is so solid that it’s known as being “bombproof”. This usually refers to a sturdy tree or a large boulder that isn’t likely to move.

Bouldering - A style of climbing that involves being close to the ground. Doesn’t involve ropes or any complicated gear and is good for practising weight transfers, foot and hand placements and traverses. Usually done at rock climbing centres or the base of a climb.

Bucket - Buckets are large hold areas that can be used for climbing. They might also be known as jugs.

C

Cam - A spring-loaded climbing protection device. When triggered, it fits into small cracks and holes in a rock wall to secure a section of rope to that area.

Carabiner - A snap-link piece of metal that is used to connect your ropes to your protections and anchors. Has several slang names such as snap link and crab. Also called a biner in certain places, but the term could be offensive to some audiences.

Caving - A style of climbing that usually techniques similar to rock climbing, but generally focuses on exploring caves.

Chalk - Magnesium carbonate powder that is used to keep hands dry and improve grip while climbing.

Chimney - A crack in the rock that is wide enough for your entire body.

Crimp - A small ledge that requires you to crimp your fingers to secure a tight grip.

Crux - The most difficult move or section when climbing a route.

E

Edging - Standing on very small ledges while climbing. You typically use the edge of your shoe rather than the sole.

European Norm (EN) - A designation given to products that meet the safety requirements set by the European Committee for Standardization, usually involves a “CE” logo on the gear itself.

F

Face - A smooth section of a cliff that requires various handholds and friction to climb.

Fixed protection - A piece of gear that is designed for anchoring to a wall, often with a bolt or piton.

Flapper - A piece of skin that hangs off your finger, often caused by a sharp rock or rough hold.

Flash - To climb a route without any knowledge of it or equipment that has already been installed in the rock face.

Free climbing - Climbing with only your hands and feet. Does include protection such as a rope, but cannot be relied on when climbing upwards. A term used to describe the opposite of an aided climb.

Free rappel - A controlled descent on a rope that doesn’t require the climber to use a rock face.

G

Gardening - Slang term used to describe the removal of vegetation while climbing.

Gate - The spring-loaded opening on a carabiner. It can be straight, bent, locking or nonlocking.

Gaston - A climbing moves that has the fingers facing inward. Similar to prying open something like an elevator door from the middle.

Gripped - Used to describe someone who is visibly shaken or consumed by fear while they are climbing.

Gym - You probably know what a gym is, but in a rock climbing context, it typically means an indoor area where you can practice climbing in safety. Can sometimes be used in a mean-spirited manner against climbers that have yet to climb a route outdoors.

H

Headpoint - To lead a climb after practising the moves beforehand with a top-rope.

Heel hook - To place your heel on a rock feature and then pull. This is a climbing move used most commonly on an overhanging rock.

Hot aches - A slang term used to describe the painful sensation of blood rushing to cold fingers. Often experienced when bouldering in the cold or during ice climbs. Comparable to holding a snowball for too long without gloves.

J

Jam - To stick a part of your body into a crack on a rock climb so that you can apply weight to it and move upwards. Could include fingers, feet or your entire hand.

Jug - Another term for a bucket–a large area that is easy to hold when climbing.

K

Kilonewton (kN) - A measure of force equal to 224.8 lbs. Climbing gear is rated in kN so you know much falling force it can withstand.

L

Layback - A climbing move that involves pushing on the rock with your feet while pulling with your hands on another crack or edge.

Leader - The climber that ascends the route first. They’re usually responsible for clipping their side of the rope through any protection using carabiners and quickdraws.

M

Mantel - Climbing move that involves moving onto a shelf or rock by pressing down on it with both of your palms until you can stand on it. A similar movement to getting out of a swimming pool or climbing onto a high wall.

Mono doigt (Mono) - A small gap or pocket in the rock that has just enough space for you to fit a single finger.

O

Off-width - A crack that is too wide to be jammed but also too narrow to be a chimney.

On-sight - To climb a route without falling or resting on your gear with no beta or knowledge of the route you’re climbing.

P

Perlon - The European term for nylon.

Pitch - A length of a climb that can be protected by one rope length. Could range from 30 feet to over 500 depending on what the lead climber determines during the ascent.

Pocket - A small crack or rock hollow that can fit two or more fingers. Similar to a mono doigt.

Protection - The devices and tools that are used during a climb to help reduce the risk of a fall. Can include items such as webbing, cams, bolts and other common climbing tools.

Pumped - To feel pain in the forearms due to a stressful climb.

Q

Quickdraw - A short runner that is used to attach a rope to a bolted anchor using carabiners.

Quickdraw set - A quickdraw that is sold with carabiners already attached to it.

R

Rack - A climber’s selection of gear used for a route.

Rappel - Descend off a cliff by using a fixed rope and your feet against the wall.

Ratings - A number given to a climb or route which reflects its difficulty.

Redpoint - To lead a climb without falling or putting any weight on the rope. Often applies to difficult climbs and you can take as many tries as you want.

Retire - To cease using a certain piece of gear due to damage or its age.

Route - A path or selection of moves up a specific climb.

Runner - A loop of nylon webbing that is used to attach a climbing rope to protection. 

S

Sandbag - A section of a route that is notoriously difficult compared to the rest of the route.

Screamer - A long fall on a rope, usually accompanied by screams.

Send - Used to describe climbing a route without taking a rest or falling.

Sewing machine - Often used to describe someone’s uncontrollable shaking left. Usually happens due to fatigue or fear when climbing.

Sidepull - Climbing move that involves gripping a vertical edge and pulling while pushing away with your feet.

Smear - A climbing move that involves dragging your foot along a wall to give yourself an upward boost.

Snap link - Another name for a carabiner.

Solo - To climb without any protection.

Speed climbing - A style of climbing that tests how fast a climber can progress in a certain timeframe or how long it takes to finish a full climb.

Sport climbing - A style of rock climbing that involves pre-placed protection like bolts or a top rope. The routes used in sports climbing are usually very difficult and involve complex moves. This is the opposite of traditional climbing.

T

Top rope - Used to describe when a climber has security from a rope above them, such as a rope that is secured around a bombproof anchor at the top of the climb.

Trad or traditional climbing - Rock climbing that involves the use of protection that is placed by the lead climber. The protection is often removed by the second climber.

U

UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d'Alpinisme) - The International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation founded in 1928 to ensure the safety of climbing equipment and oversee climbing as a sport.

Undercling - Name of the move when pulling up on a down-facing hold.

W

Wad - A word occasionally used to describe a skilled climber.

Whipper -To take a very large fall, often when you’re the leader. Often followed by a scream, as anyone would if they plunged several stories off a cliff face.

Sh*t Rock Climber say….

Now that we have introduced you to climbing terms, you can see them in action via this great video by athensattila. Enjoy….lol

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