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Climbing Terms Glossary

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The present Climbing Terms Glossary is a list of definitions of terms, jargon and lingo related to all styles of rock climbing covered on theCrag.

As for the content on theCrag, this glossary relies on the input of you, the users of theCrag for updates, corrections and more precise definitions. If you want to have a new term added - funny or serious - or think a definition requires correction or more details please add a comment in the Climbing Terms Glossary forum on theCrag.

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Abalakov thread

See V-thread.

abseil

To descend a rope using a descender or maybe with just the rope round your body (a classic abseil). Often abbreviated to AB.

adze

A thin blade mounted perpendicular to the handle on an ice axe that can be used for chopping footholds in snow or ice.

aid climbing

A climbing style. Any style of climbing in which standing on or pulling oneself up via devices attached to fixed or placed protection is used to make upward progress.

all free with rest

A type of ascent. Climbing a route all free but with a rest or a fall. An ascent style that is used in certain regions of the world.

alpine climbing

A climbing style. Generally, any climbing that is done in the mountains, especially mountaineering. May include a mixture of ice climbing and dry-tooling. To climb 'alpine style' generally means carrying all of one’s gear in a backpack, even for multi-day climbs.

alpine start

To make an efficient start on a long climb by packing all gear the previous evening and starting early in the morning, usually well before sunrise.

anchor

An arrangement of one or (usually) more pieces of gear set up to support the weight of a belay or top rope.

angles

A type of piton or peg designed to fit into cracks that can range from the size of a fist (bong) to down to that of a finger (baby angle).

ape index

The ape index is the ratio of your arm span to your height. Divide your arm span by your height. Some climbers believe that a ratio greater than 1 is advantageous for climbing.

approach

The path or route to the base of a climb. Although this is generally a walk or, at most, a scramble, it is occasionally as hazardous as the climb itself. Special shoes called approach shoes are often preferred over climbing shoes for an approach.

arête

An arête can either be an edge or ridge of a cliff or boulder, or it can be a ridge on a mountain.

ascend

To climb a rope using an aid device.

ascender

A device for ascending a rope.

automatic belay

A fast method for setting up a two-point anchor in sport climbing, using the climbing rope to attach to the anchor points.

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bachar ladder

A piece of training equipment (similar to a rope ladder) used to improve campusing and core strength. Named after the climber John Bachar.

back and foot

A technique for climbing chimneys where you put your back on one wall and push your feet against the opposite wall.

back-clip / back-clipping

  • A dangerous, incorrect method of clipping a quickdraw where the rope runs from the outside of the draw inward instead of the proper inward-to-outward method. A backclipped rope can unclip itself.

  • Back-clipping is also a technique used when rappelling overhanging multi-pitch routes in order to reach the next anchor. The first climber to rappel clips the rope back into several or all draws of the pitch to stay near the wall. The second climber then cleans the draws or gear on the way down.

backstep

Using the outside edge of a foot to stand on a hold.

bail

To retreat from a climb.

ball nut

A type of aid protection consisting of a nut and a movable ball.

banshee belay

A non-equalized belay or anchor that is created by connecting quality bolts with a rope or cordlette. Should only be used in case where the individual bolts are highly reliable.

barn-door

If all points of contact a climber has with the wall are on a straight axis, or close to it, their body may be vulnerable to swinging uncontrollably outward around this axis, like a door on a hinge.

bash-in

A conical bolt that is hammered into an undersized hole.

bashie

An aid climbing tool that was hammered into shallow nailed out cracks much like Copperheads to offer protection. Originally made out of a wire and a wedge of aluminum they were used for many major aid ascents in Yosemite in the early 1970’s.

belay

To protect a roped climber from falling by passing the rope through, or around, any type of friction-enhancing belay device. Before belay devices were invented, the rope was often simply passed around the belayer’s hips to create friction.

belay device

A mechanical device used to create friction when belaying by putting bends in the rope. Many different types of belay devices exist, including ATCs, grigris, Reversos, Sticht plates, eights, and tubers. Some belay devices may also be used as a descender. A Munter hitch can sometimes be used instead of a belay device.

belay loop

A sewn loop on the front of your harness that a belay device is clipped to for belaying or rappelling.

bergschrund

Uppermost zone of a glacier detaching from the rock. Often a severe obstacle to pass.

beta

Tips on how to do a climbing sequence.

big wall climbing

Big wall climbing is a type of rock climbing where climbers ascend a long multi-pitch route, normally requiring more than a single day to complete the climb. Big wall routes require the climbing team to live on the route often using portaledges and hauling equipment.

bight

A loop of rope that does not cross over itself.

birdbeaks

Birdbeaks (or short 'beaks’) are the modern peg for hard aid climbs. Named after the big wall climber Jim 'The Bird' Bridwell, a beak is no larger than a stamp, but its ability to hook into cracks like a minute ice axe, gives it vastly increased holding power. See also RURP.

bivuouac

A camp, or the act of camping, overnight while still on a climbing route off the ground. May involve nothing more than lying down or sitting on a rock ledge without any sleeping gear. See also bivvy.

bivvy

  • A camp, or the act of camping, overnight while still on a climbing route off the ground. May involve nothing more than lying down or sitting on a rock ledge without any sleeping gear.

  • A waterproof liner protecting one or two persons in a bivouac.

bolt

A point of protection permanently installed in a hole drilled into the rock, to which a metal hanger is attached, with a hole for a carabiner or ring.

bolt chopping

The deliberate and destructive removal of one or more bolts.

bolting kit

A (minimalistic) set of tools for manually placing bolts.

booty

Abandoned gear found in a route and retrieved. Typically claimed by the finder.

boulder

In climbing a boulder or boulder stone is a rock that is massive enough to be climbed (bouldered) on.

bouldering

A climbing style. Bouldering is climbing without rope at heights that typically allow you to safely jump down back to the ground.

bowline

A knot used to form a fixed loop at the end of a rope. It has the advantage of being easy to untie after being subjected to a heavy load (such as a fall) and is thus often used to tie yourself in at the harness.

buildering

In analogy to bouldering this term describes climbing on buildings.

bunny ears

A double figure of eight loop often used to clip into anchors with 2 carabines.

butterfly knot

A knot also known as lineman's loop, butterfly loop, alpine butterfly knot and lineman's rider, is a knot used to form a fixed loop in the middle of a rope. Often used in the middle of a rope for glacier travel.

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cairn

A pile of rock, wood or both used to mark a route or route junction.

cam

A spring-loaded device used as protection in traditional climbing, see also friend or SLCD.

campus board

A series of horizontal rungs attached to an overhanging surface that may be climbed up and down without the aid of the feet as a training device. When used properly, campus boards can improve finger strength and so-called 'contact strength'.

carabiner

Aluminum snap link used for myriad tasks, the primary one being to connect the rope to the anchor.

carrot bolt

The carrot is a hex-headed machine bolt without a fixed hangar. It is filed down at one end to form a tapered point (hence the name) and is then hammered into an undersized drill hole. The bolt is pounded into the rock until a small portion of the shaft remains exposed. While ascending, the climber puts a bolt plate over the head of a carrot in order and then clips a quickdraw to it. Legend has it that the carrot was invented in the 1960s by the Australian climber Bryden Allen.

chalk

Magnesium carbonate (MgCO3) powder applied to hands to keep them dry and improve grip.

chalk bag

A hand-sized holder for climbing chalk that is usually carried on a chalkbelt or clipped to a harness for easy access during a climb. In bouldering the size of chalk bags is typically substantially bigger as they are posed on the floor next to the boulder.

chalk ball

Literally a ball of chalk. Typically a cotton fabric that holds chalk and that is designed to create as little dust as possible.

chariot belay

A way of belaying that reduces high fall factors in multi-pitch climbing where the lead climber leaves the anchor and has not yet clipped the next gear. The belayer lowers himself below the anchor and belays from there using a rope tether. The lead climber clips the anchor.

chicken head

A protruding rock structure.

chicken wings

A crack climbing technique for climbing offwidths; elbow is inserted into the crack first, palm facing outwards.

chimney

  • A rock cleft with mostly parallel vertical sides, and large enough to fit the climber’s body into. To climb such a structure, the climber often uses his head, back, and feet to apply pressure on the opposing faces of the vertical walls.

  • The process of using such a technique .

chimney crack

A crack that is large enough to fit the entire body inside, allowing for a wide variety of techniques depending on the distance between the two rock faces.

chipping

Creating or modifying a natural hold by permanently altering the rock. Often done by hammering, drilling or glueing features on rock. While it was popular in some areas to chip in the past it is now mostly considered unethical and unacceptable.

chock / chock stone

A naturally occurring stone wedged in a crack.

chopping

Chopping a bolt means taking a bolt out of the rock. It is often interpreted as a result of an ethical controversy about bolts on a route that were not put in accordance with eg the first ascensionist or in case of a retro-bolted route. Luckily, most bolts are chopped in the process of re-bolting routes.

clean

To remove protection (cams, pickets, etc.), usually the responsibility of the last climber in a rope team.

clean climbing

A type of ascent. Climbing a route without resting or falling but not specifying in which ascent style it was done (eg flash, on-sight, red point).

cliffhanger

See skyhook.

clipping in

The process of attaching to belay lines or anchors for protection.

clove hitch

A knot that allows you to secure a rope in place on a carabiner. It’s easy to untie after taking a heavy load, and quickly unravels when you unclip it from the carabiner. Often used to tie yourself directly to an anchor.

col

A geographical feature similar to a saddle or pass.

copperhead

A copperhead is a small nut with a head made of soft metal on a loop of wire, originally copper or brass, also aluminium used as protection in aid climbing. Copperheads are typically placed into small shallow seams and crevices by pounding or hammering them into place. The malleability of the soft metal head makes copperheads conform to the rock and grip better than other devices, and are often the only protection that will stay fixed in many placements. See also bashie.

cord

A small diameter rope used for slings or auxiliary tasks.

cornice

An overhanging edge of snow on a ridge.

couloir

A gully, sometimes a potential route. A chute or bowling alley is steep enough for rock or ice fall to be a concern.

crack climbing

Crack climbing is a type of rock climbing in which the climber follows a crack in the rock and uses specialized climbing techniques. The sizes of cracks vary from those that are just barely wide enough for the fingers to fit inside (finger crack), to those that are so wide that the entire body can fit inside with all limbs outstretched (chimney crack).

crampons

A pair of metal frameworks with spikes attached to boots to increase safety on snow and ice.

crash pad

A mat used in bouldering to dampen falls.

crevasse

A crack in a glacier surface. Crevasses vary in width and depth and are often concealed by surface snow that forms a snow bridge. Concealed crevasses are one hazard on glaciers. The other is falling rock.

crimper

  • A hold which is only just big enough to be grasped with the tips of the fingers.

  • process of holding onto a crimp.

crux

The most difficult section of a climb.

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dab

A type of ascent. A boulder ascent in which the climber either briefly touches the ground or another climber during the ascent.

daisy chain

A daisy chain is a climbing equipment in the form of a strap, several feet long and typically constructed from one-inch tubular nylon webbing of the same type used in lengthening straps between anchor-points and the main rope. The webbing is bar tacked at about 5cm intervals to create a length of small loops for attachment.

deadman

Any device (picket, shovel, bag of snow) buried in snow to serve as an anchor.

deadpoint

A deadpoint move is a controlled dynamic climbing movement in which the hold is grabbed with one hand at the apex of upward motion of the body, while one or both feet and the other hand maintain contact with the rock. Dynamic motions in which both feet leave the rock are typically called dynos. See also static and dynamic moves.

deck

Verb meaning to fall off the rock and hit the ground.

deep water solo (DWS)

A rock climb over a deep body of water that is climbed without protection. In certain cases you may top out from a climb but typically you end up getting wet. Also called psico bloc.

dialled

To have a complete understanding of a particular climbing move or route.

dihedral

An inside corner of rock with more than a 90-degree angle between the faces.

directional

Protection placed to prevent a following or toproping climber from swinging on a route that involves a traverse or overhang.

double rope

See half rope.

down climb

Descending a pitch often requires more skill than climbing up and therefore provides good practice for the climber and, sometimes, the belayer. Because down climbing is statistically safer than rappelling, down climbing is preferred to rappelling when time allows.

downgrading

The fact of changing the grade of a route from a harder one to an easier one. Typically done by repeaters of a route or when easier beta is discovered. Sometimes controversial.

drop knee

A method for reducing muscle strain in arms when holding a side grip. One knee ends up in a lower position with the body twisted towards the other leg. It can give a longer reach as the body and shoulders twist towards a hold.

dry-tooling

The use of tools designed for ice climbing, such as crampons and ice axes, on bare rock, i.e. not on ice.

dynamic move

A dynamic move is a climbing movement where the climber makes use of their body momentum in order to grab a hold that would otherwise be out of reach, as opposed to static moves where three-point suspension and slow, controlled movement is the rule. When both feet leave the rock, it is called a dyno. When one or both feet maintain contact with the rock, it is called a deadpoint. See also static move.

dynamic rope

A standard climbing rope with some stretch to absorb falls, as opposed to static ropes.

dyno

A jump or leap in which both feet leave the rock face and return again once the target hold is caught.

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edge

A narrow ledge on a rock wall.

edging

Using the edge of a climbing shoe on a foothold. In the absence of footholds, smearing is used.

epic

An otherwise ordinary climb rendered difficult by a dangerous combination of weather, injuries, darkness, lack of preparedness, or other adverse factors.

equalized

An anchor that equally distributes weight to each of its protection points.

étrier

A webbing ladder for aid climbing.

Ewbanks

  • John Ewbank (1948 - 2013), an Australian climber that invented the Ewbanks scale to grade climbs.

  • Ewbanks Scale: the grading scale invented by John Ewbanks.

expansion bolt

A bolt that is composed of the bolt, a hanger and a nut. The bolt is placed in a pre-drilled hole. The hanger and the bolt is held in place by tightening a nut on the outside part which expands the inside of the bolt against the rock face.

exposure

The distance from the climber to where the climber would likely stop in the event of an unprotected fall.

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face climbing

Any climbing that involves ascending a vertical rock face using finger holds, edges, and smears, as opposed to crack climbing.

fall factor

A formula-derived number representing the severity of a fall. Calculate it by dividing the length of a fall by the amount of rope in play.

fall line

The direction a fall will take. The belay position and belay anchors must be in line with the fall line to prevent a pendulum effect. Avoid climbing in the fall line of another climber higher on the pitch, of a cornice or anything else that might come down the mountain. When traversing a glacier, stay lower on the glacier than the collection of rocks that have fallen onto the glacier.

figure eight

A somewhat outdated belay device in the shape of an eight with a larger and a smaller end.

figure four / figure 4

A climbing technique originating in ice climbing in which the climber wraps one leg around the anchored arm in order to gain height. It looks a bit like a 4, thus the name.

figure-eight knot

The basic climber’s knot, when retraced, used to attach a climber’s harness to the rope and for many other purposes. Not to be confused with a figure-eight belay and rappel device.

figure-five-move

A rather exotic (ice) climbing move similar to figure-four-move, but with the leg of the same side put over the arm.

finger crack

A fissure the size of a person’s fingers, from fingertips to knuckles deep.

fingerlock

Camming fingers into cracks. There are a variety of fingerlocks, used for different crack sizes.

firn

Compacted, old and re-crystallized snow. Often encountered in spring.

fisherman’s knot

A knot used to make small-diameter rope, like prusik, into slings. For large-diameter ropes, use a figure-eight knot to connect them as a figure-eight knot will better slide over obstacles without becoming caught.

fist jam

jam used for fist-sized cracks, accomplished by wedging a fist into the crack.

fixed protection

a permanent piece of gear for anchoring into a wall. usually a bolt or piton.

fixed rope / fixed line traverse

A rope anchored to a route by the lead climber and left in place for others who follow, a mechanical ascender or, on a traverse, clipped-in carabiners sliding along the rope can be used both for climbing assistance and for protection.

flake

A planar, thin rock structure that is typically slightly detached from the main rock face.

flapper

A finger injury involving a larger piece of partially detached skin.

flash

A type of ascent. Climbing a route on the first try after inspection from e.g. the ground or after having received beta.

Fontainebleau Scale

A grading system for bouldering named after the world famous bouldering area Fontainebleau near Paris in France.

foot hook

General term for either a heel hook or toe hook.

free climb

To climb using only one’s hands and feet without artificial aids. A belay rope may be employed. As opposed to aid climb.

free solo

A type of ascent. Climbing a route free (see free climb) and without protection or rope.

french-free

A climbing style, in which the leader free climbs a pitch, while the second can also grab gear to speed up the ascent.

friend

A spring-loaded camming device used as protection equipment in traditional climbing, also called cam. It consists of two, three, or four cams mounted on a common axle or two adjacent axles, so that pulling on the axle forces the cams to spread farther apart.

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Gaston

A climbing grip using one hand with the thumb down and elbow out, often thought of as a reverse side pull. The grip maintains friction against a hold by pressing outward toward the elbow.

gear

A term for climbing equipment in general.

gear loop

Loops at the side of the harness for storing climbing gear.

gendarme

A pinnacle or isolated rock tower frequently encountered along a ridge.

girth hitch

A knot made by looping the end of a sling over itself, often used to attach to anchors, to connect multiple slings for a longer sling, and to connect one’s ice ax to the harness.

glissade

A usually voluntary act of sliding down a steep slope of snow.

glue-in bolt

A bolt - typically with a ring - that is placed in a pre-drilled hole and held in place by a chemical glue, typically a 2-component epoxy resin.

golden retriever

When a climber is cleaning a route and forgets to pull out a piece or unclip the rope and begins to climb above the piece, rendering the top rope ineffective.

gorp

Trail mix for periodic nibbling to maintain energy levels between meals on long climbs or hikes. The name comes from 'Good Old Raisins and Peanuts.

green point

A type of ascent. Climbing a sport route without using the bolts but by placing your own protection (traditional climbing of a sport route).

Grigri

A belay device manufactured by Petzl and designed to increase the ease with which falls can be stopped because it makes use of assisted braking under load. Contrary to some beliefs it is not an auto-blocking system.

gronked

Having accidentally gone off-route while leading and become lost on a rock face in an area much more difficult than the intended climb. The word arises from the climb 'Gronk' in Avon Gorge, which is notorious for this.

ground up red point

A type of ascent. Redpointing a route when and on all prior failed attempts the climber immediately lowered and pulled the rope without working, resting or inspection (including on abseil).

guppy

A synonym for cup, commonly used in bouldering or as description for a hold type that you can grab on the top with an open hand (like some tufas for example).

gym climbing

Climbing indoors on artificial climbing walls. Read more about it in the Introduction to Rock Climbing.

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half rope

Half ropes are two ropes that are used typically in ice climbing or wandering traditional routes. The climber ties in to both ropes but clips each strand of rope on alternating protection points, thus reducing rope drag. See also twin and single rope.

hand crack

A crack wide enough to accept an entire hand, but not so wide it requires a fist jam.

hand jam

Technique used to climb hand cracks by slotting/camming a cupped hand into a crack.

hang dogging

A type of ascent. Climbing by leading a route but with resting and / or falling.

hangboard

A wooden or plastic resin board used for improving finger strength and endurance for climbers. Portable versions are also used to warm-up at the cliff or train on the road.

hanger

The part of an expansion bolt that is used to clip in the quickdraw.

hanging belay

A belay stand or anchor, typically on multi-pitch climbs, that requires the climbers to hang in their harness due to the lack of a comfortable belay stand (like a ledge). These are less comfortable than semi-hanging belays or regular belay stands and require better rope management.

harness

A belting system worn around the waist for attaching the rope to a climber.

haul bag

A haul bag refers to a large, tough, and often unwieldy bag into which supplies and climbing equipment can be thrown. In big wall climbing they are used to haul equipment and supplies up the wall. Haul bags are often affectionately known as 'pigs' due to their unwieldy nature.

headpointing

Lead climbing of a (often dangerous) trad route after rehearsal.

headwall

The upper section of a mountain where the terrain is set off from the terrain below by being more steep.

heel hook

Using the back of the heel to apply pressure to a hold for balance or leverage; this technique requires pulling with the heel of the foot by flexing the hamstring. This technique is notable since in most forms of climbing one uses the toes to push.

hex

Hexes are a type of nut, a hollow eccentric hexagonal prism with tapered ends, usually threaded with webbing, a swaged cable, or a cord used as protection device in traditional climbing. They come in different sizes and are intended to be wedged into a crack or other opening in the rock.

high ball

A high and thus dangerous boulder problem where the line between free soloing and bouldering blurs.

high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE)

A severe and often fatal form of altitude sickness caused by extended periods of physical exertion without sufficient oxygen.

hold

A place to temporarily cling, grip, jam, press, or stand in the process of climbing.

hook

  • Equipment used in aid climbing.

  • A climbing technique involving hooking a heel or toe against a hold in order to balance or to provide additional support.

Hueco scale

Also known as the V-scale, invented by John Sherman, a.k.a. 'The Verm,' hence 'V.' The standard method in America for rating the difficulty of a boulder problem.

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ice climbing

A climbing style. Ice climbing is a style of roped and protected climbing of features such as icefalls, frozen waterfalls, and cliffs and rock slabs covered with ice refrozen from flows of water.

ice hammer

A lightweight ice axe with a hammer and pick head on a short handle and no spike.

ice piton

A long, wide, serrated piton once used for weak protection on ice.

ice screw

A screw used to protect a climb over steep ice or for setting up a crevasse rescue system. The strongest and most reliable is the modern tubular ice screw which ranges in length from 10 to 23 centimetres.

ice tool

A specialized elaboration of the modern ice axe (and often described broadly as an ice axe or technical axe), used in ice climbing, mostly for the more difficult configurations.

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jam

To wedge or jam body parts — fingers, a hand, a foot, etc. — into cracks and apply torque to adhere to the rock. Both strenuous and remote from ordinary experience, jamming is difficult to learn and requires real rock to do so as gyms do not replicate cracks well. Once mastered, jamming often becomes the hold of choice by crackmasters.

Jesus piece

The first draw or point clipped after leaving the anchor when multi-pitch climbing. Essential to reduce fall factors and keep traditional anchors safe.

jib

A particularly small foothold, usually only large enough for the big toe, sometimes relying heavily on friction to support weight.

jug

  • A shortened term for jug hold.

  • To jug is to use ascenders to ascend a rope.

jumar

  • A type of mechanical ascender to ascend on ropes.

  • To ascend a rope using a mechanical ascender.

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Klemheist knot

An alternative to the Prusik knot, useful when the climber is short of cord but has plenty of webbing.

knee pad

An accessory to make kneebars less painful. Typically it is a textile with a neoprene layer on top that you place on your leg just above the knee. The neoprene makes your kneebar stickier while reducing rock impact on your leg.

kneebar

Locking the lower half of your leg in a gap by pressing with the knee and pushing with the foot against two opposing rock features.

knifeblade

A peg or piton made to fit in cracks that are only a few millimeters wide.

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laybacking also liebacking

Climbing a vertical edge by side-pulling the edge with both hands and relying on friction or very small holds for the feet.

lead

To be the first climber up a pitch and - if required - to place protection along the way while being belayed by a partner from below (also called the sharp end of the rope, on point).

ledge

A horizontal rock feature in a rock face.

Leeper peg

See Z-piton or Z-peg.

leg loop

The part of a harness accommodating the legs.

link-up

A combination of two or more existing routes that may also be climbed individually. For example climbers may choose to climb pitch 1 of one route and climb pitch 2 of a different, nearby route. The resulting combination is called a link-up.

liquid chalk

Liquid climbing chalk is standard climbing chalk mixed with a liquid – normally a form of alcohol – that evaporates when exposed to air. It might also contain additional additives. You pour it onto your hands, rub it in, then leave it for 20-60 seconds to dry. It creates less dust and some climbers prefer it over regular chalk.

lock-off

Using tendon strength to support weight on a handhold without overly tiring muscles.

lost arrow

A type of peg or piton designed to fit into cracks that range from fingertip size down to a few millimetres.

lower off

  • The act of lowering a climber from an anchor. The belayer lowers the climber contrary to rappeling.

  • A type of anchor that allows the rope to be clipped in or passed through a ring or similar so that the climber can be lowered by the belayer.

lycra

Skin-tight pants of elastic fabric, the ultimate colorful weapon in the 1980's.

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mantel also mantle

A move used to surmount a ledge or feature in the rock in the absence of any useful holds directly above. It involves pushing down on a ledge or feature instead of pulling oneself up. In ice climbing, manteling is done by moving the hands from the shaft to the top of the ice tool and pushing down on the head of the tool. Abbreviation of mantelshelf.

mixed climbing

Ascending a route involving a combination of snow, rock or ice.

mixed traditional climbing

A traditional climbing route that uses bolts to protect parts of the climb. Traditional climbing gear is still required for the other parts.

mono

Short for 'mono doigt.' A pocket with room for a single finger.

moraine

A random accumulation of boulders, rocks, scree and sand carried down the mountain and deposited by a glacier. Crossing a moraine is not especially dangerous but is slow going and is only chosen when alternative routes would take even more time.

multi-pitch climbing

Any climbing done on routes that are too long for a single belay rope, and hence consist of multiple pitches which must be belayed separately.

Munter hitch

The Munter hitch, also known as the Italian hitch, Mezzo Barcaiolo, HMS (for the German Halbmastwurfsicherung) or the Crossing Hitch, is a simple adjustable knot to control friction in a life-lining or belay system. Named after the Swiss mountainguide Werner Munter. Often used as belay knot if you lack a belay device.

Mussy hook

A construction type hook used as hook on an anchor. Mussy hooks often have bad gates but are massive and therefore often used in situations where lots of lowering is happening.

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natural anchor

A natural anchor is a secure natural feature which can serve as a climbing anchor by attaching a sling, lanyard, or cordelette and a carabiner. Examples of natural anchors include trees, boulders, lodged chockstones, horns, icicles, and protrusions.

naturals

In a climbing gym, the natural features of the wall texture itself, i.e. those which can be climbed on but are not bolt-on holds.

no-hand rest

An entirely leg-supported resting position during climbing that does not require hands on the rock.

nut / stopper

A metal wedge with a wire loop for insertion into cracks in rock used for protection in traditional climbing. See also hex or wire.

nut tool

A metal tool for easier removal of pieces of traditional protection (nuts, cams).

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off belay

Called out by a climber when requesting that the belayer remove belay equipment from the climbing rope (e.g. when cleaning top protection from a lead route). Replied to with 'belay off'.

off-finger crack

Off-finger or off-hand cracks are wider than finger cracks, but not large enough for the entire hand to fit inside.

off-width

A crack too wide for fist jams and too narrow to be a chimney.

on-sight

A type of ascent. Climbing a route without falling or resting on gear, and with no prior beta or knowledge of the moves.

overhang

A section of rock or ice that is angled beyond vertical.

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panic carabiner

A self-closing carabiner attached to a semi-rigid webbing as aid to reach distant bolts (clip far overhead).

peg

Pegs are a type of protection that is generally hammered into the rock and used in situations where wires and cams cannot be used effectively. In some situations, where the local ethic frowns on hammered protection, they may also be hand placed. Pegs come in different shapes and sizes, see also piton.

pendulum traverse

Swinging across a wall or chasm while suspended from a rope affixed above the climber. Often used on big walls to reach a climbable section of rock.

permadraw

A steel cable, usually four to six inches long, with a screwlock carabiner on the bolt end and a regular carabiner on the clipping end. These are permanently fixed to bolts, and popular in heavily trafficked crags such as Rifle Mountain Park in Colorado. Permadraws make climbing and lowering convenient and efficient since you don’t have to fiddle with placing or retrieving your own quickdraws.

pig tail

See ram’s horn or ram’s head.

pinch

A hold type that is squeezed between the thumb and the other fingers.

pinkpoint

A type of ascent. Free climbing by leading on pre-placed gear (or already clipped quickdraws) after having practiced the route beforehand (either by hangdogging or top roping). See also clean and redpoint.

pitch

The portion of a climb between two belay points. A 'full pitch' is the same height as the length of one’s rope: 50–60 metres (160–200 ft).

piton

A flat or angled metal blade of steel which incorporates a clipping hole for a carabiner or a ring in its body. Pitons are typically used in aid climbing, where an appropriate size and shape is hammered into a thin crack in the rock and preferably removed by the last team member. Also called peg or pin.

portaledge

A portaledge is a deployable hanging tent system designed for rock climbers who spend multiple days and nights on a big wall climb.

protection

  • The process of setting equipment or anchors for safety.

  • Equipment or anchors used for stopping falls. These can be fixed (eg bolts) or removable (eg cams, nuts).

protection rating

A rating system reflecting the spacing and quality of protection points in rock climbing. These are typically added to the grade of a route as an additional (and often very subjective) information. The most famous one is borrowed from the rating system of movies. Read the relevant chapter in the article on Grades on theCrag for more details.

prusik

  • A sliding friction knot used to anchor a small diameter rope to a large diameter rope. The knot bears the last name of the Austrian climber Karl Prusik (1896 - 1961) who devised it.

  • To ascend a rope with prusik slings.

prusik rope

A prusik rope, also called Reepschnur (German), is a low elongation rope with small diameter (typically 4 to 8 mm) used to prusik but also to e.g. build anchors.

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quickdraw

Two carabines linked by a textile webbing. Used to attach a freely running rope to anchors or protection points.

quicklink

A screw-type oval-shape stainless steel carabiner which is smaller than a normal oval-shape biner, particularly one used for attaching to the chains of the master anchor.

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rack

A generic term for the collection of gear you are taking up on a climb. Usually composed of slings, protection, quickdraws, carabiners and other equipment for getting up and back down.

ram’s horn / ram’s head

A ram’s horn or pig tail is a type of sport anchor made of bent metal in which you can place the rope without opening or adding a carabiner.

rap-bolted

Bolting a route from top down, on rappel.

rappel

The process by which a climber descends a fixed rope using a friction device. Often abbreviated to RAP.

re-bolting

The act of replacing old bolts on a route with new ones. Hard work that is often done to increase the safety of a climb (eg in case of corroded bolts, replacing steel bolts with titanium bolts in a seaside setting).

redpoint

A type of ascent. Free climbing by leading after having practiced the route beforehand (either by hangdogging or top roping). In traditional climbs it includes the placing of the gear. See also clean and pinkpoint.

retro bolting

The addition of bolts to an existing climb which has already been ascended using natural protection. Often considered unethical.

rime

A thin layer of ice and hard snow over rock. Verglas is a thin layer of ice over rock. Both are hazardous conditions that might end an ascent.

ring lock

A finger jamming technique using the bent finger to jam the first joint into a fine crack.

rodeo clipping

To clip into the first piece of protection from the ground by swinging a loop of rope so that it is caught by a carabiner. This can only be done when the first piece of gear is already placed. See also stick-clipping.

roof

A rock face that is parallel to the ground (like a ceiling) and thus steeply overhanging to climb on.

rope solo

Climbing a route using a self belay technique after having installed the rope from above.

runner

A sewn or tied sling of webbing of various lengths, though typically 24 inches long.

running belay

A similar technique to a fixed-line traverse except the rope moves with the climbers.

runout

The term for being far above your last piece of protection.

RURP

The 'Realised Ultimate Reality Piton' (RURP) is a piece of protection used in aid climbing. No bigger than a large postage stamp, a RURP can be hammered into tiny hairline cracks. Although some free climbers have utilised these wacky pegs for protection they are mainly used for direct aid.

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saddle

A high pass between two peaks, larger than a col.

sandbag

  • Consciously mis-representing the difficulty of a route, claiming that it is easier than it actually is.

  • A route of substantially elevated difficulty in comparison to others of the same grade.

scramble

Easy unprotected climbing.

scree

Small, loose, broken rocks, often at the base of a cliff; also any area or slope covered in such rocks. Scree is distinguished from talus by its smaller size and looser configuration.

second

  • A climber who follows the lead, or first, climber.

  • To second: ascending a route as second

self-arrest

The act of planting the pick of an ice axe into the snow to arrest a fall in the event of a slip. Also a method of stopping in a controlled glissade.

semi hanging belay

A belay stand or anchor, typically on multi-pitch climbs, that requires the climbers to have part of their weight held by their harness due to the lack of a comfortable belay stand (like a ledge). These are less comfortable than regular belay stands but more comfortable than hanging belays.

send

To cleanly complete a route, i.e. on-sight, flash, or redpoint. See also ‘scend.

shindex

The 'Shindex' is the distance between your big toe and the top of your knee. It is the range between as short as you can make your foot to as far as you can extend your toe and is important in placing kneebars.

shock load

A force exerted on an anchor when weight is suddenly dropped onto it.

sidepull

Method for gripping a vertical edge that entails pulling with the hand and pushing with the feet.

simultaneous climbing / simul climbing

A climbing technique in which two climbers move simultaneously upward, with the leader placing protection which the second removes as they advance. Sometimes used in multi-pitch climbing to climb faster, obviously mostly on easier terrain.

simultaneous rappel / simul rappel

A rappel technique in which both climbers descend the same rope (or the strands of the rope) at the same time. While often used to safe time, simu rappelling ads a lot of risk to the rappelling. Also used in some rare settings like lowering from a single pitch spire without anchors whereas the climbers lower off on opposite sides of the spire.

single rope

A single climbing rope used to clip all pieces of gear to. This is the type of rope normally used for sport and single pitch climbing. See also half and twin ropes.

sit start

Starting a climb from a position in which the climber is sitting on the floor. Typically used for boulder routes to add additional difficulty. Often abbreviated by 'SD' or 'SS'.

sky hook

An aid climbing device for progression or positioning made of a metal hook and a sling. It can be hooked on a variety of rock features (like flakes) and holes.

slab

A rock face that is at an angle less steep than vertical. Typically requires balance- and friction-dependent moves.

SLCD

A spring-loaded device used as protection in traditional climbing, see also cam or friend.

sling

A sling or runner is an item of climbing equipment consisting of a tied or sewn loop of webbing. These can be wrapped around sections of rock, hitched to other pieces of equipment, or tied directly to a tensioned line using a prusik knot.

sloper

A hold or part of a hold in which the surface slopes down toward the ground, with very little positive surface.

smearing

A foot move that relies purely on the friction of the rubber of the climbing shoes.

spindrift

Loose, powdery snow incapable of holding protection.

splitter crack

A splitter crack is a crack that is relatively unfeatured and very regular, as if the cliff just split right down the middle. It is often used to describe a smaller crack. Splitters are generally coveted by crack climbers for their sweet and consistent jams they offer.

sport climbing

A climbing style. Sport climbing involves climbing routes that are equipped with permanently fixed protection such as pre-installed bolts and anchors.

spotting

A method of protection commonly used when bouldering or before the leader has placed a piece of protection in climbing. One or multiple spotters stand beneath the climber, ready to absorb the energy of a fall and direct the climber away from any hazards.

spur

  • A rock or snow rib on a mountain, a lateral ridge.

  • Heel-side extra spike at crampons.

static move

A static move is a climbing movement of a limb to a new hold without the simultaneous transfer of weight. Instead weight transfer occurs after the limb has moved. See also dynamic move.

static rope

Static ropes are ropes with very low-elongation, typically less than 5%. They are typically used for work where rope stretching is a disadvantage like rescue work, caving, climbing fixed lines with ascenders and hauling loads.

stem

To bridge the distance between two holds with one’s feet, to push against adjacent or opposing walls with the feet as one might do in a chimney.

stick clip

A specialized pole for placing a quickdraw (usually with the rope pre-clipped) into the first or subsequently higher bolts of a sport climb.

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take

Called out by a climber when requesting that the belayer remove all slack.

talus

An accumulation of rock larger than scree that has fallen to its location. The presence and amount of talus should be considered when crossing a slope or climbing the pitch above it.

taping

Applying adhesive tape to fingers and back of hands to prevent injuries.

thin hands

A crack the size that's wider than off-fingers but narrower than a perfect hand jam.

tick

Ascending a route and / or the act of recording the ascent of a route. See also the list of tick types.

tick mark

A mark on the rock to identify a hold or foot hold. Typically done using chalk. Should be brushed off after you have finished climbing.

toe hook

Wrapping the top of the foot up or around a rock feature.

top rope

A climbing style. Top roping means that the rope is already set up through an anchor at the top of the climb prior to the climber getting on the wall. Top-roping either requires easy access to the top of the climb, often by means of a footpath or scrambling or another climber that installs the rope after having lead the climb.

top-out

Completing a route by ascending over the top of the structure being climbed. Often used in bouldering but also in sport or trad climbing when the terrain permits it.

trad

  • A person who adheres to the principles of traditional climbing: to place and remove the protection used on a climb, to use no device or technique that will scar the rock or mountain.

  • An abbreviation for 'traditional' as an adjective, e.g. 'trad gear' or 'a trad climb'.

traditional climbing

A climbing style. Traditional or trad climbing involves climbing routes in which removable protection against falls is placed by the climber while ascending.

tramming / trolleying

A technique that is typically used while lowering and cleaning gear from an overhanging and/or traversing route. A quickdraw is clipped between the climber's harness and the rope that is threaded through the gear. As the climber is lowered by the belayer, the quickdraw holds the cleaner close to the wall and follows the line of the route.

traverse

  • Moving laterally over a section of rock during a climb.

  • A section of a route or a complete route that requires progress in a horizontal direction.

tufa

A limestone formation formed by the evaporation of (dripping) water on the rock surface (often in the shape of a rib that protrudes or even hangs freely from the wall). Often encountered in limestone caves and on overhanging rock faces.

twin rope

As the name says twin ropes are two ropes (typically of lesser diameter) that are used just like a single rope. Meaning the climber ties in to both ropes and clips both ropes on the same protection points. Often used in multi-pitch climbing as it allows for longer rappels. See also half and single rope.

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udge

A technique needed to make slow upwards progress on holdless rock, especially off-width cracks.

UIAA

undercling also undercut

A hold which is gripped with the palm of the hand facing upwards.

upgrading

The fact of changing the grade of a route from an easier one to a harder one. Typically done by repeaters of a route or when eg a critical hold broke on a route.

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V-grade

A technical grading system for bouldering problems, invented by John Sherman.

V-thread also Abalakov thread

A type of abseiling point used especially in winter and in ice climbing.

via ferrata

Via ferratas typically follow a steel cable that is fixed every few meters to the rock through extended rock faces. Using a via ferrata kit, climbers can secure themselves to the cable, limiting any fall. The cable as well as additionally installed climbing aids, such as iron rungs, pegs, carved steps, and even ladders and bridges can also be used as an aid for climbing.

victory whip

A voluntary fall from the anchor after a successful sent of a route. Typically the climber touches the anchor / chain (as if clipping it) and without clipping jumps off.

volume

A large, hollow, bolted-on bouldering hold for indoor / gym climbing.

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water knot

A knot used to tie lengths of webbing together or into slings.

webbing

Flat nylon tape or tubing used for slings and harnesses.

whipper

A lead fall from above and to the side of the last clip, whipping oneself downwards and in an arc. The term has come to denote any fall beyond the last placed or clipped piece of protection.

wire

Another term for nut, used as protection device for traditional climbing. See also hex or nut.

woodie

A homemade climbing wall. Often specifically a hybrid between a climbing wall and a fingerboard. Specifically called such because of the wooden panels (usually left unpainted) used to attach the climbing holds.

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xeno

A hold appearing to be composed of a different type of rock than the surrounding rock face.

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YDS

Abbreviation for Yosemite Decimal System, a grading system.

Yosemite/Tahquitz Decimal System

An evolving system to define route difficulty numerically with fine definitions within Class 5. The system bears the names of where it developed in the 1950s.

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Z-clipping

Clipping into a piece of protection with the segment of rope from beneath the previous piece of protection, resulting in a potentially dangerous tangled configuration of the belay rope without the possibility to move further up. May happen on closely protected routes.

Z-piton

A Z-shaped piton or peg with supposedly higher holding power. Also called Leeper-peg after Ed Leeper.

Z-pulley also Z-system.

A particular configuration of rope, anchors, and pulleys typically used to extricate a climber after falling into a crevasse.

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We thank our partner GoToClimb for the initial contribution of climbing terms.

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