HOW TO: Talk Like a Climber
Updated: Jun 13, 2019
I'm sure you've walked in your local climbing gym and heard some pretty strange words and phrases that sound strange or confusing. Maybe you see some climbers flailing their arms around and saying to one another "dude, this has to be the beta" Then you look around and think to yourself "why are they talking about fish, isn't this a climbing gym?" If this has ever happened to you, you aren't alone and this article is for you! And I guess anyone who has some questions about climbing terms and what they mean.
Here is a list of some climbing terms you will hear and what they mean:
Beta — Any information about a route or boulder problem. Such as which holds are good, the sequence to use the holds, and what body position to be in for a certain move.
Belay — To keep a climber from falling too far by using friction on the rope. The system that stops a climber's fall. It includes the rope, anchors, belay device and the belayer.
Belayer — The person who manages the rope so as to catch the climber on the other end in case of a fall or a slip.
Barn door —To swing sideways out from the rock due to being off balance. Often occurs with a lie-back maneuver.
Bouldering — Climbing close to the ground without the use of a rope. Typically used for practicing traverses, weight transfers, and foot and hand placements. Can be done on boulders or at the base of a rock face.
Carabiner — Metal loop (usually aluminum) with a spring-loaded gate on one side used for connecting various parts of a climbing system. May be oval, pear- or D-shaped.
Chalk — Carbonate of magnesium, or gymnasts' chalk, used to keep a climber's hands dry for better grip.
Chalk bag — Small pouch, usually with a drawstring closure, worn on the harness to hold climbers' chalk.
Crag — A small cliff, or the term for a climbing area.
Crux — The toughest move or sequence of moves on a climb.
Dynamic — Climbing rope that elongates or stretches to absorb the impact of a fall. Opposite of static. Also, a climbing move in which the climber lunges or leaps to the next hold.
Figure 8 — Climbing knot woven in the shape of the number 8, typically used for tying the climbing rope to the climber's harness.
Flash— A red point ascent (first try) utilizing prior inspection, information or beta from others.
Free solo — Climbing without a belay, which is usually very high risk. Unlike bouldering, free soloing goes far above the ground on full-length routes.
Grigri — The first popular belay device with an auto-locking mechanism to catch a climber's fall. Made by Petzl.
Jug — A climbing hold that is very incut where you can get behind a lip and hold easily.
Lead — To be the first person on a climb, either clipping the rope into bolts or placing protection as you go. Belayed by the second, below you.
Lower —The way in which a belayer brings a climber down from a climb (as in after a fall or repeated attempts) by slowly letting rope out through the belay device.
On sight —To lead a climb on the first attempt without prior knowledge of the route or moves.
Pitch — The way in which a belayer brings a climber down from a climb (as in after a fall or repeated attempts) by slowly letting rope out through the belay device.
Quickdraw — A short runner used to attach a rope to a bolted anchor with carabiners.
Red Point — To lead a climb without falling or putting weight on the rope, regardless of number of attempts. Applies to difficult climbs.
Route — The path or moves up a specific climb.
Smear — Climbing technique in which the sole of the shoe, plus proper weight over the feet, provides traction for moving upward.
Speed climbing—A competition that tests how far a climber can progress in a given time or how long it takes to complete a given climb.
Sport climbing—Rock climbing using pre-placed protection such as bolts or a top rope. Frequently involves difficult, gymnastic moves. Opposite of traditional climbing.
Stemming—Technique in which the hands and/or feet are pressed in opposition far out to each side.
Top rope—A rope that is passed through a fixed anchor at the top of a climbing wall or cliff, with each end tied to the climber and the belayer at the bottom. A top rope (with a watchful belayer) ensures that the climber is always protected from falling very far, and is thus a good way to learn to climb. "Top-roping" is the term for this type of climbing.
Undercling—A climbing move in which counter-pressure is applied to the underside of a rock flake or slab by pulling up on it, while pushing down on the feet.
Those are just some of the terms you are SURE to hear at a local climbing gym or crag. Like I always say if you want to climb harder you gotta climb smarter. If you have ANY questions go down to the bottom of the page and comment it below or go to my Instagram and shoot me a DM or send me an email. I'd love to answer your questions and or just say hi.
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