Rock Climbing Terms

The Obligatory Glossary


  • Alpinism: Mountaineering on steroids. Carry enough with you to get up the mountain fast, and get back before dinner.
  • Arete: A sharp outward facing corner or corner on a rock face.


  • Beta: This is climber speak for "how-to". Someone who has figured out the moves for a climb can give another climber beta that will help them out.
  • Bolt: Permanent metal bolt drilled into rock that helps a climber attach his or her rope to protect them from falling. -- Clip the Bolt: Term for the act of clipping into a bolt.
  • Bouldering: A type of climbing which doesn't involve ropes, or harnesses. Instead boulderers climb big... boulders.
  • Buildering: The same thing as bouldering, except instead of boulder, the climbers climb... buildings.
  • Biner: This is short for carabiner. Carabiner has 4 syllables. Biner only has two, so its naturally easier.
  • Belay: Climbing requires two people. The climber, and someone to belay them. Belaying means someone on the other end of the rope using a "belay device" to ensure the climber doesn't fall.
    • On Belay: Term used by the climber in the form of a question. This is a last check that the belay device is being used correctly before the climber trusts her life to the belayer.
    • Belay On: Its confusing if you are dyslexic. This is the response that the belayer gives the climber to indicate they are using the equipment correctly and are ready for the climber to go.


  • Cams: Camalots, 3 syllables vs 1. Anyway, these are a form of "protection" which are placed into cracks or holes as the climber ascends. These ensure that if the climber falls the protection, and rope will catch them and they won't die.
  • Chalk: Magical white powder to dry the hands. It keeps your hands from getting sweaty and slipping off the rock.
  • Crag: Term used to describe a particular climbing area, or wall.
  • Clipped the Chains: On sport climbs, the very top is usually protected with two bolts that have chains attached. When you "clip the chains" it means you've clipped your rope to the anchors.
  • Climbing Ethics: The ethics of climbing. This is really code for do no harm to the rock, or natural area.
  • Crux: The hardest part of a climbing route.
  • Crimpers: Tiny, usually razor sharp, holds that can only be grasped with the tips of your fingers.


  • Dirtbag: Most climbers are considered dirtbags. This is a loving term that describes the easy going, relaxed nature of the typical climber. Surf bum and Dirtbag are kinda in the same wheelhouse.
  • Draw: This is the 1 syllable easy version of Quickdraw.


  • Falling: This is yelled by the climber to her belayer as they are falling. It can mean they'll only fall to the last piece of protection. Or it could mean they are going to break some bones. You won't know until they yell they are ok. Clear communication is paramount for climbers.
  • Figure Eight: A fun type of knot that is rumored to be super strong. Its used to tie the end of a climbing rope to a climbers harness.


  • Grade: See Rating System this is the climber easy version.


  • Harness: A climber uses a harness to attach rope, draws, and their gym's membership safety card to their person.
  • Hexes: A form of passive protection that looks like a hexadecimal
  • Highball: A really really high boulder that you'll definitely piss your pants on.


  • Ice Climbing: Basically trad climbing on icicles using ice axes.


  • Jugs: A type of climbing hold that feels like a jug. I once found a nest of pigeons living in one. Also, snakes, bugs, manky water, and sometimes cactus.


  • Mantle: A type of climbing move that involves contorting your elbows in weird ways, pushing downward, and somehow getting yourself over a ledge. Its weird.
  • Mountaineering: Climbing whole mountains. This sport often involves components of all climbing disciplines. Sometimes skiing too.
  • Multipitch: See Pitch. This is multiple of those on the same climb.


  • Nuts: A form of passive protection.


  • PBR: Pabst Blue Ribbon is a form of beer well known by dirtbags. It is high in water content and corn syrup. It tastes amazing only after being stuck in the mountains or on a long climbing route.
  • Pitch: Typically one half a rope length. This is used to measure how long a climb is.
  • Problem: Same as route, except for bouldering people.
  • Protection: Equipment used by climbers to protect them from falling and breaking their face.
    • Passive: Protection that doesn't have moving parts or isn't intended to move when its used. i.e. nuts, hexes, tricams.
    • Active: If it has moving parts or is intended to move when weight is applied its considered active. i.e. Cams.
  • Pumped: When your arms feel like they are going to fall off because you've built up so much lactic acid in them.
  • Pumpy: A route or problem is "pumpy" when it causes you to feel pumped.


  • Quickdraw: This is two carabiners connected via nylon webbing. They are used to connect bolts or other protection to the rope and keep your homie safe while 60 feet off the ground.


  • Rack: This is a way to show off how much money you've spent on climbing gear. It can often be enough for a car or a studio apartment. Basically, a rack is all of the climbing gear you'd actually climb with. Its used as a social currency in the climbing world.
  • Rating System: There are so many damned rating systems. You've got the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) here in the United States for sport and trad routes. Also the V scale for bouldering. Other parts of the world use different systems. Grades are important for bragging rights, and also knowing whether you can climb the route/problem, and measuring how badass you are.
    • V10: This is for a bouldering problem and is on the harder end of the scale. V0=easy to V17=wicked hard.
    • 12c: This is shorthand for 5.12c which is the YDS system.
  • Redpoint: This is the term used to signify that you completed a climbing route in a single go without resting. But you've tried it before and failed so you still get credit.
  • Route: The line the climber is supposed to follow to get to the top of the route. Usually, this is pre-defined, but sometimes you just climb wherever you can.


  • Scramble: Anything that's not really considered climbing is considered scrambling. Moving up slopes, hills, or scrambling eggs.
  • Sketchy: Scary, weird, unknown.


  • Tricams: A form of passive protection. You might only use it once a year, but it is the only thing that will work when you need it.


  • Webbing: Come on. Its nylon webbing. Use Google.