Climbing Terms and Tools

There are numerous climbing terms and tools used by specialist climbers. Below is a list of some of the most common. For a more thorough list of terminology see The Climbing Dictionary:

Abseil

A term used to describe the climber’s descent once they have reached their destination. The climber will lean back with their feet against the rock and walk down the rock face with the aid of the rope.

Anchor

A piece of gear used as a safety device to support the belay or top rope, usually fixed at the top of the rock.

Approach

The route taken to reach the technical portion of the climb.

Bail

To give up on reaching the summit of a climb.

Belay

A protective mechanism that uses rope, friction and an anchor to stop the climber from falling if their footing is loosed.

Belay device

A forged metal ring through which a climbing rope is threaded and linked to a carabiner, creating the friction required for belaying by putting bends in the rope.

Belayer

The person at the bottom of the rock securing the climber.

Big Wall Climb

A technical rock climb requiring more than a single day for completion.

Brachiate

To swing from one hold to another using the arms.

Bucket

A hand-hold large enough to latch the entire hand on.

Carabiner

A device used to connect the climber’s harness to the rope.

Chalk up

To put chalk on the hands before beginning a climb.

Chimney

A crack or gulley large enough to climb inside.

Clipping in

When the climber attaches themselves to the belay or anchor by ropes and carabiners.

Crampons

A frame of spikes attached to boots used for ice climbing.

Crux

The most difficult park of a climb.

Descender

A device shaped like the number eight, consisting of two rings through which the rope is passed, creating friction and a slow descent.

Dry Tool

To climb up a rock using ice tools.

Epic

A climbing adventure consisting of repeatedly arduous challenges.

Face Climbing

The ascent of a rock that is made up mostly of finger pockets and thin ledges.

Figure Eight Knot

A basic climbers knot used to attach a harness to the rope.

Fixed Rope

A rope that is anchored to the rock by the lead climber, used for protection by the following climbers.

Gate

The part of a carabiner that opens.

Gendarme

A sharp pinnacle of rock on a ridge.

Gobbies

Flesh wounds generally incurred by crack climbing.

Gravical

A rush of adrenaline gained by seeing the ground from a high level.

Grease

To experience difficulty in gripping a hold, usually because of sweat or moisture on the rock surface.

Grigri

A belay device with an automatic braking system

Hace (High Altitude Cerebral Edema)

A serious form of altitude sickness involving the swelling of the brain tissue. Hape is another form of altitude sickness caused by a build up of fluid in the lungs. Symptoms can include memory loss, vision disturbance, breathlessness and seizures.

Hanging Belay

A belay position on steep rock where it is impossible to stand upright.

Headwall

The point where a mountain ascends extremely steeply.

Hooks

Small metal devices that aid the gripping of tiny ledges and holes.

Hypoxia

A dangerous lack of oxygen when climbing.

Ice Axe

Mountaineering tool with a sharp base and a head made of a pick and an adze

Incut

A hole or depression in the surface of the rock

Jug

The act of ascending a rope using a “jumar.”

Jumar

A mechanical sliding/braking device.

Knifeblades

Long thin pitons used to fit in very small cracks.

Locking Carabiner

A carabiner that can be locked tightly for extra protection.

Match

To grasp a hold with both hands.

Munter Hitch

An alternative to a belay device, requiring a locking carabiner. A figure of eight knot is attached to the harness belay loop and works using friction in a similar fashion to the belay device.

Nailing a route

The act of nailing pitons into cracks in the rock in order to aid a climb.

Nubbin

A small protrusion of rock that can be used as a hold.

Nut

A metal wedge with a wire loop that can be fixed into the rock as a protective device.

Off-width

A crack that is too narrow for chimneying and too wide for jamming (see Techniques section).

Overhang

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

Party Ledge

A ledge of rock large enough to allow climbers to rest during long or hard climbs.

Pitch

The portion of the climb between two belay points which signifies the length of the rope that connects the climber to the rock.

Piton

A metal spike or peg which is hammered in to a rock to support a belay.

Pocket

A hole formed in a depression in the rock.

Protection

Any anchoring device such as a nut, piton or stopper used as a safety device during a climb.

Rack

Equipment attached to the climbers back that is carried during a climb.

Rappel

The act of descending a rock using a fixed braking system.

Roof

An overhang of rock forming a ceiling.

Rotten Rock

Unreliable rock that breaks off under a climber’s weight.

Route Setter

The climber who establishes the route of the climb by selecting the best foot and hand holds to use and where to clip the rope.

Scrambling

The act of ascending a rock or boulders without using any of the formal climbing techniques.

Scree

Small loose rocks that gather on the slope at the base of a cliff.

Second

The climber who follows the lead up a pitch of the climb, belaying from below and then ascending the rock by means of a mechanical sliding device such as a jumar.

Short-Roping

Technique where two climbers are tied together into the middle of the rope.

Side Pull

A hand hold that needs to be held with a horizontal (sideways) pull.

Smearing

The technique of using friction on the sole of the climbing shoe, typically used in the absence of any footholds in the rock.

Static Rope/Line

Climbing rope that does not stretch, used for abseiling or jumaring.

Stopper

A metal device attached to a flexible loop of wire fitted into depressions or cracks in the rock and used as protection for an ascending climber.

Top

The finishing point of a climbing route.

Top Rope

A climbing rope secured from above.

Traverse

Moving sideways across a rope instead of up or down.

Undercling

An awkward hold requiring the climber to lie back (see Techniques section).

Weighting

Delicately resting the body on a piece of protection to test its security.