Climbing Glossary






The process by which a climber can descend a fixed rope. Also known as Rappel.

Aid climbing

A 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.

Altitude sickness

A medical condition that is often observed at high altitudes. Also known as Acute mountain sickness, or AMS.


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


The path or route to the start of a technical climb. Although this is generally a walk or, at most, a scramble it is occasionally as hazardous as the climb itself.


  1. A small ridge-like feature or a sharp outward facing corner on a steep rock face
  2. Arête, a narrow ridge of rock formed by glacial erosion
  3. A method of indoor climbing, in which one is able to use such a corner as a hold. See also dihedral.

Arm bar

Jamming an arm into a crack and locking it into place.


To climb a rope using aid device.


A device for ascending on 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.




A potentially hazardous mistake that can be made while lead climbing. The rope is clipped into a quickdraw such that the leader’s end runs underneath the quickdraw as opposed to over top of it. If the leader falls, the rope may fold directly over the gate causing it to open and release the rope from the carabiner.


If a climber has only two points of contact using either the right or left side of their body, the other half may swing uncontrollably out from the wall like a door on a hinge.


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 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 types of belay devices exist, including ATC, grigri, Reverso, Sticht plate, eight and tuber. Some belay devices may also be used as descenders. A Munter hitch can sometimes be used instead of a belay device.

Belay Loop

The strongest point on the harness. This is the loop you use your belay device on. You should not tie anything around the belay loop such as a daisy chain or sling. The belay loop will wear more quickly.


Advice on how to successfully complete (or protect) a particular climbing route, boulder problem, or crux sequence. Some climbers believe that beta ‘taints’ an ascent.

Beta flash

The clean ascent of a climb on the first attempt, having previously obtained beta or while having beta shouted up from the ground en route. Also see on-sight.

Bomb-proof anchor

A totally secure anchor. Also known as bomber. Bomber can also refer to a particularly solid hand or foot hold (a “Bomber Jug”)


The practice of climbing on large boulders. Typically this is close to the ground, so protection takes the form of crash pads and spotting instead of belay ropes.


see Stemming


A prominent feature that juts out from a rock or mountain.




A distinctive pile of stones placed to designate a summit or mark a trail, often above the treeline.


A spring-loaded device used as protection.


The act of climbing without using any feet.

Campus board

Training equipment used to build finger strength and strong arm lock-offs.


Metal rings with spring-loaded gates, used as connectors. Usually oval or roughly D shaped. Also known as crab or biner (pronounced kar-uh-bee-ner).


A compound used to improve grip by absorbing sweat. It is actually gymnastics chalk, usually magnesium carbonate. Its use is controversial in some areas.

Chalk bag

A hand-sized holder for a climber’s chalk that is usually carried on a chalkbelt for easy access during a climb.


  1. A rock cleft with vertical sides mostly parallel, 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 opposite pressure on the vertical walls.
  2. The process of using such a technique (chimneying).

Climbing shoe

Footwear designed specifically for climbing. Usually well fitting, with a rubber sole.

Climbing technique

Particular techniques, or moves, commonly applied in climbing.

Climbing wall

Artificial rock, typically indoors.

Clipping in

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

Crack climbing

To ascend on a rock face by wedging body parts into cracks, i.e. not face climbing. See jamming and chimney.


A small area with climbing routes, often just a small cliff face or a few boulders.

Crash pad

A thick mat used to soften landings or to cover hazardous objects in the event of a fall. See: Bouldering mat


  1. A hold which is only just big enough to be grasped with the tips of the fingers.
  2.  The process of holding onto a crimp.


The most difficult portion of a climb.



Daisy chain

A special purpose type of sling with multiple sewn, or tied, loops. It is significantly weaker than a normal sling.

Deadman anchor

An object buried into snow to serve as an anchor for an attached rope. One common type of such an anchor is the snow fluke.


A dynamic climbing technique in which the hold is grabbed at the apex of upward motion. This technique places minimal strain on both the hold and the arms.


  1. The ground.
  2. To hit the ground, usually the outcome of a fall.


A device for controlled descent on a rope. Also called a rappel device. Many belay devices may be used as descenders, including ATCs, figure eights, or even carabiners. See rappel.


To descend by climbing downward, typically after completing a climb.

Dynamic belay

Technique of stopping a long fall using smooth braking to reduce stress on the protection points and avoid unnecessary trauma from an abrupt stop.

Dynamic rope

A slightly elastic rope that softens falls to some extent. Also tend to be damaged less severely by heavy loads. Compare with static rope.

Dynamic motion

Any move in which body momentum is used to progress. As opposed to static technique where three-point suspension and slow, controlled movement is the rule.


A dynamic move to grab a hold that would otherwise be out of reach. Generally both feet will leave the rock face and return again once the target hold is caught. Non-climbers would call it a jump or a leap.




A thin ledge on the rock.


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

Elvis legs

Wobbly knees resulting from tired legs.




To unintentionally descend under the influence of gravity. Hopefully stopped by a rope.


A protrusion or indentation on an indoor climbing wall which is permanently moulded into the wall itself.

Figure eight

A belay device or descender shaped like an “8”.

Figure-eight knot

A knot commonly used to secure the climber’s harness to the climbing rope.

Finger board

Training equipment used to build finger strength.

First ascent (FA)

The first successful completion of a route.

Fixed rope

A rope which has a fixed attachment point. Commonly used for abseiling or aid climbing.


Climbing technique where a leg is held in a position to maintain balance, rather than to support weight. Often useful to prevent barn-dooring. There are three types of flagging:

  1. Normal flag: Where the flagging foot stays on the same side (e.g. flagging with the right foot out to the right side of the body)
  2. Reverse inside flag: Where the flagging foot is crossed in front of the foot that is on a foot hold
  3. Reverse outside flag: Where the flagging foot is crossed behind the foot that is on a foot hold


  1. A thin slab of rock detached from the main face.
  2. A method of untangling a rope in which the rope is run through the climber’s hands and allowed to fall into a pile on the ground. Useful when preparing a rope for coiling, or before starting a lead climb, to ensure the rope is fed cleanly and without twists. Often called “flaking out” a rope.


To successfully and cleanly complete a climbing route on the first attempt after having received beta of some form. Also refers to an ascent of this type. For ascents on the first attempt without receiving beta see on-sight.


The French bouldering grading system.

Foot jam

Also known as the heel-to-toe jam. It involves jamming the foot into a larger crack by twisting the foot into place, the contact with the crack being on the heel and toes.


Climbing technique relying on the friction between the sloped rock and the sole of
the shoe to support the climber’s weight, as opposed using holds or edges, cracks, etc.


A name brand of a type of spring-loaded camming device (SLCD), sometimes used to refer to any type of spring-loaded camming device.




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.


  1. Intended as an objective measure of the technical difficulty of a particular climb or bouldering problem. More often is highly subjective, however.
  2. The slope of an incline. (Grade (geography))


A belay device designed to be easy to use and safer for beginners because it is self-locking under load. Invented and manufactured by Petzl. Many experienced climbers advocate the use of an atc type device for beginners.


Synonym for cup, commonly used in bouldering.




Making progress by inserting the hand (usually vertically with the thumb uppermost) into a crack and then pushing the thumb downwards towards the palm. This expands the hand and can make a highly secure placement. In the UK this move was credited with facilitating the advances in free climbing in the late 1940s and 50s made by climbers such as Joe Brown (climber) and Don Whillans although they did not invent it.’


A sewn nylon webbing device worn around the waist and thighs that is designed to allow a person to safely hang suspended in the air.

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 a foot by flexing the hamstring. This technique is notable since in most forms of climbing one uses the toes to push.


Also known as a brain bucket or skid lid. It can save your life, but only while worn.

High Ball

A tall boulder problem. Falling becomes more dangerous due to the increase in height.


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

HMS Carabiner

A round-ended carabiner for use with a Munter hitch (from the German name for the hitch; Halbmastwurfsicherung).



Indoor climbing

Artificial climbing wall indoors.




Wedging a body part into a crack.


A large, easily held hold. Also known simply as a jug.




Climbers rely on many different knots for anchoring oneself to a mountain, joining two ropes together, slings for climbing up the rope, etc.




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

Lead climbing

A form of climbing in which the climber places anchors and attaches the belay rope as they climb (traditional) or clips the belay rope into preplaced equipment attached to bolts (sport).

Leader Fall

A fall while lead climbing. A fall from above the climbers last piece of protection. The falling leader will fall at least twice the distance back to his or her last piece, plus slack and rope stretch.

Locking carabiner

A carabiner with a locking gate, to prevent accidental release of the rope.



Mantel (abbreviation of ‘mantleshelf’)

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 down. In ice climbing, a mantel 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.


The external covering of a climbing rope. Climbing ropes use kernmantle construction consisting of a kern (or core) for strength and an external sheath called the mantle.


Application of a specific climbing technique to progress on a climb.

Multi-pitch climbing

Climbing on routes that are too long for a single belay rope.




A metal wedge attached to a wire loop that is inserted into cracks for protection.

Nut Key

SA device for removing jammed equipment, especially nuts, from a route.



Off belay

Called by a climber when requesting that the belayer remove belay equipment from the climbing rope (for example, when cleaning top protection from a lead route). Replied to with Belay off.

On belay

What an American climber calls when he is ready to be belayed. Replied to with Belay on.


A clean ascent, with no prior practice or beta.


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




To fall.


  1. Swinging on taut rope to reach the next hold in a pendulum traverse.
  2. A swing during a fall when the last piece of protection is far to one side.

Personal Anchor System (PAS)

Adjustable attachment point from climber to anchor. Allows for building anchors, cleaning routes and rappeling to be done efficiently and faster.

Pinch Hold

This is a hold where you must pinch it to hold on. They come in various sizes.


A hold or part of a hold, having a surface facing upwards, or away from the direction it is pulled, facilitating use.


Used in bouldering, the path that a climber takes in order to complete the climb. Same as route in roped climbing.


A potential new route or bouldering problem that is being attempted, but has not seen a first ascent yet.


  1. Process of setting equipment or anchors for safety.
  2. Equipment or anchors used for arresting falls. Commonly known as Pro.


  1. A knot used for ascending a rope. It is named after Dr Karl Prusik, the Austrian mountaineer who developed this knot in 1931.
  2. To use a Prusik knot for ascending a rope.


  1. To have such an accumulation of lactic acid in the forearm, that forming even a basic grip becomes impossible. A climber who is pumped will find it difficult to hold on, and may struggle to lift or clip a rope.
  2. (Psychology) A feeling of anticipation and energy before a challenging climb.




Used to attach a freely running rope to anchors or chocks. Sometimes called “quickies”, “draws”, or “extenders”.




The set of equipment carried up a climb; also, the part of a harness (consisting of several plastic loops) where equipment is hung, ready to be used.


The process by which a climber may descend on a fixed rope using a friction device. Also known as abseil or roping down.


To complete while placing protection on a lead climb after making previous unsuccessful attempts, done without falling or resting on the rope (hangdogging). Also see clean and pinkpoint.


Horizontal overhang.


A basic item of climbing equipment that physically connects the climber to the belayer.


The path of a particular climb, or a predefined set of moves.




A climb which receives a much lower grade than deserved. Also used as a verb when referring to the act of describing a climbing route as easier than it actually is.


A type of climbing somewhere between hiking and graded rock climbing.


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


To perform belaying for oneself.

Side pull

A hold that needs to be gripped with a sideways pull towards the body.

Sit start

Starting a climb from a position in which the climber is sitting on the floor. This is common in climbing gyms in order to fit an extra move into the climb. Noted as SS or SDS in some topo guides.


A relatively low-angle (significantly less than vertical) section of rock, usually with few large features. Requires slab climbing techniques.

Slab climbing

A particular type of rock climbing, and its associated techniques, involved in climbing rock that is less than vertical. The emphasis is on balance, footwork, and making use of very small features or rough spots on the rock for friction.


Portion of rope that is not taut, preferably minimized during belay.


Webbing sewn, or tied, into a loop.


A sloping hold with very little positive surface. A sloper is comparable to palming a basketball.


To use friction on the sole of the climbing shoe, in the absence of any useful footholds.

Sport climbing

A style of climbing where form, technical (or gymnastic) ability and strength are more emphasized over exploration, self-reliance and the exhilaration of the inherent dangers involved in the sport. Sport climbing routes tend to be well protected with pre-placed bolt-anchors and lends itself well to competitive climbing.


In indoor climbing, a hold that is not secure and spins in place when weight is applied.


A method of protection commonly used during bouldering or before the leader has placed a piece of protection. The spotter stands beneath the climber, ready to absorb the energy of a fall and direct him away from any hazards.


Of a style of climbing or specific move, not dynamic. In general this entails movement of a limb to a new hold without the simultaneous transfer of weight. Instead weight transfer occurs after the limb has moved.

Static rope

A non-elastic rope. Compare with dynamic rope.

Sticht plate

A belay device consisting of a flat plate with a pair of slots. Named after the inventor Fritz Sticht.




Called by a climber when requesting that the belayer remove all slack. See hang dogging.


When, after a whipper, or long fall, a climber falls past their belayer, who is generally lifted up off the ground.

Technical climbing

Climbing involving a rope and some means of protection, as opposed to scrambling or glacier travel.


Specialized moves given names to help communicate what to do to another person.

Toe hook

A toe hook is securing the upper side of the toes on a hold. It helps pull the body inwards—towards the wall. The toe hook is often used on overhanging rock where it helps to keep the body from swinging away from the wall.

Top rope

To belay from a fixed anchor point above the climb. Top-roping requires easy access to the top of the climb, by means of a footpath or scrambling.


To complete a route by ascending over the top of the structure being climbed.

Traditional climbing

A style of climbing that emphasizes the adventure and exploratory nature of climbing. While sport climbers generally will use pre-placed protection (“bolts”), traditional (or “trad”) climbers will place their own protection as they climb, generally carried with them on a rack.


  1. To climb in a horizontal direction.
  2. A section of a route that requires progress in a horizontal direction.
  3. A Tyrolean traverse is crossing a chasm using a rope anchored at both ends.
  4. pendulum traverse involves swinging across a wall or chasm while suspended from a rope affixed above the climber.


A limestone rib formation that protrudes from the wall which can sometimes fit within the pinching grasp of a climber’s hand; alternatively: a plastic, bolted on bouldering hold designed to replicate such a formation on an indoor climbing wall.




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




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


A large, hollow bolted-on bouldering hold.




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


A metal wedge attached to a wire loop that is inserted into cracks for protection.




Clipping into an anchor with the segment of rope from beneath the previous piece of protection, resulting in a potentially dangerous tangled configuration of the belay rope.


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