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The Climbing Dictionary


Arete An acute edge formed by two intersecting planes of rock. Can be blunt and rounded, or sharply defined.

Armbar Arm position formed by pressing a palm against one side of a crack with the elbow against the other. Used for climbing squeeze chimneys and offwidth cracks.

Backstep Using the outside edge of a foot to stand on a hold. Unlike a drop knee, your weight will be directly over the hold. 

Belay 1 The technique used to hold a rope in order to arrest a falling climber. 2. An anchor, as in, “I’ll set up a belay here.”

Belay/rappel device The device through which a bight of rope is passed and clipped to the harness with a locking carabiner. Creates manageable friction in the rope to both belay a climber and rappel.

Beta Tips on how to do a climbing sequence, as in, “There’s a jug off to the left above the third bolt.”

Bolt Permanent protection drilled into the rock. A bolt hanger is affixed to the bolt to allow carabiner clipping. Most commonly used as sport-climbing protection and for belay and rappel anchors.

Bomber Protection so unquestionably solid, or a hold so good, that it is “bomb proof.”

Brake hand The dominant hand, used to prevent the rope from sliding unchecked through a belay device.

Cam Spring-loaded protection device that, when a trigger is pulled, can be inserted into parallel-sided cracks. When properly placed in solid rock, a cam will offer easily removable, and bomber protection.

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

Chalk Magnesium carbonate powder applied to hands to keep them dry and improve grip.

Chimney A crack wide enough for a body to fit inside.

Chock A wedge-shaped piece of protection that slots into the constrictions of a crack.

Crimper Small edge just wide enough for fingertips. One “crimps” on a crimper.

Crux Hardest section of a climb.

Dihedral Any open book formation. Also referred to as a “corner.” Opposite of an arete.

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

Double fisherman’s Knot used for tying two ropes together.

Drop knee Lower body position performed by placing the foot’s outside edge or toe onto a foothold, which is off to the side, while rotating the hips so the knee points downward.

Dynamic rope Used for free climbing because of its elasticity, which helps protect the body and anchors by absorbing the shock generated during a fall.

Dyno A “dynamic” move that allows a climber to gain a distant hold.

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


Figure-eight The knot most commonly used to tie a climber to the end of the rope.

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.

Fist crack A crack the size of a fist, generally three or four inches wide.

Fist jam Jam used for fist cracks, accomplished by wedging a fist into the crack.

fixed rope A rope tied to an anchor; used for ascending.

flash Similar to an on-sight, a flash describes climbing a route on the first try, with beta.

Gaston Method for utilizing a sidepull by pressing with the fingers or hand in a thumb-down position, and by pushing in the opposite direction with the feet.

Girth hitch Knot used to connect loops or slings to other slings, harnesses or anchors such as trees.

Gumby An inexperienced, unknowledgeable and oblivious climber; a derogatory term. Gumbies are incapable of learning.

Harness Constructed of webbing, a climber wears a harness around their body to attach themselves to the 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.

Heel hook Foot technique where a heel is applied to an edge/foothold. Especially useful on overhangs, traverses and aretes.

Jug A large hold. Also referred to as a “bucket.”

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.

Layback Technique of pushing on a face with the feet while pulling with the hands on an opposing edge or crack.

Leader The climber who goes up first, clipping his or her side of the rope through protection using carabiners or quickdraws.

Mantel Moving onto a shelf of rock by pressing down on it with one or both palms until you are able to stand on the “mantel.” Like getting out of a pool.

Munter hitch A friction knot that functions like a belay/rappel device.

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

On-sight Climbing a route without falling or resting on gear and with no prior beta.

Open book See Dihedral.

Pitch The distance climbed to reach an anchor point or belay stance. Multi-pitch climbs are found on cliffs longer than one rope length. A single-pitch route requires only one rope length.


Piton Iron spikes (aka “pins”) of various sizes and shapes that can be hammered into cracks and clipped for protection.

Protection or Pro Equipment placed in the rock to catch a climber’s fall.

Prusik Friction knot where a smaller diameter loop of rope is wrapped around a rope of thicker width.

Quickdraw or Draw Two carabiners connected with a short sling, or runner. Used to attach the rope to a piece of protection.

Rappel Descent technique where a climber uses friction to slide down a rope. Synonymous with “abseil.”

Redpoint Climbing a route without falling or resting on gear after a climber has previously rehearsed the moves. Until a climber “redpoints” a route, the route is referred to as a “project.”

Roof An overhang that juts out from the rock face.

Runner A sewn or tied sling of webbing of various lengths, though typically 24 inches long. Can be made into quickdraws.

Send Term for climbing a route without falling or resting on gear. From “ascend.”

Shock load A large force exerted on an anchor point when weight is statically dropped onto the protection.

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

Sloper A hold that must be gripped with an open hand because of its sloping nature. Dependent on friction, balance and body tension.

Smear Friction-dependent foothold, where the ball of the foot is “pasted” over a textured or lower-angled surface in order to gain purchase.

Stacking Advanced technique for jamming “off-sized” cracks. Whereas a jam refers to a size where only one body part can be used, stacking involves using multiple appendages in contorted, “stacked” positions to fill a crack’s width.

Static rope A rope with no elasticity. Used for rappelling and fixing, but never leading.

Stem Technique for climbing opposing corners by holding oneself in place by pushing in opposite directions with the feet and hands, usually in an open book, or chimney.

take The command used to alert a belayer that the rope is about to be weighted. A belayer “takes” in the rope tightly.

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

Toprope When a climber has the security of a taut rope from above. A slingshot toprope is when the rope runs from a climber through overhead anchors and back down to a belayer, positioned on the ground.

Undercling Pulling up on a down-facing hold.

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