Most people are inundated with what appears to be a foreign language when climbing rocks. You might have heard somewhere in the climbing gym, but your thoughts were preoccupied to note. 

Some will feel out of depth in this exciting and new world of outdoor climbing, and through this article, we will help you brush up on this complicated and frightening language. Fortunately, some professionals are always willing to share knowledge and assist in learning the climbing terms.

There are an excessive number of rappelling and rock climbing terms. And, believe it or not, most of them are used quite frequently.

A few less common rappelling and rock climbing terms didn’t make it onto the list, but then you’ll learn all you need to know to brush up on your vocabulary. So hopefully, the next time somebody asks for beta on that arete you just sent, you won’t be left grinning dumbly.

This is a list of the most popular rappelling and rock climbing terms you will meet in your climbing life.

Rock Climbing Terms Explained
Rock Climbing Terms Explained | Free to use this image with proper credit

1. Abseil or rappel

Abseil and rappel and two words sharing the same meaning. Rappelling (abseiling) is whenever a climber uses a fixed rope to descend the rock, you use the belay device to keep full control.

2. Anchor

On an ascent, the anchor is the point at which you secure the rope to the boulder. You usually use chains, slings, bolts, or ropes at the pinnacle of the trail, but you can also use them in the middle or at the bottom to safeguard the belayer.

3. Approach

The approach is the route you’ll take to get to the bottom of the climb, whether you’re walking, running, or skipping.

4. Arete

A wall’s edge is at an acute angle, much like the corner of a building.

5. Auto-lock 

Auto-lock is a system or mechanism that safely locks without physically locking it. The auto-lock carabiners consist of spring-loaded gate contorts and locks when closed.

6. Barndoor

Barndoor is when a participant becomes unbalanced and moves away from the rock.

7. Belay

Belaying is a technique for controlling a climbing rope and preventing a climber from tripping to the ground if they fall off the rock. An anchor, belayer, belay device, and rope make up the belay system.

8. Belaying device

The belayer uses a belaying device to “catch” the climber when they fall. When used properly, the belay device secures the rope and precludes the climber from falling a significant distance.

9. Belayer

The belayer is the person in charge of the rope that is connected to the climber, ensuring they are safe if they fall.

10. Beta

Beta is the details about a route or climb that are passed down verbally or outlined in guidebooks.

11. Bolt

A bolt is a locked ring of really strong metal that is drilled into the rock to offer protection on sports ascents. The bolts broaden in the rock and provide a high level of security. You clip quickdraws onto the bolts to get an anchor for running a rope through.

12. Bolted route

bolted route is a sport climbing route with pre-installed bolts that operate as anchors, and you fasten them into the wall. To safeguard the climber, you clip the quickdraws onto the bolts and then clip the climbing rope onto the quickdraws.

13. Bomb-proof

Bomb-proof means an anchor which is undoubtedly secure and provides protection.

14. Bouldering

Bouldering is one of the most popular types of climbing that takes place at a low enough level, and one does it without using ropes for security. You can do it on boulders or at the bottom of high climbs. Boulderers climb “problems” rather than routes, and they protect themselves with a pad on the surface and a spotter on higher-risk troubles.

15. Bouldering pad (crash pad)

bouldering pad also called a crash pad, is a dense, thick foam pad that you place beneath a bouldering problem to offer a padded landing if the climber falls. The mats normally fold in half and have straps for carrying them like a backpack.

16. Buildering

Buildering is climbing where you shouldn’t! (we are joking). The term “buildering” is derived from the words “bouldering” and “buildings.” Buildering, edificeering, urban climbing, sky walking, or whatever you may call it, is simply climbing on the exterior side of buildings. It can still be done on artificial structures.

17. Camming device (cams)

camming device or a cam is a piece of gear is used on a traditional climbing route to keep the person from falling too far. It fits into a crack or pocket by rotating.

18. Carabiner

carabiner is a metal loop with a spring-loaded gate on one side (oval, D-shaped, or pear-shaped). It connects various pieces of climbing equipment.

19. Chalk bag

chalk bag is a small handbag containing chalk that one uses to keep your hands dry while climbing. It’s usually locked with a drawstring and either worn at the back of a waist belt or clipped onto the rear of an ascending harness.

20. Chimney

A chimney is a vertical wall crack in a rock that is large enough to fit your entire body through. Climbers use their legs on one edge and their bodies on the other to apply an opposing force to the edges of the chimney.

21. Clean

“Cleaning” a route is when the lead climber removes all of their protection gear. Climbers who second or follow the lead climber clean the route while climbing or rappelling down.

22. Climbing chalk

Climbing chalk is a white powder substance, or a liquid substance, which climbers apply on their palms when climbing in order to create more friction between the climbing wall and their hands. Read further what the climbing chalk is made of.

23. Crag

Crag is an outdoor ascending area or a cliff or rock where climbing is possible.

24. Crimp

A crimp is a very thin or small climbing hold. Read further what is crimping in climbing.

25. Crux

The crux is the part of a climb that is the most technically challenging.

26. Dynamic rope

A dynamic rope is a climbing rope, where if you apply force to the rope, it will stretch to a certain extent. When a participant falls, a dynamic rope stretches slightly to cushion the shock of the fall. Read between the difference of dynamic rope and a static rope, can you rappel with a dynamic rope?

27. Dyno

Dyno is a slang term for a quick transition from one climbing holds to the next. A dyno necessitates explosive movement, which often implies that the climber will not touch the rock throughout the leap or lunge.

28. Edging

Edging in climbing is a weight-bearing technique for very thin or small footholds. Instead of using their feet soles, the climber utilizes their feet’ edges.

29. Figure 8 knot

Figure 8 knot is the knot that secures the climber to the climbing rope through their climbing harness. The knot gets tighter as you add your weight, and it is knitted in the shape of number 8. There is also a figure 8 rappeling device.

30. Fist jam

Fist jam is a term used when crack ascending, and is a method in which the crack is large enough to fit a whole fist into and utilized for upwards motion or stability.

31. Flash

Flash in climbing is term used when an ascender uses existing experience and beta to move up a route from beginning to end without dropping on their first attempt.

32. Free solo climbing

Free solo climbing is a type of climbing where the climber doesn’t use any rope or a belay system to protect themself while climbing or falling. Free solo climbing is extremely dangerous. The most famous free solo climber is Alex Honnold. Read which climbing shoes Alex uses for his free solo climbs.

33. Gri-Gri

The Gri-Gri is a belay device manufactured by Petzl. The auto-locking belay device known as a gri-gri captures a climber’s fall.

34. Hand jam

Hand jam is similar to a fist jam, though for smaller cracks where only one hand can best suit.

35. Harness

A rappelling or climbing harness is a strong, webbing-based belt with connected leg loops and a safe buckle. Climbers put on a harness and bind a figure of eight knots via the harness to fasten themselves to the rope. Belayers must also wear the harness to safeguard the belay device themselves, which has the rope running through it.

36. Heel hook

Heel hook is when a climber utilizes their heel to safeguard their rock position by hooking onto a foothold or an edge.

37. Jug

A jug is a huge handhold that’s usually extremely secure and deep. It allows the climber to hold onto it confidently. It’s a gift from the Gods!

38. Layback

Layback is when the climber moves their weight to one side to build enough pressure to move upwards using a vertical crack or hold. The climber walks their legs up the crack by drawing away from their body’s weight.

39. Lead

Lead is called the first person who is leading the climbing route and is placing their climbing equipment.

40. Lead climbing

During lead climbing, the lead climber is the first person to climb up the route, and they do so by either placing their gear or clipping onto the pre-placed bolts during the climb. Before climbing past the last safety item and placing another clipping onto another bolt, the climber secures the rope to the bolt or gear to secure the rope.

41. Mantel

Mantel is a climbing method of gaining access to a ledge. The climber uses their hands to apply downward pressure to the ledge, lifting their body enough to get their toes up onto the ledge.

42. Multi-pitch

Multi-pitch is a lengthy route that requires more than one rope length to finish. When the lead climber reach the summit of a single pitch, they anchor there and belay the second climber to the summit. With the belayer rooted at the pinnacle of the first pitch, you can use the same rope to move up the second pitch.

43. Nut

A nut, also called a climbing stopper, is a wedge-shaped chunk of metal located at the end of a wire as a piece of safety on a traditional route that people use to jam in cracks.

44. Off-width

Off-width is called a crack between 4 and 10 inches in diameter, which is too narrow for your body to fit into (a chimney) though too wide for your fist to fit into.

45. On-sight

On-sight climbing is whene a climber successfully ascends a route from beginning to end during their first attempt, without dropping and with no previous knowledge of how to do so.

46. Overhang

Overhand is when a rock is steep, it hangs over the surface rather than being vertical.

47. Pitch

Pitch, or a single-pitch climbing is a route that you can climb using only one climbing rope’s length.

48. Protection

Protection is connected to the rock a piece of climbing device or equipment. It allows the climber to protect their climbing rope, preventing them from falling a long distance if they get off the rock.

49. Quickdraw

quickdraw is a size of reinforced webbing connects two non-locking carabiners. You use it to secure a rope to a bolt or other piece of safety equipment. Read further how many quickdraws you will need for sport climbing and how to choose quickdraws.

50. Rack

A rack is a set of climbing equipment is required to complete a route. Quickdraws, camming devices, carabiners, and nuts are examples of a rack.

51. Redpoint

Redpoint is a climbing term used term when a climber completes a route without dropping from beginning to end after repeatedly practicing the climb. Alexander Megos is starring a documentary called “Rotpunkt” about on of his redpoint climbs.

52. Runout

Runout is when the length between your protection gear (bolts or placed gear) is greater than you think is safe. If you were to fall off the ledge at this point, you’d be in for a big fall.

53. Second

Second is called the climber following the lead climber, she is the second person to climb up the route after the lead climber.

55. Send

Send is when the climber climbes a route without dropping or relaxing on any placed ropes or gear from beginning to finish.

55. Sloper

The sloper is a very shallow bouldering hold with little natural shape to grab onto. To start using it, the climber uses tension and friction while, other times, sheer desperation.

56. Smearing

Smearing in rock climbing is when the climber places the sole of their foot on a plain rock and utilizes friction to propel themselves upward.

57. Sport climbing

Sport climbing is a type of climbing in which the climber attaches or anchors their rope to pre-drilled bolts drilled into the rock surface to provide safety.

58. Spotter

On a boulder problem, a spotter is someone who is spotting and stands ready to stop a climber’s fall. Their task is to guide them to the security of the bouldering crash pad and ensure that they do not hit the bare ground or nearby rocks if they fall oddly or suddenly.

59. Static rope

A static rope is a rope with little to no elasticity. You should not use a static rope to climb because it has no elasticity to assist in absorbing the shock of a drop. Static ropes are also called rappelling ropes and are the best option for cave rappellingcliff rappellingwaterfall rappellingcanyoneeringtree rappellingrescue rappelling, and practically all types of rappelling.

60. Steep

Steep is a word or expression for climbing routes that overhung.

61. Step-through

Step-through is a method for moving side to side on the rock in which both feet point the same way and the weight is distributed between the outside and inside of one foot.

62. Top out

Top out is when the climber hits the peak of a route and can walk back to the bottom of the climb through a trail rather than rappelling down on the rope, they ascend.

63. Top roping

Top roping is a type of climbing where the rope runs through an anchor at the very top of a climbing route. The climber is attached to the one end of the rope while the belayer is attached to another. The above setup guarantees that the climber will not fall far if the belayer is keen and exercises safe practice. 

64. Trad climbing

Trad climbing, also referred to as traditional climbing, is a form of climbing that necessitates the climber to use the basic state of the rock (pockets and cracks) to place protection gear as they climb up the route. Once you anchor the rope at the top of the route, the second climber removes the protection gear from the rock.

65. Undercling

Undercling is when a climber gets up on a downward-facing handhold to cause friction against their feet and presses down on an upward-facing foothold.

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