Book showing climbing glossary

Your Ultimate Climbing Lingo Glossary

When I first got into climbing, I remember feeling like I was in a foreign country because of all the terms and lingo the more seasoned climbers would spout out. Getting into climbing requires more than simply learning the ropes (pun intended) and techniques. It’s also knowing the terms for your gear and commands that aren’t used in regular every-day conversations.

So if you’re a beginner, here’s my ultimate climbing lingo glossary to help you make sense of this new world you’ve climbed into. Enjoy!


If you’re in the states, you’ll likely hear and use “rappel” for this which is when you descend down a fixed rope in a controlled fashion. Abseil (which is pronounced like “AB-sail”) is typically used by Australians and Europeans, but I figured I’d add it since you never know when you might make climbing friends that hail from those parts.

Accessory cord

These are cords you’ll find that come in a whole bunch of different diameters. They’re usually smaller than climbing ropes, have very little stretch to them, and are made of things like nylon or Kevlar. You use them for anchors, slings, emergency ties, and prusiks.

ACD (Active Camming Device)

This protective device which most people opt for as SLCD (Spring Loaded Camming Device, more details on that further down) snaps secure into cracks or pockets. The spring-loaded cams help keep it in place despite varying sizes of spaces.

Active protection

This term refers to ay of your climbing protection items that have springs, like the SLCD mentioned above, tube chocks, or sliding wedges.

Aid climbing

It means what you think. Basically, it’s a climb where you use ropes, pitons, foot slings, fixed bolts and all that jazz to get up the face of the rock. These are the things that help you make your ascent.


An anchor is where you attach the climbing rope. It usually has slings or runners, or can even be the rope. In other words, it’s what keeps you attached to the surface you’re climbing.


It’s not different than the actual meaning of the word but rather, is interpreted more as a specific mention of getting to the base of the surface you’re about to climb.


It’s used in aid climbing as well as caving and rescue situations. It’s a mechanical device that you can slide up on your fixed rope. It’s very handy in that it catches when you put weight on it so you can use that rope to then climb up or to even move your gear. Very useful indeed!


A must-have safety feature, this is a spring-loaded piece that twists on a carabiner gate. It locks on its own once the gate is closed.


In a sport this high off the ground, it’s good to have backup. I mean that in the literal sense and glossary sense. In climbing, this is just added protection as a backup in case your anchor fails.

Barn door

This term is thrown around by those on the rock when a climber swings sideways because they’ve gone off balance. The term was coined because of its striking similarity of looking like a barn door swinging wide open. Not so funny when it’s happening to you though.


I don’t like using bashies. These are moldable anchors that you can mold into small cracks for aid climbing. They get their name because you bash them in. Why don’t I like them? They are very difficult to remove.


One of the first terms you’ll probably ever learn when you first climb. This is the system that is in place to stop you if you should fall. It refers to using friction on the rope itself and includes all things associated with it from the actual rope to the anchors and the belay device to the belayer.


This is likely a friend or fellow climber and someone you will be trusting your life to. They take care of the rope and you so that if you slip or fall, they can use the belay to catch you.

Bent-gate carabiner

The key difference between this carabiner from a straight-gate carabiner is that the bent gate features a bigger opening for clipping the rope.


You’ll often hear this as “running beta.” This is the information given while the climb is in progress.


This refers to a bend in a rope or often, a folded section of that rope.

Big wall

As a newbie, you won’t be using this yourself for a little while, but you’ll probably hear some of your new friends at the climbing wall toss this term around. It’s when you take an extended rock climb over the course of several days.


Often shorted as “bivy,” this refers to the temporary camp you might set up with little shelter, or even none at all. Some climbers will tell you they slept in a “bivy” sack while out on an overnight or multi-day climb, meaning they slept without a tent or any real shelter. Hardcore!


This has to do with your climbing shoes, which are one of the most important pieces of gear you need. The insole in your shoe, also referred to as “the board” is fixed to the form and the upper part is wrapped around to complete it. Board-lasted shoes are stiffer than slip-lasted shoes and while they make you compromise on sensitivity, they are much more comfortable and better suited for wearing on day-long climbs.

Body belay

This is a technique for belay that uses the friction of the rope that’s around your belayer’s body to slow down and catch a fall. This is not an ideal situation as your belayer can come into a bit of pain but in an emergency, it can be done as a last resort.

Bolted route

Quite simply, this is a sport route. There are pre-placed bolt anchors at the ready for anyone to use.


These are drilled into the rocks for sport or aid climbs. Then hangers are attached to these where you’d clip your rope.


This is your ideal, finding a hold or an anchor that provides unmovable security. Things like a boulder that isn’t going anywhere or a strong tree trunk are most often referred to as bombproof.


Nothing to do with the beer you’ll likely celebrate with after an intense climb, this refers to a crack that has converging sides. This is a great place for tapers and passive protection to go.


Bouldering is the ideal way to get used to climbing. You do it close to the ground and there are no ropes. This gives you a feel for the sport without being burdened by the gear. It’s good for practice at an stage of the game and likely, you’ll try this out first at your local climbing gym. You can also do it on boulders or at the rock base.


While the spelling would have you believe otherwise, it’s actually pronounced “BO-lin.” It’s simply a knot that’s often used to tie the middle climber onto a rope team. You’ll find other uses for the bowline too as it’s quite handy.


This is what you’re doing when you’re rotating your camming devices into place until they are nice and tight, safe and sound.

Camming device

This is what you’re using when you’re camming. These protectors wedge into cracks or small spaces by way of rotation. There are passive cams and spring-loaded cams.

Cambered sole

A term for the soles of rock climbing shoes that are used by more advanced climbers. These feature a curved sole with a down-turned toe.


It’s a loop made from aluminum that has a spring-loaded gate on one side. It’s for connecting to different parts of your climbing system and comes in different shapes like pear, oval, or D-shaped. Sometimes it’s called a “karabiner” or “krab” but whatever you do, don’t shorten it to “biner” because it then sounds like a certain derogatory term for people of Mexican heritage.


This is one of the first things you’ll be introduced to in the sport of climbing. It’s also known as gymnasts’ chalk, made from carbonate of magnesium, and you need it to keep your hands from getting all sweaty and slippery on the wall or rock so you can get a firm grip.

Chalk bag

A little pouch you’ll become quite cozy with, this is where you keep your chalk. Most of them have handy drawstring tops so you can open and close it with ease. You’ll want to keep this on your harness so you have access to it any time your palms get sweaty on your climbs.

Chest harness

This type of harness is used along with a seat harness and keeps you upright just in case you go free falling. It’s also quite useful when rappelling while carrying a heavy pack with you.


Now you can pretend you’re Santa! This is what climbers refer to as a vertical crack that’s wide enough for a human body to fit into.


Make sure you annunciate when you say this so no one thinks you’re talking about chalk. This is what climbers use to refer to one of those passive protection pieces you shove into the cracks to create a rope anchor.

Chock pick

We often call this a nut tool too. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s a small, hooked pick. You’ll be using it to remove any protection laid down by the lead when you’re the one following.


This is a stone that’s wedged good into a crack. It was once what was used before metal chocks.


When a fellow climber refers to a route as “clean” they mean it doesn’t have loose rock or vegetation. It’s also what’s said when you yank up protection when you follow the lead climber.


Hey, now that’s you! It’s me too! It’s all of us that participate in climbing. And obviously, it can refer to whoever is actually up there climbing in reference to the belayer.


The physical act we all engage in as we ascend up the climbing wall, crag, mountain, or any other surface.

Clove hitch

We use this type of knot to tie the climbing rope onto an anchor when setting the belay for the next climber.


A more fun word for an accessory cord, this is used in a variety of ways while climbing. A very useful cord indeed!


This is a long cord, usually around 16 feet in length and 6mm thick made with Spectra material so it stays tough and strong. You use this for multiple purposes in conjunction with an anchor sling. In fact, it’s fantastic for equalizing the anchors.


While you’ll be using your core strength for climbing, this core refers to the fibers in the center of your climbing rope, also called a sheath.


If you hear “crab,” it’s not likely other climbers are talking about dinner. They’re just using slang to refer to a carabiner.


Most people don’t hope for crack, but climbers live for it. For us, it’s a fissure you’ll find in rock walls which is great for hand and footholds. They can be very small or very big.


It’s the place that feels like a slice of heaven, but until you finally feel comfortable being up there, you can refer to the crag as a small cliff.


A crux in climbing is the same as the official definition itself. It’s the toughest part. When climbers use it, they’re referring to the toughest part of the climb.

Daisy chain

This is most often used by aid climbers. It’s a runner that has multiple loops which is good for using for an adjustable anchor.


Often called an “open book,” this is where two planes of a rock face converge. It resembled a book when open, hence the name.

Double runner

This is a long tubular webbing that ties into a loop by way of a water knot. You’ll attach this to the climbing rope or use it to create anchors. There are also single runner and triple runners (more on those shortly).


The friction that’s created when a climbing rope goes through several protection pieces, particularly if they’re not in a straight line is called drag. And it really can be a drag because it can yank your lead climber right out of balance.


These are in reference to ropes that are treated with water-repellent chemicals. These help make the rope last longer and prevent it from wear. Because of its ability to resist water, it won’t get too heavy when it gets hit with ice, snow, or water.


Another name for it is bicolor, and it’s for the differing patterns and colors on each half of the climbing rope. You use this to find the center fast.


In slang, you may hear “dyno move.” It’s the same thing. This is when your climbing rope stretches fully to swallow the impact from a fall. Another way it’s used is to refer to when you leap over or lunge onto your next hold.


This is what climbers call it when you’re standing there on those small ledges with just the very edges of your climbing shoes rather than being fully on the soles of your feet. Living on the edge!


On a cliff, this is the smooth (or mostly smooth) portion of it.

Figure 8

Like it sounds, it’s the shape of a climbing knot that resembles the number of the same. You use it to tie the climbing rope to your harness.

Fisherman’s knot

It’s another type of knot used by fisherman but useful for climbers too. It attaches 2 ends of accessory cord or even rope together. You can double or triple it if needed.


We use this term to talk about a crack with sides that aren’t parallel and diverge.


This is when you have a clean ascent on the climb after relying on beta provided by others before you.


As a new climber, you’ll be the one to follow, or be second up on the climb. You also have to pick up all the protection that the lead climber has put in place as you pass by.

Free climb

It’s just what it sounds like. Here you’ll climb with just your hands and feet. You’ll have a rope, but it’s only used for safety and doesn’t help you climb.

Free rappel

This is a fun one! This is what it’s called when you make a controlled descent via rope. You don’t touch the rock. It’s way cool!

Free solo

One of the most dangerous things you can ever do. It’s different from bouldering because you go way up above safe heights. There’s no belay here and the outcome is dire if you make a mistake.


This style of climbing relies on your balance, footwork, and the weight used over the feet to grip the face of the rock. You’ll use this on face climbs, and you’ll definitely want good climbing shoes because the friction from them also helps you master the art of this climb.


A smart term that aptly describes the opening of your spring-loaded carabiner. It comes in bent or straight, and locking or non-locking.

Gemini2 cord

This is the Black Diamond version of Technora, an aramid fiber cord that is very similar to Kevlar in a lot of ways.

Girth hitch

Just a simple knot you make with a runner or sling. You wrap it around a secure object and then loop it again through itself to seal the deal.


Made by Petzl, this was one of the most popular belay devices. It features an auto-lock to catch your fall.


This might sound like it has everything to do with hanging onto the wall or rock, but it’s actually the opposite. This is when you’re so freaked out or confused, you simply can’t move.


You’ll start calling the indoor climbing facility “the gym.” Climbers know and those that don’t just think you’re working out. Fools!

Half rope

Just a small rope with enough thickness that it has to be paired with another one. They each get clipped to alternating pieces of protection to keep you safe.

Hang dog

A fun slang term that refers to when you rest on the rope while being the lead climber. You put your weight on the protection instead of the rock.

Hanging belay

This is when you’re belaying facing the wall while simultaneously being suspended b your harness. You’d be doing this when there’s no ledge or foothold available to you. Likely, you won’t experience this for a while because it usually comes up on those difficult, multi-pitch climbs that are reserved for the more experienced climbers.


The webbing belt and leg-loop system that keeps you attached to a rope during your climb. For rock climbing, you’ll use a seat harness. Full-body harnesses are used for children, for rescues, and for pregnant women. Chest harnesses are always used in tandem with seat harnesses.


This is another Black Diamond brand for the 6-sided passive protection that you can wedge or rotate into position in a crack.


In climbing, jam isn’t a sweet spread that goes on bread or what you do when you hear good music. Instead, it means to wedge or shove your body parts (like hands, fingers, and feet) into a crack on the rock to pull yourself upward. Jamming would be the active form of it.


When starting into the sport of climbing, when you hear “jug,” you probably think of a water vessel. But in climbing, it refers to a large hold that is easy to grip.


This is what most people call every brand of ascenders even though this one was the original.


This is a more technical term referring to the construction of a nylon climbing rope. Inside is the kern or core which is covered by an outer sheath that is braided, often called a mantle. Put two and two together and voila!


Made by the DuPont company and used to make bulletproof vests, this is a strong yet light fiber that is used for making climbing cord. It’s very strong and resistant to cutting, make it a durable choice for climbers everywhere.

Kilonewton (kN)

Measurements are important in climbing. This force measurement equals 224.8 lbs. Climbing gear is rated in this way to show how much falling force it is capable of supporting.


This isn’t your position, but rather, the 3D form from which a climbing shoe is made.


This is the first person on the climb, and likely not you for a while until you get more comfortable with the sport.

Leg loops

This is the part of your climbing harness that fits around your upper legs and gives you support. It attaches to the waistbelt. You can alternatively find waistbelts and leg loops sold independently to obtain a more personalized fit for your unique frame.


A climbing technique that refers to the position of your body as you lean backwards and to one side to use counter-pressure of hands pulling while feet push. This is often used the climb a flake or an offset crack.


This is when your belayer brings you down from a climb. It happens after a fall or after you’ve tried many times and need to get down. The rope is slowly let out through the belay device. This is usually at the gym or during sport climbing sessions.


During this move, you put downward pressure with the hands on a ledge so you lift your body high enough to get your feet up there with you. You’ll do this when there are no handholds to grab.


This refers to a climb that goes longer than the length of a rope.

Munter hitch

This is a type of friction not which is usually tied to a large carabiner. You use it to belay a climber in the event something happens to your belay device.


Here’s an passive protection piece that is styled like a railway nut. It’s wedge-shaped metal attached to a wire.

Nut tool

Remember that chock pick I told you about? This is the same thing.


This is what we call a crack that’s wide enough for your hand or foot but you can’t chimney in.

On sight

For advanced climbers, this is when you lead a climb without knowing anything about the route or moves needed for difficult climbs. If you hear “on-sight difficulty,” this is in competitions to see how far a climber can make it on the wall without knowing anything about the climb beforehand.

Passive protection

This refers to any climbing protection without moving parts like stoppers, chocks, nuts, or those types of things as well as tricams and stuff that you have to rotate to snag into those holes and cracks. The devices that provide protection are called PCD or passive camming devices.


The lead climber leads the pitch, or the length of climb that can be safely protected with one length of rope.


This wedge of metal gets pounded into the rock face. Then you clip it to the climbing rope to protect you. It’s not used as much because it can damage the rock.


When you come upon an opening in the rock where you can fit your protection, it’s a placement.


Any one device you use to secure your climbing rock to a surface to keep you from falling far is called protection.


Developed by Karl Prusik, this is a significant type of sliding friction knot. It’s used for climbing fixed ropes or in rescues.


Unlike in other sports, pumped isn’t an expression of excitement. It means your forearms are weakened or even achy from a difficult move or climb.


This is what you call a short runner you attach to a rope with a bolted anchor and carabiners. A quickdraw set is the quickdraw together with the carabiners already attached, making things a little easier.


If you hear “rack,” everyone is talking about their stash of gear they use for a climb.


On climbing shoes, this is the part of your shoe that does most of the gripping for the toes and heels.


This is a slow and controlled descent from a cliff by way of a fixed rope while your feet are against the wall.


That whole system of numbers that climbers talk about are ratings which are assigned to each rock climb in regards to its difficulty. It may also be in letters too.

Red point

When you lead a climb without putting weight on the rope or falling, no matter how many tries it takes in your difficult climbs, this is called a red point.


In climbing, being redundant is a good thing. This is when you have backup anchors as an extra measure of protection.


After a lot of use, your climbing gear will wear out so you’ll have to retire it and then replace it with newer gear.

Ring bend

It’s also called a water knot and is what you use to tie nylon webbing.


One of the most obvious words, this is the path you take up a particular climb.


This loop of nylon webbing attaches your climbing rope to your protection. You can also use it to make anchors.


We call this the distance between a climber and the final piece of protection. So that means if you have a long runout, you’ll have a long fall.


Yes, it means just what you think. If you have a long fall on a rope, chances are, you’ll be a screamer.


You can use these to lock a carabiner gate in place.


What we call it when you’re following or second in the team of climbers.


This is a term for your climbing shoes that copies your natural flex movement in your feet.

Sewing-machine leg

A slang term used to describe what happens to you when fatigue sets in or if your fear hits you mid-climb. It looks like a sewing machine’s parts, hence the clever name.


This is that woven cover on your climbing rope or cordage.

Single rope

This rope is thick enough to support the leader if it’s used singly.

Single runner

This is a length of webbing that’s fashioned into a loop and secured with a water knot. You use it for pro climbing or making anchors.

SLCD (Spring-loaded camming device)

This is active climbing protections made from a bunch of cams on a stem with a trigger bar that keeps you safe. You pull the bar back, then those cams compress to fit inside cracks or pockets. Release the bar and the cams flare out and move into place. You clip that to a rope and voila, safety! You’ll hear this called Camalot (the device made by Black Diamond) or friend or TCU.

Slingshot rand

It’s a rubber rand in one piece that wraps around your whole foot to prevent stretch. It was created by La Sportiva (and patented too!).


This is a type of climbing footwear. These shoes don’t usually have an insole. The midsole is what makes them stiff. They’re more sensitive and less stiff than board-lasted.


Another climbing shoe, you slip this one on instead of lacing it. It’s good for the gym or bouldering.


This climbing technique happens when you use the sole of your climbing shoes to gain traction to go up.


A more military term for a carabiner.


When you go it alone without any use of protection, a very dangerous way to climb!


If your gear is up to spec, it means it meets the required specifications by the climbing associations.


I mentioned Spectra earlier and that it’s similar to Kevlar. This was created by Allied-Signal and is the strongest fiber ever made. It is even stronger than Kevlar!

Speed climbing

This is for competitions to see how far you can climb in a certain time frame or even how long it takes you to finish a certain climb.

Sport climbing

Different than traditional climbing, sport climbing features pre-placed protections. You’ll have to do very difficult moves, almost ballet and gymnastic-like to be a success.


This is an acronym that refers to the qualities a good anchor should have. Always ask yourself if it is solid, redundant, equalized, and no extension.


This is a term for climbing rope, referring to its limited movement or ability to stretch. You use these for rappelling but these are the opposite of dynamic which means you do not want them to be used to absorb the impact of a leader fall. It’s just not a good situation.


One technique you’ll practice a lot is this one where you press your hands or feet (or even both together) in opposite directions way out to each side, like for a dihedral or chimney.

Sticht plate

This was the original friction device created for belaying by Franz Sticht. It has a plate with 2 holes and you may see it with a spring. You pass the rope through the holes and lock in the belayer’s harness. This plate allows you to put friction on the rope to slow or stop it.


It’s the same thing as a chock or nut.


It’s a climbing harness that wraps webbing around your waist. You can find it sold separately from the leg loops if you’d prefer a more custom fit.


It has one end wider than the other, hence the term, and is used as passive protection like chocks and nuts.

TCU (three-cam unit)

This is just another spring-loaded camming device you can choose. It’s made by Metolius.

TDR (thermodynamic rubber)

This is the rubber used to make those sticky soles that give you a firm grip on your pair of climbing shoes.

Three-point suspension

This is where you look like a tripod in a sense. You move only one hand or foot at a time while the others are keeping your balance on the rock.

Three-sigma rating system

This is a type of quality control that rates the strength of climbing gear.

Toe displacement

Another climbing shoe term, it’s the degree that your shoe curves your foot toward the inside edge.

Top rope

It’s that rope that goes through a fixed anchor from the top. Each end is tied to the climber and the belayer. This always protects the climber from falling far. It’s often used in beginning climbs to add more security.


Also called “trad,” this is when you use protection placed from the lead climber and removed by the second.

Triple runner

It’s like the other runners but longer (this one is 14 feet!). You can use it to attach pro to the climbing rope but it’s most often chosen for creating anchors.

Tube chock

Another type of chock that is best for very wide and vertical cracks.

Twin rope

This rope is best used in pairs with strands going parallel through the same protection.


Here’s a move you’ll make when you’re more experienced. You use counter-pressure to the underside of a rock slab or flake by pulling up and simultaneously pushing down on your feet.

Water knot

Ring bend is the other term for it but this one is more popular. You tie two ends of flat webbing together to create it.


It’s the woven tapestry of nylon tape that we use to make slings and runners for our climbs.


It’s just like a taper, and as the name suggests, you wedge it into place.


Something you don’t want to try, a whipper is a loooooooong fall.


This is that metal cable on the end of your chock or nut that you can use to attach a carabiner.


And finally, this is what happens when the protection placements pop out in a sequence, like undoing a zipper. It happens when the leader falls, and quite often, you’ll get a screamer out of it too.


Attention: You have to take care of your own safety and health when climbing. The information on only serves for learning and entertainment purposes. Before climbing, make sure you have been properly instructed by an expert and adhere to all safety precautions. This site is owned and operated by Mohamed Foued Ben Slama, Mohamed Foued Ben Slama is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for websites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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