Rock Climbing Glossary

Rock Climbing 3rd Edition
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Aid climbing: placing gear to use as hand and foot holds to make progress.

Anchor: a solid attachment point. Can be a tree, boulder, bolt, stake or a piece of gear placed in a crack.

Assisted braking device: type of belay device that makes use of an additional feature that assists the user to stop a fall. Often categorised as either ‘mechanically assisted’ or ‘geometry assisted’.

Auto-belay: a drum with a retracting lanyard, clipped to the climber, which uses either a magnetic effect or a centrifugal force to create a breaking mechanism which catches and slowly lowers the climber.


Back and footing: moving up a chimney with the back pressed against one wall and the feet pushing against the other.

Back clipping: where the rope is travelling out of the wall/back side of the karabiner, risking the chance of it twisting and the rope unclipping itself in a fall.

Barn dooring: half the body peeling away from the rock in an arc; much like a door swinging open. Caused by being out of balance, often on an arete.

Belayer: The person who is safeguarding the rope for the climber.

To belay/belaying: To safeguard the rope while another person climbs. Also used to describe the process of setting up the belay.

The belay: The stance (see below), anchors and attachment system.

Belay device: generic term for the device used by the belayer to help control the rope. See also braking device, assisted braking device, manual belay device.

Bell ringing: peer belaying technique, often using an Italian hitch or GriGri attached to a belayer’s harness. Main belayer pulls down on the rope, while the others pull the rope through the hitch/device.

Beta: Crucial information about a move or sequence of moves.

Big wall climbing: routes that may take multiple days due to the length and difficulty of the climbing. Typically involve aid climbing.

Bridging: where both walls can be pushed against to bridge the gap, or simply two opposing footholds that allow a balanced position.

Bombproof/bomber: A runner or anchor placement that is considered absolutely secure.

Bottom-roping: a non-lead climbing system where the belayer is positioned at the base of the climb and belays the climber up the climb and lowers them back down to the bottom.

Bouldering: moving un-roped, low down on rocks and boulders. Brake hand: The hand that grips the brake side of rope when belaying, holding falls and lowering.

Braking device: alternative name for belay device used as the descriptor in safety standards.


Cam stop: The load-bearing stop, which prevents the cams on a camming device from over-rotating. Enables them to be used passively, like a chock.

Catch: when a belayer holds a fall. See also soft catch and dynamic belaying.

Central rope loop: Loop created by tying on to the end of the rope through a harness.

Chalk ball: porous mesh ball to hold loose chalk – prevents spills and limits the amount you get on your hands. Many climbing walls prefer them.

Chalk-up: Dipping the fingers into a bag filled with chalk (normally magnesium carbonate) to improve grip by soaking up any sweat or moisture. See also chalk ball and liquid chalk.

Chimneying: climbing up cracks that are wider than body width. Forget elegance, this is about wedging the body and squirming upwards.

Chock: A collective name for the wedges used in cracks as runners or anchors.

Chockstone: A boulder or rock wedged in a crack.

Clip stick: a telescopic stick used to pre-clip the first, or subsequent bolts with a quickdraw and rope.

Contact strength: rate of force development; a measure of how quickly force can be generated.

Cow’s Tail: Sling or length of rope attached to the harness to facilitate quick and temporary securing to belays. Also called a tether.

Crimp: a tiny hold or edge that will only accommodate fingertips. Also, a finger grip position that allows use of these tiny holds. See also full crimp and half crimp.

Crux: the hardest part(s) of a climb.


Deadpoint: the point at which upward momentum has died and the body is temporarily motionless before falling.

Dead rope: another term for brake side of rope.

Direct belay: A belay system where the load goes directly onto the anchor.

Drag: an extended finger grip position that reduces stress on the finger tendon unit.

Dynamic belaying: Arresting a fall gradually to make the impact softer on climber, belayer, runners and belay.

Dynamic stability: the ability of a joint to remain stable during activity.

Dyno: a controlled launch for a hold out of reach.


Fall Factor: A measure of the impact force generated in a fall.

Finger jam/finger lock: Natural constrictions act as a wedge and the fingers are twisted to lock them in place.

Finger board: device with edges of varying depth from which to hang and train finger strength. Popular for warming up before climbing.

First ascent: the first person/team to lead climb a route.

Fist jam: a fist is wedged in the crack with the fingers squeezing hard into the palm of the hand to increase the size of the fist slightly.

Flagging: makes use of a free-hanging foot as a counterbalance to make the next move, gain more reach, or prevent a barndoor swing.

Flake: flat slither or piece of rock that may or may not be attached to the main rock face.

Flash: Climbing a route first go without falls or rests but often with some prior knowledge (beta) of the route.

Font grades: bouldering grades which stem from the famous sandstone area of Fontainebleau just south of Paris.

Footswap: a technique to change from one foot to another on a small foothold.

Free climbing: using only natural holds to make progress.

Free solo: free climbing without rope protection.


Galvanic corrosion: a particular type of corrosion where different metals been used for bolts and hangers. The bolt may corrode while the hanger remains whole and the extent of the damage is hard to assess.

Gaston: pulling sideways away from the body.

Ground anchor: An anchor at the base of a cliff or wall that will resist an upward direction of pull.

Guppy: when the hand is wrapped over the top of a hold.


Hand jam: the hand is inserted into a crack with the thumb resting next to the index finger. The hand is cupped slightly to fill the crack with opposing pressure between the tips, fleshy part of the thumb and knuckles to hold the jam in place.

Hanging belay: A belay where there is no ledge so the belayer must commit all their weight to the anchors and find the best footholds to stand on. Most common on steep multi-pitch sport routes.

Half crimp: a finger position that makes use of a 90 bend at the second joint. Reduces stress on the finger tendon unit. Considered an optimum position for finger board training.

Harness belay loop: Webbing loop that normally encloses waist belt and leg loops used to abseil from and to belay from if the belayer is not tied to the rope, such as in a climbing wall.

Hazard: any source of risk or danger.

Headpoint: To practise moves on a top-rope prior to attempting a lead, usually done on routes with little or no protection possibilities where a fall is not a viable option.


Impact Force: The force experienced at the moment a fall is arrested transmitted via the rope to belay, climber and runners.

Indirect belay: A belay system where the belayer takes part of the load in a fall.

In parallel: when two seconds climb on separate ropes, belayed by one person who is tied to the other end of each rope.

In series: when three people climb one after the other, with the middle climber attached the both ropes.

In-situ: an anchor that is already in place, for example a metal peg. Requires testing and checking before use.


Jamming (stuck): when something is stuck, for example a rope in a crack, a prusik around a rope.

Jamming (technique): a technique used in crack climbing where parts of the body are inserted into a crack and twisted or expanded to grip both sides of the crack.

Judgement: collecting information and selecting a course of action to solve a problem.

Jugs: Big incut holds that allow the fingers to curl over the rim.


Layaway: when a side pull is used with the arm extended and the body leaning away.

Laybacking: Opposing pressure between arms pulling on an edge and feet pushing against the rock.

Leader: Person who climbs first without a rope from above, placing runners as a safeguard.

Leading: taking the rope up a climb while being belayed from below. The leader clips the rope into runners at intervals.

Liquid chalk: magnesium Carbonate mixed with alcohol.

Live rope: The side of rope that goes from the belay device to the climber. Also called the active rope.


Maillon: Steel or aluminium alloy locking connectors designed to take multi-directional loads. Used to link anchors or a lower-off to a central point. Can be used to create a central attachment point on a harness for abseiling or belaying from.

Mantleshelving: Gaining the top of flat boulders or ledges by pressing down with the hands and arms whilst propelling the body up. Manual belay device: type of belay device controlled by hand force to the free end of the rope.

Matching: using the same hold for both hands or both feet at the same time.

Multi-pitch: routes that follow a number of pitches from one ledge or stance to another


On-sight: To lead or solo a route without practising the moves beforehand and without any prior knowledge or beta.


Palming: Pushing down or sideways on indefinite holds or walls.

Paying out: How the belayer feeds out rope to the climber through the belay device.

Pinch: a hold squeezed between thumb and fingers.

Pitch: Section of climbing between belays. Can be ground to the top, ground to a ledge, ledge to ledge or ledge to the top. The first is a single pitch and the latter three are multi-pitch.

Pocket: a shallow hole in the rock.

Pumped: When the muscles are over-worked the blood flow is impaired resulting in pain and loss of strength.


Red-point: To climb a route, ground up but after practise (usually on the lead), with no falls or rests. The protection equipment will usually be in place; bolts are the norm for this style.

Resin bolts: bolts that are fixed into drilled holes with resin that holds them in place and helps to protect the steel from corrosion. Also called glue ins.

Risk: the possibility of suffering harm or being affected by a hazard.

Rope solo: one person climbing a route using the rope as a backup instead of partner.

Route reading: Working out the flow of a route before setting off.

Runner: Protection point for the lead climber linked to the rope by a karabiner. The rope runs freely past the runner but in a fall it enables the fall to be arrested in conjunction with a belay system. An abbreviation of running belay.

Runout: The distance between a climber and their last runner. A long runout equates to a long fall.


Scrambling: can be un-roped on classic ridge lines, or roped where it bridges the gap to mountaineering

Second: Person who follows up after a leader with a rope above them.

Semi-direct belay: A belay system where the load is transferred to the anchor via the belayer’s central rope loop.

Semi-hanging belay: A belay on a small ledge where the belayer needs support from the anchors in order to stay on the ledge.

Shake-out: A temporary rest, such as a good hold, on a route, which allows the arms to be relaxed, normally one at a time. Gentle shaking and flexing of the hand and arm can off-set the effect of being pumped.

Side pull: A hold used by pulling sideways towards the body.

Simulated lead: using an extra rope and belayer; the climber on the top-rope ties into the additional rope and trails it as though leading to rehearse clipping/placing gear.

Single pitch: in one rope length the top of the crag is reached.

Skinny ropes: Refers to the thinnest ropes in their category (9.4mm single ropes or 8mm half- ropes for example).

Sloper: a rounded hold that requires an open-handed position to enable maximum friction.

Sport climbing: uses a rope and preplaced bolts in the rock as protection.

Solo: Climbing without ropes.

Stacked abseil: a method used by instructors to safeguard less-experienced people while abseiling. Allows the instructor to abseil first. Not appropriate for use with novice abseilers.

Stance: Ledge or place to stop and belay at the top of a pitch, normally on a multi-pitch climb.

Stick-clipping: making use of a clip stick to get the rope up. Frequently used on the first bolt to prevent a ground fall, or subsequent bolts on harder, runout sport climbs.


Taking in: How the belayer takes up slack rope. This includes taking in slack hand over hand before belaying and feeding it through the belay or friction device whilst belaying.

Topping-out: Reaching the top of a pitch or route.

Top-roping: Climbing the route with a rope from above without first having led the climb. In true top-roping the belayer is positioned at the top, but this term is often used to describe bottom-roping too!

Trad: Traditional climbing is a style that makes use natural protection runners rather than bolts that are placed by the leader and removed by the second.


Undercut: a hold used by pulling outwards and upwards.


V grades: a system of bouldering grades, named after John ‘Vermin’ Sherman from the renowned, hard igneous rock of Hueco Tanks in Texas.


Z clipping: where the rope passes through two quickdraws in the wrong order.

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