Rock Climbing Dictionary

Climbing Terms and Definitions
These are the Rock Climbing Terms, Definitions, Slang and other words currently stored in our Rock Climbing Dictionary. If you know any rock climbing terms that are not mentioned in this list then go ahead and suggest a word for our dictionary.There are 177 Rock Climbing Terms in our Rock Climbing Dictionary:


(Pronounced "A-zero") Rating given to using a bolt for aid. No possibility of falling because weight is supported by something that cannot fail.


This is a large, edible, marine gastropod of the genus Haliotis, with an ear-shaped shell.


This means to decrease in amount, intensity, or degree.


(submitted by: rain)

freefalling on rope


Descending by sliding down a rope. Americans usually call this rappelling.


This is the temperature at which some substances possess no thermal energy, equal to - 273.15 C or - 459.57 F.


This refers to a structure that supports, as at the end of a bridge.


This is a bottomless pit, a yawning gulf, an immeasurably profound depth or void.


This is to accustom or become accustomed to new surroundings or circumstances; to adapt.


This refers to the fear of heights.


This is a type of anchor which has moving parts, spring-loaded features, and it expands to fit a crack. It is also called active pro. Read our Active Protection - Spring-Loaded Camming Devices section for more details.


The flat cutting end of the ice axe head.


Originally called direct aid or artificial climbing, aid climbing is a means of ascent where the climbers weight is supported primarily, or entirely, by slings attached to a device attached to the rock, rather than by the climbers own hands, feet and other body parts as in free climbing.


Ladder made of webbing used for Aid Climbing, or as footholds for the belayer on a multi pitch climb.


This stands for Acute Mountain Sickness. Know the symptoms and treatment of this Altitude-related health condition in ourAltitude - Related Sickness and Illnesses section.


(submitted by: joyasto)

The path or route starting a technical climb. It may actually be a walk but is sometimes as dangerous as the climb itself.


The outside corner of rock.


A.T.C.=Air Traffic Controller. ATC is a proprietary (Black Diamond) belay device designed to facilitate smooth feeding of rope and dissipate more heat than a sticht plate due to the larger surface area. The braking and feeding of rope work in the same fashion as with a sticht plate.


This refers to a common mistake in Climbing wherein the rope runs along the gate instead of the spine of the Carabiner, then the Carabiner can easily un-clip itself during a fall. Know the other common errors in the world of Climbing in ourClimbing Techniques - Back Clipping and other Mistakes section.


This means to give up on a rock climb or summit attempt for reasons that range from the legitimate (weather, lateness, injury, fatigue) to the suspect (hunger, thirst, discomfort, job obligations, waiting wives, husbands or significant others).


This is the tendency of the body to swing outward away from the wall on steep terrain when the gravity is not centered between points of contact. Know other terminologies in this sport in our Rock Climbing Moves Glossary section.


This is a dark, dense volcanic rock.


A Belay Device is a mechanical thing used to hold the rope of a climber by applying enough friction to it. Know more about this Rock Climbing device in our Belay Devices section.


This is a sewn loop which connects your waist and leg loops. Read our Climbing Harnesses - Parts and Features section for more information.


It is a Climbing Technique of securing the climber during his climb. Take a look at our Climbing Techniques - Belayingsection and know more about Belaying.


Information about a route. Beta may be in the form of verbal or written advice on the techniques used or in watching another climber make the moves.


This is fancy foot work that involves using one foot to push against a hold and the other to pull on the same hold. Typically, the second foot is used with a toe hoot for balance.


This is a passive camming device that is a telescoping tube chock. This chock has a spring-loaded inner sleeve that pops out to bridge a crack when a release button is pressed. The extended sleeve is then locked into place by spinning the collar down snugly against the outer tube. The sling attachment on one side creates a camming action when the chock comes under load.


(n.) This is a loop or bend made from the slack in a rope. A "bight" is formed to tie many knots, including a "figure-eight-on-a-bight".


Also known as Bivi or Bivy, a Bivouac is a sleeping place on an unexpected location in the middle of a route. It could be a large comfortable ledge, or even an uncomfortable night hanging from a stance.


Has extremely high quality and dependability. Usually refers to a handhold, but can also describe a piece of equipment, a campsite or any generally positive or beneficial item or state of being.


These are large angle pitons that vary from 2 to 6 inches in width and can double as large chocks.


(submitted by: joyasto)

The practice of climbing on large boulders. Typically done close to the ground, so crash pads and spotting are used as protection instead of belay ropes.


A form of bouldering, this is done on buildings, hence the name.


This refers to the art of bouldering on buildings.


This is the act of using only the arms to climb. It is a method of training grip, contact, and upper body strength. Know other terms used in climbings in the Rock Climbing Moves Glossary section.


It is a Climbing Equipment which is designed to fasten the rope to an anchor or connect two ropes or gear together. Know more about Carabiners in our Climbing Carabiners section.


This is the process of determining the approximate age, as of a fossil, by the use of the radiation rate of carbon 14.


A small, hand-sized pouch for a climber's chalk that is usually clipped or tied onto the climber's harness for easy access during a climb.


A knobby feature (resembling a chicken's head) found in granite which provides excellent holds for hands or feet.


This refers to a crack large enough to climb inside of.


A type of passive protection consisting of a flared piece of metal on a cable loop, designed to be placed in a constriction. This is also called "nut" or "chockstone".


loose, bad quality rock


This means to remove the protective gear placed by the climbing leader while ascending. Usually accomplished by the following climber, or "second." This also refers to climbing an aid route without a hammer.


This is a series of connected spirals or concentric rings. As a verb, it means to wind in spirals.


This means curved or rounded outward, like the outer surface of a ball.


This is a narrow crack.


This is a grip in which the first knuckle is extended, allowing the fingertips to rest on a small ledge while the second knuckle is flexed. Visit our Rock Climbing Moves Glossary section and know more terms used in this sport.


Grip strength reduces due to exertion. Feels like Crisco on your hands...may want to check your chalk bag!


This refers to the hardest move on a route or the hardest section of a climb. Read our Rock Climbing Moves section and get familiar with the terms used by climbers when referring to Climbing Moves.


This is a nylon sling sewn into loops; also used to provide supplemental security at belay stations.


This refers to the ground.


This refers to a steep, descending slope.


(submitted by: bradkillough)

This means to decrease the intensity of.


These are loose fragments, especially those formed by disintegrating of rock, or debris.


This is something that has such a fine texture, that it looks to be transparent/ delicate in form/vague or insubstantial.


This is a point where two walls meet in a right-angled inside corner.


This is an acute, febrile, contagious disease caused by a bacillus and characterized by formation of false membranes in the throat and other air passages causing difficulty in breathing.


This is the term used to tell the belayer that you are ready to be lowered to the ground.


A closed loop of bar-tacked webbing designed to hold a carabiner on each end, to make a quickdraw. Dogbones are typically a fixed length of 15-25cm (6-10in). The name "dogbone" refers to the shape made by the webbing with a narrow mid-region and two bulbous/rounded loops at the ends.


Short for "dynamic," a gymnastic upward leap for a distant hold.


This refers to an abnormal accumulation of serous fluid in the tissues.


belay device


A person who thinks he's Elvis!


(submitted by: mec-mec)

Also called sewing machine leg, this it the uncontrollable shake of a leg during a climb. Often due to a combination of nerves and overcontraction of muscles.


This term refers to the bacteria that cause severe illnesses such as cholera, dysentery, and typhoid that may be in waters of an underdeveloped area in the world. These can be killed by simply boiling the water before use.


original French word for nylon webbing steps used in aid climbing


[n.] A mathematical term used to describe the stress applied to the system (especially and specifically to the rope). Abbreviated FF, a fall facotr is equal to the length of the fall divided by the length of the rope paid out. Fall factor 2 (FF2) is the maximum that should be possible in a normal climbing fall, since the length of an arrested fall can't exceed two times the length of the rope paid out. Normally, a FF2 can occur only when a leader who has placed no protection falls past the belayer, or the anchor. As soon as protection is placed, the distance of the potential fall as a function of rope length is lessened, and the FF drops below 2.


This means containing or based on fundamental errors in reasoning; misleading; deceptive.


Training equipment used to build grip strength and arm strength.


This is a narrow crack or opening, as in a rock face.


This refers to the act of extending a leg that counterbalances the body and prevents the center of mass from barn dooring. Visit Rock Climbing Moves Glossary section to know more terms used in this sport.


A chipped off part from a big stone (rock) which is loosely fixed on the rock. This is highly dangerous for the belayer below because it may break or crack the belayer's head.


uncoiling a rope one loop at a time into a pile


Completing a first attempt at climb with no falls (or resting on the rope) with the help of some beta either in the form of observing another climber or receiving intructions with regard to technique.


Reaching the summit of a multi-pitch sport climb


This is another name given to SLCD by their inventor, Ray Jardine. For more information about this climbing equipment, read our Active Protection - Spring-Loaded Camming Devices section.


Both are present in back country waters, worldwide as well as throughout the U.S. Symptoms sometimes take two to twenty days to manifest themselves, that can include: nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever, headaches, flatulence, and belches that smell like rotten eggs. Simply boil or filter your water before use.


This is the theory of gravitation propounded by Albert Einstein, extending the special theory of relativity to accelerated frames of reference and introducing the principle that gravitational forces cannot be distinguished from those caused by inertia.


The U.S.Department of Defense has placed twenty-four GPS satellites into orbit. These satellites continuously broadcast position and timing information to every point on earth. A small handheld, portable GPS receiver can acquire signals from these satellites and decode the signals to provide position and altitude. To obtain two-dimensional position information (latitude and longitude), the receiver must acquire signals from three satellites. If a fourth signal is acquired, altitude can also be displayed.


This is an instrument used in determining specific gravity.


This refers to the attractive central gravitational force exerted by a celestial body such as the earth. It can also mean weight, seriousness, or importance.


To make a clean (no falls or resting on the rope) ascent of a route on toprope. The term greenpoint is analogous to redpoint, in that there may have been a previous attempt, and/or beta received.


A proprietary (Petzl) self-braking (auto-locking) belay device for use with a single rope, in which camming units on the interior of the device lock the rope when sudden acceleration or tension (a fall) is applied. Grigris are frequently used in sport climbing and toproping.


Term for a novice climber (sometimes derogatory)


[v. or n.] Refers to frequent hanging or resting on the rope during a climb. A climber may "hangdog"/"be hangdogging" (v.) a route; or a climber may be refered to as a "hangdog" (n.) for frequently resting on the route.


Body fluids leak into the lungs to a degree that interferes with respiratory function. This is a potentially fatal condition and survival depends on rapid response. Early signs are rapid breathing and increased pulse. Listen to the chest for a crackling sound, is usually a sign of fluid in the lungs. Lips are usually blue and nail beds may appear blue. You must descend that person to 3,000 feet, at which time, most of the symptoms will subside.


When the first portion of the wall is not on a consistent level of difficulty with the rest of the climb. For example, the first bolt is higher and will require more skill to reach but after that, the remaining bolts are consistent


It is a loop of webbing sewn at the back of the waist belt. It is useful for clipping on trail ropes, approach shoes, or chalk bags. Know the different parts of a harness in our Climbing Harnesses - Parts and Features section.


This is a hexagonally shaped nut attached to a flexible looped wire which is inserted into a rock crack as a protective climbing device ("Hex" for short).


This is a type of Carabiner which has a pear shape to provide ample room for the hitch to function properly. Know more about the different types of Carabiners in our Climbing Carabiners - Types section.


This is climbing on an artificial wall with plastic holds. Know more about Indoor Climbing and other climbing variations in our Rock Climbing Styles section.


This is a mushroom of the genus Coprinus, with gills that dissolve into a dark liquid upon maturity.


This means to turn upside down or inside out.


This means solidly fixed or established; deep-rooted.


This means to call on for aid, support, or inspiration: to resort to.


This is an extremely useful knot as it can be used for Belaying, Abseiling, and rigging. Know how to tie this climbing knot in our Hitches - Learn How to Tie Hitches section.


This refers to a technique of climbing cracks in which the fingers, hands, or feet are wedged inside a rock crack to gain traction and facilitate upward progress.


This refers to a massive, destructive force or object.


This is a mass of igneous rock intruded between layers of sedimentary rock, causing uplift.


He/She is the climber who climbs first and puts protection. Visit our Climbing Techniques - Leading section for more information.


As the name suggests, Leading refers to the act of leading a climb. It involves a leader (one who leads the climb) and a second or follower.Take a look at some guidelines in Leading or Lead Climbing in our Climbing Techniques - Leadingsection.


A safety sling used to attach ones body to a highline. Made by threading climbing rope through tublar webbing.


A method of attaching a slack line to an anchor-without any knots.


This is a Carabiner with a locking mechanism which prevents the gate from opening accidentally. Read the Climbing Carabiners - Types section for details.


This is the act of descending or getting down from a climb. Know more about this climbing technique in our Loweringsection.


This is the capability of being shaped, bent or drawn out, as by hammering - workable, capable of being altered or influenced.


The opposite of Bombproof. A piece of gear is said to be manky if it is not placed well and could fall out at any moment.


This is a technique in which a climber grasps a hold waist-level and powers the body upward with minimal assistance from the feet.


From the genus Marmota, this is a short-legged rodent that is found throughout the Northern Hemisphere.


This refers to the act of placing both hands to the same handhold. Know other essential climbing maneuvers in our Rock Climbing Moves Glossary section.


To actively use your toes to grip a hold; to use toes to wrap or apply additional pressure to secure a hold.


This refers to a climber who sometimes lets small, bad decisions turn into big ones.


This is inflammation of a nerve, causing pain, loss of reflexes, and muscular atrophy.


A type of passive protection made of a flared piece of metal connected to a cable (typically); and designed to be placed in a constriction. Nuts are also called "chocks" or "chockstones." The name "nut" originates from early climbing use of hardware nuts slung on a cord as passive protection.


Rock falls, snowstorms, avalanches, lightning, wind, rain, and extreme temperatures are examples of Objective Hazards.


This refers to something that balances, counteracts or compensates. It can be a ledge or recess in a wall.


This refers to a climb with no falls and without previous knowledge of the route. Know other climbing maneuvers and terms in our Rock Climbing Moves Glossary section.


This refers to a sudden attack or outburst, as of emotion: spasm.


This is a type of anchor which has no moving portions and is usually connected to a wire or Sling. It includes Hexes, Nuts, Slings, and Tricams. Know the uses and features of these Climbing gear in our Passive Protection section.


This is an object that is hung from a fixed support, so that it can swing freely back and forth.


This means danger, or something that is a source of danger.


[n. or v.] An antiquated term referring to a clean (no falls or resting on the rope) ascent of a route with previously placed protection (bolts), such that the climber only needs to clip the rope into the protection. The term "pinkpoint" has been all but completely replaced by "redpoint," which is now used for both sport and trad climbing. A pinkpoint/redpoint may be achieved with prior failed attempts or beta for the particular climb.


This refers to a tall, pointed formation, as a mountain peak. This is the highest point or summit.


This is a metal spike, often with a hole on one end to connect a carabiner and to allow rope to pass through. A piton can be driven into ice or rock as a support, as in mountain climbing.


Pitons or pegs are steel (or alloy) pins which are driven into cracks in the rock to provide belays and points of assistance. There are a number of piton types, Blade, Angle and Bong, for example.


This is a sliding friction knot used to ascend a rope; to ascend a rope by means of such a knot.


A condition of severely depleted strength and lactic acid burn caused by over working the forearm muscles while climbing.


To gain leverage on grip, traction.


This climbing equipment consists of a short Sling with a Carabiner on each end. Know how to clip a rope onto a Quickdraw in the Climbing Techniques - Back Clipping and other Mistakes section.


The collection of protective devices that a climber carries on a route. This is attached to harness loops or on a sling slung across the shoulders.


This is the rubber layer above the sole and runs around the shoe. Know the other parts of Climbing Shoes in our Climbing Shoes - Parts and Features section.


Also known as Abseiling, it is the technique used for descending steep rock. Know the different equipment you need in Rappelling and some safety measures in our Climbing Techniques - Abseiling section.


(submitted by: chilli)

A complete ascent of a climb without falling (or resting on the rope), with some prior knowledge of the climb. A redpoint can be achieved if the climber has previously failed at the climb and has come back to complete a clean climb. "Redpointing" a climb implies placing gear (clipping into bolts or placing pro) along the way, and is generally reserved for lead climbing (as with "flash" and "onsight").


This is exceeding what is required or natural.


A closed (bar-tacked) loop of webbing. Length and width of runners offered in retail vary depending on intended use and material of construction (nylon generally being wider than spectra or dyneema).


This refers to an uncomfortably long and often dangerous distance between two points of protection.


ruka v rici - classical style of climbing


This is a call from the leader to indicate that he/she has safely attached the rope to the top and there is no possibility of him/her coming to harm (fall). Read our Climbing Calls section and learn some basic words or phrases used by climbers in communicating with each other.


a climb that has given you great satisfaction and you are very proud of.


[v.] To complete a route successfully; does not specify whether beta has been received or previous attempts have been made.


When the leg of a fatigued climber spasms uncontrollably in an up and down motion, usually while in a stressed position. Also referred to as ''Elvis Leg''.


Heavy duty slackline anchor. (4 ton preferably used in professional highlining.) To be used in conjunction with a line locker.


The resultant stress/shock to a system and climber resultant of 3 factors: weight of falling object (climber); fall factor (fall length / rope length); and dynamic capacity of the rope. If a rope is very dynamic or the fall factor is small, then the shock load is dramatically decreased versus larger values for those variables.


It is a type of Climbing Harness which has a waist belt and leg loops, and it is worn around the hips. Read our Climbing Harnesses - Types section to know more about the different types of Climbing Harnesses.


Less than vertical rock face that usually requires balance and friction


This is a Climbing Call from the climber which means that slack rope is needed. Know more about the words or phrases used by the leader and second for clear communication in our Climbing Calls section.


This refers to Spring-Loaded Camming Device. Also called cam, SLCD is a very good example of Active Protection. Know more about Camming Devices in our Active Protection - Spring-Loaded Camming Devices section.


See Runner.


This refers to a technique of applying to a rock slab as much of the sticky sole of the climbing shoe as possible to achieve maximum friction.


This sphere is the crossroads of all the climber's protective measures such as helmet, special clothing, rope, not to forget training and experience, along with the hazards of the mountain. Clear and realistic thinking will keep out the overconfidence and wishful thinking that could create a dangerous sphere of acceptable risk.


A move requiring a little less power than a "DYNO". To release stored energy from the legs to push into an extended hand hold. To "sprong" from a foothold to far off hand hold.


This is a process used when trad climbing and you run out of active pro and all you have are passive wedges. Place two, of different sizes (opposite one another), in the crack. The bigger of the two should be on top. Give the bigger piece a tug to seat it properly. Connect the two with a biner to keep one from becoming a flying object in case one of the two should fail. Note: Only use straight sided wedges!


Sedate and reserved


It is a type of Belay Device which has a flat metal plate or disk, usually with two holes. Read our Belay Devices - Typessection for more details.


In the world of Rock Climbing, this refers to the strength of a climber to continue climbing for a considerable period of time without sacrifing efficiency. Read our Rock Climbing Training - Strength - Endurance section and learn how you can improve your Strength-Endurance.


These are simply hazards caused by the climber: ignorance, improper training, poor judgment, inadequate equipment, and poor conditioning as well as too much confidence, false pride, and fear.


This refers to an excessively rapid heartbeat.


This is a surface look or feel of something. It is a basic makeup or structure of a substance.


The Eiger is a mountain in the mountainous range of the Bernese Alps of the Swiss Alps and is 13,025ft. or 3,970m. It consists of three peaks called: the virgin, young woman, and the Monk. The first ascent was made in 1858 by two Swiss guides and one Irishman. The name Eiger means point or sharp.


1" Tubular webbing that has been threaded by 11/16" webbing. (preferably threaded by 2 strands of 11/16" creating a 6 layer piece of webbing.


When somebody reaches the top of a climbing wall and its a term for sitting at the top of the wall


A form of climbing where the rope is secured to an anchor point at the top of the route before the climber starts the climb.


This means having been deprived of the power of motion or feeling; dormant; hibernating; spiritless.


This is an example of Passive Protection and belongs to the family of cams. Visit Passive Protection - Slings, Hexes, Nuts, Tricams for more information.


This means to pinch sharply and twist.


This refers to the philosophical doctrine that action should be based on the usefulness of its effects and that only the useful is good or worthwhile.


This is an agent that destroys or expels intestinal worms.


This refers to a sensation of dizziness or loss of direction.


This is a large non-venomous scorpion-like arachnid that gives off a strong vinegary odor when disturbed.


A home made climbing wall usually made out of plywood and 2x4's.


This is a Climbing Call from the second in response to the “safe” call from the leader. Learn other common calls in ourClimbing Calls section.


This refers to any of the various chiefly tropical new world plants with stiff, pointed leaves and a terminal cluster of white flowers. The native Indians often use the leaves for thread to sew their garments together and their moccasins. The stalk was and can be used with a bow to make fire.


This is a circular, domed tent used by nomadic tribes of Siberia.


It occurs when you pull the rope from below your last clipped Quickdraw (instead of pulling the rope from the top end of the last Quickdraw) and bring it up and clip it to the new Quickdraw. Know other common climbing errors in our Climbing Techniques - Back Clipping and other Mistakes section.


This is the point in the sky that is directly overhead; the highest point; apex or climax.


This refers to a fall of such length and velocity that the climber's protective devices are ripped from the rock in rapid succession.


 2018 PATC-MS | The Mountaineering Section of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. All Rights Reserved.