Rock Climbing Terminology

active protection – A protection device with moving parts; see also Spring Loaded Caroming Device (SLCD)

adjustable harness – A harness on which the size of the waist belt and leg loops can be adjusted with buckles

aid climbing – Pulling on protection to make upward progress on a climb

alpine harness – A harness on which the leg loops arc formed by connecting straps to the waist belt

American Triangle – A dangerous webbing anchor formed by threading a single piece of webbing through two anchors and tying the ends together, forming a triangle whose vectors multiply the force on the anchors; commonly found on fixed anchors, often without rappel dings

AMGA – American Mountain Guides Association, a national nonprofit organization that trains and certifies professional mountain guides and accredits guiding companies

anchor – Any temporary, secure point that a climber uses to protect him or herself from injury during a fall; usually capable of holding several thousand pounds; can come in many forms, including trees, boulders, pitons, bolts, nuts, camming devices, et cetera

arm bar – A technique for climbing off-width cracks by inserting the arm straight into a crack and applying counter-pressure between the palm and elbow

autoblock – A clamping hitch with low holding power; often used to provide a self-belay for rappelling

back-clip – Clipping the dope into a protection carabiner so that the dope could fall across the gate during a fall and accidentally open it

backstopping – Using your foot on its outside edge with your knee bent inward

backup belayer – A second person who feeds the dope to the primary belayer; be or she will lock off the belay if the primary belayer loses control

belay – Means “to hold”; refers to a system of devices and techniques that combine to protect a climbed from being injured in a fall by locking the dope

belay anchor – Any single-point or multipoint anchor from which a belay is made

belay device – Any of several devices that are used to create a bend in the rope that provides manageable friction for belaying or rappelling

belay escape – Any of several methods that allow the belayer to tie off a fallen climber and physically leave the system

belay loop – A sewn loop on the front of some harnesses: used for belaying and rappelling

bent-gate carabiner – A carabiner whose gate is bent inward to facilitate clipping in the rope

big-wall climbing – Multiday climbing on huge cliffs; often includes aid climbing techniques

bight – Any bend in the rope that does not cross itself; used in many knots and to thread belay rappel devices

blocking knot – A knot used to maintain the integrity of a system or temporarily hold weight

board-lasted – A shoe constructed around a stiff midsole

bolt – An anchor point consisting of a metal shaft that is placed in a drilled hole and is held there by either friction or epoxy; an accompanying hanger provides an attachment point, strongest when loaded perpendicular to the shaft

bombproof – A completely reliable anchor; also called a bomber

bouldering – Low-to-the-ground climbing wherein the climber can jump back down to the ground, and a rope and belay are not necessary

braced stance – A belay position wherein the belayer’s body is positioned so that it is able to hold a tall without additional anchor

brake hand – The hand that holds the rope on the side of the belay device opposite the climber and that will activate the locking mechanism; the brake hand never leaves the rope

brake strand – The strand of rope on the brakeband side of the belay

butterflying the rope – A method for temporarily storing the rope in which loops are dropped alternately over the belayer’s tether

cam – Generic term for Spring Loaded Camming Device (SLCD)

carabiner – An aluminum snap-link used to connect parts of a climbing system

CATCH – A set of belaying principles: Closed system, Aligned and Tight to the anchor, Communication clear, and brake Hand on the rope

chalk – Gymnastic chalk used by climbers to keep their fingers dry

chicken wing – A technique for climbing off-width cracks by inserting the arm bent at the elbow into a crack and using

counter-pressure – between the forearm and upper arm

chock – Generic for “artificial chockstone,” any of many designs of passive protection that rely on wedging in a constriction for security: hexes, stoppers, tricams, et cetera

chockstone – A stone wedged in a crack

clamping hitch – Any of several hitches that will tighten and lock when loaded; most often used on a rope to temporarily hold a load; also called a friction hitch

class – A rating system from 1 to 6 that describes general difficulty, ranging from biking to aid climbing

cleaning – To remove protection from a climb

closed system – A contained system; the belayer tying into the end of the rope forms a “closed system” that will keep the climber from being dropped; the magic X forms a “closed system” wherein the master point is attached to the sling and not merely looped over it

clove – A hitch used to tie off parts of a system; often used by the climber to clip into the belay

cord – Nylon fibers woven like a rope using Kernmantle construction, typically 5.5 mm to 8 mm in diameter; used tied in short loops as clamping hitches

cordelette – A 6- to 9-foot loop of cord usually between 5.5 mm and 8 mm in diameter tied with a double or triple fisherman knot; has many uses, including building belay anchors and as a component of self-rescue systems

core – The climbing rope’s central core of woven nylon fibers; accounts for about 85 percent of the rope

crack climbing – Climbing utilizing the natural fissures in the rock for hand- and footholds

crimp – A small handhold in which the fingers are hyperextended

crunch – The position in which the feet are held high and the hands low

crux – The hardest move or series of moves on a pitch; the hardest pitch on a multi-pitch climb

directional – Any auxiliary anchor point used to position the rope in the strongest possible location

double fisherman – A standard knot for joining two ropes together; knots are tied on each strand that jam together under a load

double-pass buckle – The standard harness buckle; requires the waist-belt webbing to be threaded through twice, crossing over itself and locking on the second pass

dressing – The act of making a knot neat and tight

dynamic move – A move wherein the climber moves aggressively toward a hold and will tall off if he or she does not grab it securely; see also static move

dynamic rope – A climbing rope that is designed to stretch considerably and absorb the force of a falling climber; the only kind of rope suitable for leading

edging – Using the inside or outside edge of the shoe on a protruding hold

equalization – Any of several methods that tie anchors together in such a way that they share a load equally

ERNEST – A set of principles for constructed belay anchors: Equalized, Redundant, No Extension, Strong and Stable, Timely

extended master point – Belaying off a master point that is not in direct proximity to the belay anchor itself

extension – A potential slipping of components in an anchor system to adjust for the failure of any point; causes an undesirable shock load

face climbing – Climbing technique that uses small ledges for hand- and footholds

fall factor – A measure of the severity of a fall; derived by dividing the length of the fall into the length of rope in the system: the maximum fall factor is 2

fall line – A line parallel to that of gravity

figure eight device – An aluminum rappel and belay device in the shape of an 8

figure eight knot – A knot shaped like an 8; has many uses, including connecting the rope to the harness, tying into an anchor, tying two ropes together, tied on a bight to form a loop, et cetera

finger crack – A crack large enough to just admit the fingers or part of the fingers

fireman’s belay – A rappel belay created by having a person at the bottom of a pitch hold the rappel rope in his or her hand; keeping the rope slack allows the rappeller to descend, pulling down on the rope locks off the rappel

fist crack – A crack large enough for the fist to be jammed in it

fix – To anchor something either temporarily or permanently

fixed anchor – Any permanent anchor point; can be natural, like a tree, or manufactured, like a bolt or piton

fixed leg loops – A harness style wherein the leg loops are permanently sewn and cannot be adjusted

fixed protection – Pitons, bolt, nuts, or cams (SLCDs) that are left permanently in place

flagging – Using the weight of one foot and leg, in the air, to help maintain balance while making a move with the other foot and leg

foot stack – Jamming both feet together in a crack too large to he jammed with just one foot

forest duff – Decomposing leaves, sticks, needles, and other tree and plant debris; forms the basis for many forest soils; trees growing in duff on ledges are notoriously weak anchors

free carabiner – A carabiner carried on the rack by itself with nothing clipped to it

free climbing – Climbing wherein the hands and feet are used alone to make progress, and climbing equipment is used only to provide protection in the case of a fall; see also soloing

friction climbing – Climbing that relies on the friction of the bottom of the shoe for security on smooth rock where no obvious footholds exist

friction wrap – A technique for creating a belay anchor wherein the rope is wrapped, often several times, around a tree and uses the friction alone for security

front-pointing – Using the toe of the shoe placed straight onto a foothold

gaston – A side-pull hold in front of the body, held with the thumb down

gate flutter – The fast, repeated opening and closing of a carabiner gate that can occur when the rope runs through it during a fall

girth hitch – A hitch used to tie off parts of a system in which one end of a sling is run through the other end while being wrapped around something

grade – A rating system of I through VII that describes the approximate time (commitment) it will take to climb a route, from a couple of hours to several days

Gri Gri – An auto-locking belay device made by Petzl

guide hand – The hand opposite the brake hand; helps position and manage the rope

hand crack – A crack that is large enough for the hands to be inserted to form hand jams

hand jam – A crack-climbing technique in which the hand is flexed inside a crack to form a hold

hand stack – An off-width climbing technique in which both hands are jammed together in a crack that is too wide to be jammed with just one hand

hangdog – To work the moves on a route by resting on the rope between attempts

hanging belay – A belay stance without a ledge to stand on, wherein the climbers must hang in their harnesses

hex – A nonsymmetrical, five-sided chock with varying degrees of camming action

highstep – A move wherein the next foothold is above the waist

hitch – A connection like a knot but wherein the integrity of the system relies on the thing being hitched; a hitch, unlike a knot, will not stand alone

HMS carabiner – A large, pear-shaped carabiner with a large, round curve on the end opposite the gate; the only type of carabiner that should be used with the Munter hitch

horn – A spike of rock

impact force – The force still remaining when a falling climber comes to a stop; in a severe fall it can be a maximum of 2,680 pounds

improvised ascending – Any of various methods of ascending a fixed rope without the use of mechanical rope clamps

inside corner – A place where two planes of rock intersect at an angle of less than 180 degrees jamming Placing hands or feet in a crack to gain a secure hold

keeper cord – A short cord attached to a belay/rappel device; it keeps the device within reach when in use, and clips the device to a carabiner when not in use

keeper knot – Any auxiliary knot used to ensure the security of another knot; for example, a half double fisherman knot tied after a figure eight tie-in is a keeper knot

Kernmantle – Means “core and sheath” and is the method by which climbing ropes are constructed

Kevlar – A synthetic material that is used to make cord and some climbing accessories

kilonewton – A measurement of force; abbreviated kN

Klemheist – One of several clamping hitches used to back up systems or gain a hold on a rope

knot pass – Any of several systems used to pass a knot through a belay system

lap coil – A coil that consists of overlapping loops, typically tied off so it can be carried like a backpack; is less likely to tangle when being uncoiled for use

lap link – An open, steel ring with overlapping ends that are hammered together after the ring is placed around something; often used as the master point on fixed belay anchors; also called a lowering ring

lead climbing – A system of climbing from the ground up wherein a climber ascends while belayed from below by a partner, trailing a rope and clipping it through intermediate protection points; when the leader reaches the end of a pitch, he or she will anchor the rope and belay up the second climber on a top-rope; the process is then repeated until the top of a climb is reached

leader – The person leading a pitch; also called the lead climber

lead fall – A fall taken while leading; in the case of a lead fall, the belayer will hold the fall, which will he caught by the last piece of protection

Leave No Trace – A nonprofit organization that promotes a low-impact environmental ethic of the same name

leg loops – The part of the harness that goes around the legs

lieback – A hold that is oriented vertically and pulled on sideways; also called a side pull

live end – The end of the rope tied to the climber

locking carabiner – A carabiner with any of various locking mechanisms that keep the gate from opening unexpectedly

lock off – A body position in which the climber holds him or herself in place with one arm fully contracted

loop – A bend in rope or webbing that crosses over itself

lowering – A method of descent wherein the climber weights the rope and is let down by the belayer; the common method of descent from a slingshot belay

lowering ring – see also lap link

magic X – A method for creating a self-equalizing master point by tying two anchor points together with a sling loop; a half-twist in one strand of the sling creates a closed system ensuring that the master point cannot come off the rope if either anchor point fails

mantle – A series of moves that allow the climber to stand up on a foothold; similar to the movement used to climb out of a swimming pool

master point – The central attachment point in a belay anchor

mule knot – A blocking knot that can be released under tension; used in many self-rescue applications

multidirectional – An anchor that is secure in any direction

multipitch – A climb that is longer than the length of a climbing rope and must be climbed in stages

Munter hitch – A hitch that binds on itself, creating manageable friction; used for belaying and rappelling

Munter-mule – Using the Munter hitch and mule knot in combination; is foundational to many self-rescue systems

nut – Generic term for any piece of passive protection

nut pick – A thin metal pick used to help loosen and remove protection or to clean cracks

objective hazard – A hazard that cannot be controlled by the climber: rockfall, lightning, et cetera

off fingers – A crack that is too big for fingers and too small for hands

off hands – A crack that is too big for hands and too small for fists

offwidth crack – A crack that is too big for fists and too small for the entire body

on a bight – A knot tied in the middle of a rope on sight To lead a route on the first try without falling

open grip – A handhold in which the fingers are not hyperextended

opposition – Using opposing forces for strength; usually refers to two pieces of protection that are placed to hold force in opposite directions and tied together to form one multidirectional anchor

outside corner/arĂȘte – Two planes of rock that meet to form a pointed edge

overhand backup – An overhand knot tied on a bight to form a loop that is clipped into the system as a backup

overhanging – Any section of rock that is steeper than vertical

palming – Using the palm of the hand as a friction hold

passive protection – A protection device without moving parts; see also chock

nut perlon – A type of nylon used in climbing cordage such as ropes and slings

pinch grip – A handhold in which the fingers and thumb work in opposition to pinch a hold

pitch – A section of a climb whose maximum length is dictated by the length of the rope, usually 165 feet (50 m); all top-rope climbs are one pitch

piton – Any of several designs of steel spikes from the size of a postage stamp to 6 inches that are hammered into cracks to create an anchor; an eye on the piton provides an attachment point; pitons are usually loaded perpendicular to the long axis

pocket – A hole in the rock that forms a hand or foothold; often found in gyms, common in limestone

prerigged rappel – A rappel system wherein each person’s rappel is established on the rope, one on top of the other, prior to the first person rappelling

protection – A single anchor that the rope runs freely through to protect a climber during a lead

prusik – A clamping hitch used in belay and self-rescue systems

quickdraw – A short sling with a carabiner clipped to each end

rack – The climber’s collection of protection, slings, quickdraws, et cetera

rand – The outside portion of the shoe that runs around the shoe just above the sole; usually made of rubber in a climbing shoe

rappel – Any of various methods of descending a rope using controlled friction

rappel anchor – Any anchor used as the master point for a rappel

rappel ring/link – A permanent ring or lap link found at the master point of a fixed anchor, through which the rope is threaded for rappelling or lowering

ratchet – A one-way locking mechanism used to hold a load while it is repositioned

redirect – Changing the direction of a vector by rerouting it; can increase control; for example, running the rope from the belayer’s device through an anchor before going to the climber

redpoint – To climb a route without falling after repeated tries

redundancy – A principle of climbing that builds extra equipment into a system as a backup

remote master point – A system for belaying wherein the device used to belay is attached directly to the anchor and is operated by the belayer from a distance

rest position – To hang straight-armed off a high bold to conserve energy

reversed and opposed – A method for using two carabiners together so they are oriented with their gates opening in opposite directions and on opposite sides; used any time maximum security is required

rope bag – A nylon sack used to carry the rope; opens to form a mat on which the rope can be stacked on the ground

rope drag – Friction caused by the rope running through parts of the system

round coil – A way of coiling the climbing rope in a traditional circular coil; usually carried over the head and one shoulder

R rating – A seriousness rating that indicates the route bas sparse or insecure protection, and a climber could be injured in a fall

run-out – Used to describe a climb that has protection that is spaced widely apart

RURP – Realized Ultimate Reality Piton; a tiny piton not much bigger than a postage stamp

sandbag – To mislead someone regarding the difficulty or danger of a route; potentially dangerous

second – The climber who will follow the leader up a pitch, cleaning the protection as he or she goes

seconding – The act of following and cleaning a pitch

SECURE – A set of belay anchor principles for a top-rope anchor: Strong, Extended over the edge, Centered over the climb, Unbroken ring as the master point, rope Runs easily, Edge padded

self-equalizing – An anchor that maintains equalization automatically when its master point is repositioned; the magic X is a self equalizing anchor

self-rescue – Any rescue system utilizing only the climbing equipment that the climbers on the scene possess sewing machine legs Involuntary shaking of the legs due to nervousness

sheath – The woven nylon outer layer of a rope that protects the core from damage; accounts for about 15 percent of the strength of the rope

single rope – A climbing rope rated to be used as a single strand between climbers

SLCD – Acronym for Spring Loaded Camming Device; describes the design of several brands of active protection that use springloaded cams to create an anchor in a crack

slings – Webbing tied into a loop; typically 4 inches to 4 feet long

slingshot – The standard system for top-roping wherein the rope is doubled through an anchor at the top of the route and the climber is belayed from on the ground

slip-lasted – A shoe that is not constructed around a stiff midsole; see also hoard-lasted

slippers – Thin, lightweight climbing shoes, usually without laces, that offer great sensitivity but almost no support

smear – A foothold in which the entire bottom of the front of the shoe is pasted on a smooth section of rock

soloing – Climbing without a belay; a fall can be, and often is, fatal

Spectra – A synthetic material used to make cord or webbing and used in many climbing applications

spider – A self-rescue system that hangs two or more climbers off the same cordelette or sling simultaneously

sport climbing – Climbing, indoors or out, in which all the protection and anchors are permanently in place

spotting – Giving protection to a climber climbing close to the ground by standing under him or her and using outstretched arms to help cushion a fill; often used when bouldering

squeeze chimney – A chimney small enough to just barely admit the climber’s body

stacking the rope – Uncoiling the rope into a loose pile with a top and bottom exposed; the climber tics into the top end; minimizes tangles

standing end – The opposite end of the rope from the one the climber is tied to; see also live end

static elongation – The amount a rope will stretch when holding a body-weight load

static move – A move wherein the climber moves slowly and in control and will not fall off if the next hold is not grabbed securely; see also dynamic move

static rope – A climbing rope that is designed to stretch little and is used in situations wherein only body-weight loads are expected, such as rappelling, ascending fixed ropes, et cetera

stemming – A climbing technique wherein opposing footholds are pushed off from each other for security; often used in inside corners

stick-clip – To clip the rope to a bolt by attaching a carabiner or quickdraw to a long stick; useful to get the rope through the first piece of protection on sport routes

stopper – Any of several wedge-shaped chocks designed to fit constrictions in cracks

stopper knot – A knot tied in the end of a rope or sling to keep something else from sliding off it

straight-gate carabiner – A carabiner with a straight gate

subjective hazard – A hazard that can be controlled by the climber; for example, a sharp edge that can he padded

tail – The amount of rope sticking out after a knot is tied

talus – Large rocks (6 inches or bigger) that are often present on the slopes underneath cliffs; caution is required while moving over talus because the stability varies

test-fall – The laboratory fall used by the UIAA to test ropes; a 16.5-foot fall on 8.25 feet of rope

tether – The short section of rope formed when the climber ties a figure eight on a bight and clips in to the anchor; length varies depending on the situation; also called a leash

third class – Slang for soloing; to “third class” a route is to demote its grade to that of a third class route, which does not require a rope

thread – Any naturally occurring tunnel in the rock that a sling may be passed through and used as an anchor (if strong enough)

top-lower – lo lower a climber from above

top-rope anchor – The belay anchor for a top-rope

top-rope fall – A fall while climbing on a top rope; usually very short unless there is slack in the system

top-roping – Any of several systems wherein the climber is protected from falling by an overhead belay

torquing – Twisting hands, fingers, or feet to increase the security of a jam

traditional climbing – A climbing system wherein the protection points and belay anchors that are placed in the rock while climbing the route are removed by the second

tramming – A system that uses a quickdraw on the climber’s harness clipped to the rope running between the top anchor and the base of the route; keeps the climber within reach of the rock while being lowered on overhanging or traversing routes

transition – The steps required to change from one fundamental system to another; for example, from climbing to rappelling

traverse – Any part of a climb that moves sideways rather than up

tri-axial loading – A dangerous situation that arises when a carabiner is stressed by three vectors, one of which is not aligned with the carabiner’s long axis; weakens the carabiner and can cause failure if’ shock-loaded

Tricam – A single cam with a pivot point, opposing rails, and a fixed sling that follows the curve of the cam between the rails; works by camming or wedging in a crack or pocket

tubular webbing – Webbing woven so that it has a circular cross-section

UIAA – The Union Internationale des Associations Alpines; the international agency that sets standards for and tests climbing safety equipment

undercling – A hold that is oriented so that it is best when pulled up on

unidirectional – An anchor that is secure in only one direction

“up rope” – A command made by the climber asking for slack to be removed from the system

vector – Any quantity with both magnitude and direction (for example, a climber hanging on a rope forms a vector between him or herself and the anchor)

waist belay – A belay method that uses the belayer’s body to create the friction necessary to hold the climber; its use is limited to low-load situations

walking – The tendency for SLCDs to creep, cares first, into a crack when lateral force is applied to their stern; can compromise the security of the placement and can be minimized by using a sling extension

water knot – The standard knot used to connect webbing; a retraced overhand knot

webbing – Nylon fibers woven flat like a strap; used for making slings

wire-gate carabiner – A carabiner whose gate is made of wire instead of solid aluminum stock

X rating – A seriousness rating that indicates a climb has such sparse or insecure protection that a falling leader could be killed

Yosemite Decimal System – American rock climbing rating system (abbreviated YDS); rates the difficulty of individual Class 5 moves on a scale from 5.0 to 5.14; routes above 5.10 are further broken down into sub ratings a through d (for example, 5.12a)

zipper effect – Protection that pulls out during a tall as a result of being levered out of place when slings of adequate length are not used