Traditional Climbing Lingo: Terms You Need to Know

Traditional Climbing Lingo: Terms You Need to Know

Are you new to the world of traditional climbing and feeling overwhelmed by all the technical jargon? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! In this article, we will break down some of the most essential terms and phrases used in traditional climbing, helping you feel more confident and knowledgeable as you embark on your climbing journey. Whether you’re a beginner looking to expand your climbing vocabulary or an experienced climber wanting to brush up on your terminology, this guide is a must-read for anyone passionate about the sport.

Basic Traditional Climbing Terms

When it comes to traditional climbing, it’s important to understand the specific lingo that climbers use to communicate with each other. Below are some basic traditional climbing terms that you need to know:


Cams, short for camming devices, are a type of climbing protection that is designed to be placed into cracks in the rock. When a climber places a cam, they twist it to expand the cam lobes and secure it in place. Cams come in a variety of sizes and are essential for protecting a climber in the event of a fall.


Nuts, also known as nuts or chocks, are another type of climbing protection that is commonly used in traditional climbing. Nuts are small pieces of metal that are wedged into cracks in the rock to provide an anchor for the climber’s rope. Nuts are lightweight and versatile, making them a popular choice for many climbers.


Hexes, short for hexentric nuts, are a type of climbing protection that is similar to nuts but has a hexagonal shape. Hexes are designed to fit into irregularly shaped cracks in the rock and provide a secure anchor for the climber. Hexes are often used in conjunction with cams and nuts to create a solid protection system while climbing.

Advanced Traditional Climbing Terms


In traditional climbing, a runout refers to a section of the climb where the distance between protection placements is significant. This can result in a riskier climb as a fall during a runout could lead to a longer fall distance. Experienced climbers must carefully assess the runout sections of a climb and make strategic decisions to ensure safety.


A whipper is a term used to describe a significant fall taken by a climber. This can occur when a climber falls a considerable distance before the rope catches them, resulting in a dramatic swinging motion. Whipper falls can be both thrilling and daunting, and climbers must be prepared for the possibility of taking a whipper when traditional climbing.


A screamer is a type of fall where the rope absorbs a significant amount of the impact force, resulting in a loud, high-pitched scream-like noise. This type of fall can be intense and is often unexpected. Climbers must be aware of the potential for a screamer fall and be prepared to react quickly and effectively to minimize the impact.

Safety Equipment and Techniques

When it comes to traditional climbing, safety should always be a top priority. Understanding the necessary safety equipment and techniques is crucial for a successful climb.


An anchor is a crucial piece of equipment in traditional climbing. It is used to secure the climber in place and prevent a fall. Anchors can be made from a variety of materials such as bolts, cams, nuts, or slings. Proper placement and assessment of anchors are essential for a safe climb.


Belaying is the technique used to protect a climber in case of a fall. The belayer is responsible for controlling the rope to catch the climber if they slip. There are various belaying techniques such as dynamic belaying, where the rope is allowed to stretch to absorb the force of a fall, and static belaying, where the rope remains taut.


Rappelling is the technique used to descend from a climb. It involves using a rope and a rappel device to lower oneself down the rock face. Proper rappelling technique is essential to prevent accidents and ensure a safe descent.

By understanding and mastering these safety equipment and techniques, traditional climbers can enjoy their climbs with confidence and peace of mind.


In conclusion, understanding the traditional climbing lingo is essential for anyone looking to delve into the world of climbing. By familiarizing yourself with the terminology used by climbers, you will not only be able to communicate effectively with other climbers but also enhance your overall climbing experience. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned climber, knowing these terms will help you navigate the climbing community with confidence and ease. So, next time you hit the crag, make sure to brush up on your climbing lingo and impress your climbing buddies with your knowledge of the sport.