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The Climber’s Dictionary

September 09, 2015

  • by
  • Lydia Tanner

Every culture has its own language. If you’ve spent any time at your local climbing gym or crag, you’re well aware that the jargon specific to climbing is especially colorful. Use this guide to communicate with everyone from dirt bags to sponsored climbers and they’ll start to accept you as one of their own. 

Alpine Start- Starting your day in the wee hours of the morning. 
Used in a sentence: “No more drinks, alpine start tomorrow!”

Abseil- French for rappelling. 
Used in a sentence: “Don’t forget to knot your rope ends on this absiel!”

Arete- A corner of rock. Sometimes called a prow as on a ship. 
Used in a sentence: “Just layback that arete and double the power.”

Aspect- The cardinal direction your objective faces. 
Used in a sentence: “My project is a south aspect, so it’ll get lots of sun.”

Barn Door- Swinging out from a wall on two points of contact. 
Used in a sentence: “Man, I keep barn dooring the crux!”


Image via Lorenzo Tlacaelel

Bivy- Sleeping outside (referencing a bivouac).
Used in a sentence: “I wish we hadn’t bivied in this blizzard.”

Bump: To move your hand or foot to a hold directy above the one it’s on.
Used in a sentence: “Bump your right hand to that sloper.”

Choss- Loose rock  
Used in a sentence: “I’m crying because it’s a total choss-fest up there”

Crux- The hardest part of the climb. Also can be used to describe anything hard in life. 
Used in a sentence: “Man, I was totally cruxing in the coffee line.” 

Deck- The ground. Or hitting the ground. 
Used in a sentence: “Better clip that bolt before you deck!”


Image via Eric Schmuttenmaer

Dry-Tool- Using ice tools and crampons to climb rock, or any surface that isn’t ice ( a controversial means). 
Used in a sentence: “Made that overhang by dry-tooling.”

Elvis Leg- When you become so consumed by fear (or dehydration) that your leg jumps up and down like Elvis. Also called sewing machine leg. 
Used in a sentence: “I knew I was in trouble when I got Elvis Leg on the approach.”

Euro Death Knot- A ridiculously simple and effective double overhand knot, used to tie two ropes together for a rappel. 
Used in a sentence: “Are you sure this Euro Death knot will work?”

Flapper- A flap of skin that’s become disconnected from your hand. 
Used in a sentence: “Think this flapper will help me get a date?”

Flash- To climb a route cleanly on the first attempt after receiving beta (route information) of some sort. 
Used in a sentence: “I totally flashed that V1.”


Image via McKay Savage

Glissade- To purposely slide on snow, normally standing while balanced by an ice axe. 
Used in a sentence: “I forgot my skis and had to glissade down”

Gripped- Scared. 
Used in a sentence: “I tried to watch ‘The Ring’ but I got too gripped.”

Gumby- An inexperienced or dangerous climber. 
Used in a sentence: “This crag is swarming with gumbies!”

Hangdog- To progress upwards with many rests on the rope. 
Used in a sentence: “I had to hangdog my way up that route.”

HighBall- A tall or especially heady boulder problem. 
Used in a sentence: “She specializes in HighBalls.”

Jug- A deep, sure hold that you want to grab. 
Used in a sentence: “He only likes jug-hauls.”

On-Sight- To climb a route cleanly with no beta. 
Used in a sentence: “Did you on-sight it, bro?”

Pitch- Technically one rope length (50-60m) or the space between belay anchors. 
Used in a sentence: “I have to climb 30 pitches for my birthday.”

Protection- Any piece of gear that limits the distance you fall. Can refer to trad gear, places to put trad gear, or places to clip. 
Used in a sentence: “That route looks terrifying, there’s no pro.”

Pump- When your arms hulk up as a result of gripping holds. 
Used in a sentence: “Bro, look at how pumped I am.”

Mad Rock Concorde Express Quickdraw

Quickdraw- Two non-locking carabineers connected with a ‘dogbone’ piece of webbing. Used mostly in sport climbing. 
Used in a sentence: “How many quickdraws do I need for this route?”

Redpoint- to climb a route cleanly after making previous attempts. 
Used in a sentence: “Today I’m going to redpoint that project.”

Rack- A collection of trad gear, including cams, friends, nuts etc. 
Used in a sentence: “Grab your rack and let’s roll.”

Sandbag- When an area or route’s description belies its difficulty. 
Used in a sentence: “This area is totally sandbagged, I’ve been falling all day.”

Send- To finish a route without falling or resting on the rope. 
Used in a sentence: “What a send!”

Spray- To give unsolicited beta or exaggerated accounts of one’s accolades. 
Used in a sentence: “I thought he was a nice guy, but then he started spraying.”

Thrutching- Moving up by any means possible, elegant or not. 
Used in a sentence: “You’ll have to just thrutch your way through that chimney.”

Tufa- A rib of limestone coveted by climbers who like pinches. 
Used in a sentence: “Go for that tufa, and then for that other tufa!”

Whipper- A long fall while leading a pitch. 
Used in a sentence: “Take! I’m about to whip!”

Yard- To pull yourself up the rope, often with the help of a belayer. 
Used in a sentence: “Just yard up to the crux and try it again!

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