Thursday, September 20, 2007

Understanding Climbing Terminology

"Dude, just slap up to that sloper, nail the undercling with your left and highstep up to that jib. Then dyno like a rocket!!"

Like many other sports and disciplines, climbing is filled with language that no one else could hope to understand unless they were involved with it. For the new climber this can be confusing to say the least.

Here you'll learn any term you need to know to be able to hang with the best of them. Even more important is that just like understanding words in another language help you understand the culture that it represents, knowing what these strange words mean can help you become a better climber.

While this is a good start, it is by no means comprehensive. Contributions from the climbing community are welcomed, and will be included. Eventually each term will be given its own page with images and/or videos that are linked with a searchable database. Enjoy!

General Terms

  • Bouldering: This is a type of climbing that typically involves climbing with just shoes, chalk, a pad, and sometimes a friend or group. The climbing focuses on technique and power over endurance on smaller-sized boulders ranging from 5 feet to 25+ feet.
  • Sport Climbing: This type of climbing takes place on tall rock faces and involves climbing gear like waist harness, rope, belay device, quickdraws, locking carabiners, cordelette, shoes, and chalk.
  • Trad Climbing: Short for 'traditional climbing' this type of climbing takes place on tall rock faces and usually involves a fair amount of crack climbing. Gear includes waist harness, rope, belay device, belay gloves, hand tape, assorted gear for protecting a fall, locking carabiners, cordelette, shoes, and chalk.
  • Aid Climbing: This type of climbing involves scaling tall rock faces where ascents are achieved by placing gear on the wall such that it supports the weight of the climber. Gear includes waist harness, rope, belay device, belay gloves, hand tape, assorted gear for protecting a fall, locking carabiners, cordelette, shoes, and chalk.

Types of climbing holds and moves - hands

  • Flat edge: This is a lip of rock that is usually held best by flattening the fingers along it and pulling down, or in whatever direction the edge is facing for maximum friction.

  • Sidepull: This is a lip of rock that is held best in the opposite direction the edge is facing.

  • Undercling: This rock feature is held best by turning the palm and fingers up and cupping the undercling, pulling the body into the hold and engaging the bicep for stability.

  • Sloper: This is a rounded projection or bulge of rock that must be held by initiating as much surface friction of the hand as possible. Additionally, the rest of the arm must be tucked down under the sloper (or in the opposite direction that the hand is positioned) so as to make the hold as positive as possible.

  • Jug: This is a huge hold that signifies either a good spot to rest or the finish of a climb.

  • Crimp: This hold is typified by a small edge that usually can only fit a the pad of your fingertips or less. It is held by placing the pads of however many fingers will fit on it (from 1-4), bearing down so that the fingers are arched over the hold, and then wrapping the thumb over the first joint of the index finger. This creates a 'lock' that allows for an exponential increase in holding power over the crimp.

  • Gaston: This hold is a side-pulling type of hold that must be held in a position that is similar to opening an elevator door. The elbow is held at a right-angle from the body.

  • Throw: This move involves dynamically propelling the body in the direction of a hold. It differs from a dyno in that some points of contact are still maintained during the move.

Types of climbing holds and moves – feet

  • Edge: This is a lip of rock that is best used by placing the first inch or two of climbing show toe-rubber upon it and pushing down to generate friction.

  • Slab / Slabby: This type of foothold is rounded with no edges for generating easy friction. The climber must place the foot upon it and drop the heel down as low as possible to put as much of the sticky-rubber from the climbing shoe on its surface to generate as much friction as possible.

  • Smear: This is the act of pressing the foot against a smooth surface and relying on pressure and sticky rubber to keep the foot on.
  • Toehook: This is an edge of rock that faces away from the climber and can be used to place the top of the foot (from the toe to the top of the ankle) upon. It is engaged by pulling the leg into it to create a 'hook' that will keep the body from swinging out from the wall.

  • Bicycle: This is a foot placement using both feet. It typically involves a projection of rock or a sequence of two holds that allows for pushing down on one hold, and hooking up with another to create a lock with the feet that holds the climber onto the wall.

  • Knee scum: This can occur when a climber is unable to step high enough to a foothold, such that they place their knee upon the hold to take the weight of the climber for upward progress.

  • Heel hook: This is the act of placing the heel of the shoe on a flat edge or large incut. The weight of the climber is then supported by this hook.

  • Knee bar: This move is the act of engaging the foot and knee such that the knee is braced against another hold in tandem with the foot to create a lock that holds the climber onto the wall.

  • Jib / nubbin / frontpoint: These are the terms used for very small footholds that only engage the very front edge of the climbing shoe (1 inch or less).

Climbing Slang

  • Drive-by: This move usually involves some sort of horizontal and/or diagonal dynamic shift from one handhold to another.
  • Bomber: This is a term given to either A) a piece of climbing gear that is placed in a crack such that it provides excellent protection from a fall or B) a term given to a handhold or foothold that is huge and on really solid rock (unlikely to break off).
  • Choss / Chossy: This is a term that refers to a dirty rock face or climb that is usually unaesthetically appealing. "That route was a piece of choss. I thought every hold was gonna' break off in my hands!"
  • Screamer: This term refers to a long fall on a rope.
  • Beta: This term refers to information about a route.
  • Problem: This term is used to refer to a climbing route, usually in the context of bouldering. "Did you do that problem? I can't figure it out."
  • Chopped / Chipped: This term refers to a climbing route that has been subject to manipulation by human hands. It involves creating additional holds in the rock with the use of tools to hack hand or footholds into the rock. It is a controversial act and considered unscrupulous by many climbing communities.
  • Redpoint: This is a term for the ascent of a climb after having tried the climb at least once before. "I finally redpointed my hardest climb at the end of the season."
  • V-Grade: This is the prefix given specifically to bouldering grades. It originates from the nickname given to bouldering pioneer John Sherman. He was called 'The Verminator' by many, and as such his routes were given a 'V' grade followed by a number to indicate the difficulty.
  • Crank: This is a term that means to exert strength. "Set your foot and then crank up to that next hold."
  • Crater / Deck: This is a term for falling to the ground, usually (but not always) from a dangerous height.
  • Crux: This is a term given to the most difficult part of a climb. Some climbs can have multiple cruxes.
  • Deadpoint: This is a term for grabbing a hold at the apex of upward momentum.
  • Pumped: This is a term for when a climber's forearms are full of lactic acid from exertion and feel bloated and tight.
  • Typewriter: This is a horizontal movement achieved with a shifting of the hips and is associated with traversing type moves.
  • Beached Whale: This is a body position achieved when topping out a problem whereby the climber is unable to get their feet high enough such that they flop onto the top-out onto their belly. This is the source of much amusement for the climber and watchers alike.
  • Dab: This is the term for when a part of the body touches anything else other than the rock they are climbing on (the ground, another rock, a spotter, a tree, etc.). The significance is that the act of touching that other thing momentarily takes the weight of the climber and possibly preventing a fall.
  • Flash: This refers to completing a problem on the first try, usually with information about how to do the sequence (sighting, friend's advice, watching another climber complete it, etc.). It is usually associated with bouldering.
  • Onsight: This term refers to completing a climb on the first try with no previous knowledge of the sequences involved. It is usually associated with roped climbing.



At October 1, 2007 6:57 PM , jon malmstedt said...

Here are couple mroe for ya dave:

Spray/Chuff/Spit: Bragging about one's accomplishments, or saying something is easy. Usually, the sprayer/chuffer/spitter can't back up their comments with their ability, but sometimes they can, and that is know as 'elitism.'

Terrorist Dab: A dab caused by a spotter who is standing too close - usually happens when the climber's feet swing out, thus helping to stop/controll the swing.

'piano' match: matching hands by removing one finger at a time and replacing it with a finger from the other hand.

At October 9, 2007 7:31 PM , Kimber said...

Excellent Jon! Thanks for the input. Keep thinking of more stuff to add, and link this to your buddies. I'll be consolidating and editing newer terms into the list, and then giving each term its own page, complete with text, images, and even video. This will turn the guide into a real learning tool for people.


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