The Colossal Collection of Climbing Terms

Rock and mountain climbing is a hugely popular sport around the world. Climbing enthusiasts get a thrill out of attempting to ascend any high peak or cliff available to them. To further practice their climbing skills or to engage in climbing activities in locations where there are no mountains, climbers often turn to indoor climbing gyms. Like many sports, climbing has its own terminology that allows for easy communication of climbing information such as gear, locations, and techniques.

Abseil, to – To lower oneself down a mountain or rock wall with a double rope coiled around the body.

Anchor – A way of attaching the climber, the rope, or a load to rock, ice, or other materials. The purpose of an anchor is typically to stop a fall or to hold a static load.

Arete – A narrow, horizontal ridge.

Belay, to – The process of controlling the amount of rope available to a climber. Belaying reduces how far a climber could fall.

Buttress – The part of a mountain or rock that is in front of the main mountain face.

Chimney – A wide crack where the climber has to place their entire body inside the crack to climb up it.

Chipped hold – A hold created with a hammer and chisel.

Cirque – A deep and steep-walled basin of a mountain.

Clove hitch – An easily adjustable climbing knot that is most often used to tie the rope into a karabiner.

Descender – A device which assists in safely descending a rope.

Edging – To step on a foot hold with the side of the foot.

Etrier – A webbing ladder that is used to aid climbing.

Fall Factor – A term that refers to the length of a fall divided by the amount of rope paid out.

Fifi Hook – An open hook that is used to allow easy clipping during aid climbing.

Free Climbing – A type of rock climbing in which the climber uses only hands, feet, and other parts of the body to ascend. In free climbing no artificial aids are used except to insure against falls.

Gully – A narrow, rocky valley or channel with steep sides that is made by a fast flowing stream.

HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema) – Medical condition consisting of swelling of the brain due to cell death and fluid increase. It is considered the most serious form of altitude sickness.

HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) – Medical condition consisting of fluid build-up in the lungs. It can progress to HACE if a descent is not immediate.

Ice axe – A device that is used in ice climbing and glacier crossing.

Ice screw – A device used in ice climbing that resembles a large bolt and can be placed into hard ice.

Jumar – A brand or type of rope equipment for ascending.

Karabiner – A connector that can be made from aluminum or steel and can be locking or non-locking.

Kernmantle rope – Climbing rope that consists of bundles of nylon filaments surrounded by a braided sheath.

Locking biner – A type of karabiner that is able to be locked.

Lock-off – Term that refers to holding onto the rock with one arm bent while using the other arm to reach up to the next hold.

Munter hitch – A type of knot used in belaying.

Nut Key or Nut Tool – A piece of metal used for removing nuts or cams that are stuck.

Overhand knot – A simple knot in a double rope.

Overhand loop – A simple knot that forms a fixed loop in a rope.

Prusik – Term that refers to a sliding knot or a method used to ascend a rope.

Quickdraw – A quick, short sling that contains karabiners on either side.

Rack – The climbing gear that is carried during an ascent.

R.D.S. (Rapid Deceleration Syndrome) – Term to describe the effects of falling from a great height.

Short Roping – A technique where two climbers are tied close together toward the middle of the rope, and the rest of the rope is in a coil positioned over the shoulders.

Summit, to – Term that means to reach the summit. In climbing competitions it refers to holding the last hold on the route for the designated duration.

Threaded Overhand – A solid type of knot that is also known as a water knot or tape knot. It is a re-threaded overhand knot used on tape/webbing.

Undercling – An awkward type of hold that typically requires lieback moves.

Verglas – A term that refers to thin water ice found on rocks.

Weighting – A test of putting weight on a piece of pro after placing it.

Z-Pulley System – A type of rope setup that allows one to hoist heavy weights with relatively little force.

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