Climbing is known to have a friendly community, each gym having distinct characteristics and qualities. With culture comes its own language. It's hard to keep track of all the technical terms at first, but it gets easier once you go along. But when you climb outside your usual scene, the terminology may differ. Especially when encountering climbers from other countries!
You can actually hear some of the slang more often than others. “Allez! Allez!” is one of the most famous, with some world renowed climbers even using the term as their Instagram handle like allezjain. “Come on!” is common since it’s English and a generally accepted motivational phrase.
Few climbing terms
Anchor - set up of min. 2 bolts at the end of a pitch designated for belaying or rapelling down. Often connected together with a chain.
Ascent - an action of climbing an entire route or a boulder
Belaying - an act of operation a rope while the other person climbs. If the climber would fall, you catch his fall so he does not fall to the ground. We use belay devices attached to your harness to belay with.
Belay device - a special device that you use for belayig. It is attached to you harness with a carabiner and a rope goes through the belay device. You still need to operate the device as it is never automatic!
Beta - an information about a route. It can be in a for of a commentary or a video. It mean that you know what all the moves should be and how you should do them. Some people want to on-site their climbs, so before telling them the beta, first make sure if they want it.
Biner - Slang for “carabiner”
Cleaning - taking all pieces of equipment that were used for the ascent out, after you are done with the climb. It can be quickdraws and slings in sport climbs. It can also mean cleaning the tickmarks and chalk from the holds.
Crash pad - a small mattress used as a fall frotection for bouldering.
Crux - the most difficult section or a move in a climb. It is usually the place that you end up falling. A route can have several cruxes, aka palces that you can fall easily.
Grigri - manufactured by Petzl, it is the first known belay device with an auto-locking feature.
Kneepad - a piece of equipment used for knees that gives you more comfort / friction while using kneebars.
Morfo - a climbing move that is extremly dependant on body shape / type. It can be a very long reach that short climber can never do, or an extremly low start for a boulder where tall climber can't fit in, etc...
Multi-pitch - climb that has several pitches, usually longer than 60m, up to many hundreds of metres.
Pitch - a lenght of a climb that you climb with a single rope at once. It is usually 15-60m, being at max 1/2 the lenght of a rope. If the climb is longer, it is usually devided into multiple pitches.
Pump - “I’m pumped” refers to the pain you experience (especially at the forearms) during a longer sequence of moves. When your muscles are under a long anaerobic pressure, when not enough oxygen can get to them, we start to fell out forearm to start swelling. For climbing, this is quite unique, as this is very localized fatigue.
Rapell - action of lowering yourselve down the rope. Usually by using a rapell / belay device. This is used to clean a single-pitch route or get down a multi-pitch climb.
Runout - this refers to the rope length between the climber and its nearest piece of protection bellow the climber. When there’s a long runout, automatically the fall will be longer as well. It can be very safe, but we can start feeling unfomfortable when our mind tells us of how far the fall can get.
Types of climbing
Click here to see more in detail "Types of Climbing".
Aid climbing - a style of climbing in which standing on or pulling yourself up by devices attached to fixed or placed protection is used to make upward progress.
Alpine climbing - multipitch climbing in the mountains that incliudes an approach, alpine environment and usually trad climbing. Climbs are done within 1 day. It originated in the Alps.
Bouldering - climbing without a rope on a smaller rock formation, usually over a crash-pad. Limited number of moves often results in increased dificulty of moves.
Competition climbing - indoor climbing only, whether sport or speed climbing, or bouldering
Deep water soloing - climbing over a deep water without a rope. Water is your protection in case of a fall.
Lead climbing - a style of climbing where you climb with a rope. You climb first, meaning that you have to clip the rope into pieces of protection. Falls are at min. 2x as long as your distance from the last piece of protection.
Free climbing - a style of climbing in which you use only your body to climb. Any devices such as quickdrwas are only used as a protection in case of a fall. This is currently the most respected style of climbing and standard for sport climbing and boudlering.
Free solo climbing - climbing without a any protection. If you fall, ypou most likely die. This is done only by a marginal number of climbers on an easier climbs.
Mixed climbing - a style of climbing, where you use not only your body but also axes and crampons.
Speed climbing - and easier route where it only matters of how fast you climb. Not very popular way of climbing as for competitions, the route never changes.
Sport climbing - doing a lead-climb where the only means of protection you need to palce are quickdraws. The bolts are already pre-placed in the rock / climbing walls. Often even quickdraws are in place, so just clip a rope and climb.
Top rope climbing - a rope is already place in the top of the climb and all you have to do is follow it. This is way easier mentally as no falls can happes.
Styles of Climbing
Click here to see more in detail "Style of Climbing".
All free (AF) - you execute all the moves in the route but at least once, you use a piece of gear for a rest.
First Ascent (FA) - an action of being the first person to climb the entire route in certain style. In sport climbing, for the ascent to be recognised by other climbers as a valid ascent, you have to do in a PP or better (RP, OS, flash). You should always mention the style that you climbed the climb with.
Flash - climbing an entire route on a first try with no falls (RP or PP) but with a knowledge of moves and holds. Your friends can tell you exactly what to do ot you watch a video. But still, there is no second try.
On-sight (OS) - climbing an entire route on a first try with no falls (RP or PP) and without any previous knowledge of the beta or the holds. This is the hardest possible way of climbing a route.
Pinkpoint (PP) - same as red point, the only difference is that the gear is pre-placed in the climb, so you only have to clip the rope in. This tecnique is used for all the hardest of climbs as it it very hard to place and take out gear ifrom big overgangs and roofs. This way, it comes down to the movement itself only.
Redpoint (RP) - climbing the entire route without any fall, using gear only for clipping. While climbing, you place the gear yourself (quickdraws or more). The type of climbing was developped in Germany in Frankenjura in the 1970s and than spread all over the world as the cleanest way of climbing.
Types of holds / footholds
Clic here to see more in detail " Climbing Holds and how to Hold them".
Crack - it can be a good hold if you can jam a bodypart into the crack, from fingers to toes and fists. There is many techniques for crack climbing.
Crimp - a flat hold that you use only your fingertips to hold, it can be used with 1 to 4 fingers and it's up to 4cm deep.
Edge - a flat hold that is deeper tha a crimp. You start using the edge of the hold with your palm as well.
Flake - a long piece of rock that has an edge and is visibly sticking out from the rock and looks simmilar to a crack. It is usually a good hold.
Gaston - a kind of grip which involves pushing a hold instead of pulling. You need to turm a palm away from you, with the thumb pointing down and the elbow out, and generate friction against the hold by pressing outward toward the elbow. Visualize it by imagining how you would pull open an elevator door.
Jam - any piece of a rick where you can jam a given part of your body.
Jug - a very good hold compared to the other holds. It can often be used for resting.
Mono - a hiold that ony one finger fits in.
No-hand rest - a resting position where you can release both hands. You can usually achieve this while having a kneebar or by standing on a ledge
Pinch - a type of hold that you have to pinch in between your fingers.
Pocket - a hold that has a slot, where one or more fingers fit in.
Rest - a position, where you stop climbing and rest. Hold is better thean the rest and it gives you some time to partinally recoved
Sloper - a flat hold that is usually smooth and rounded with shard edges. You hold it with a palm and fingers.
Undercling / undercut - any tipe of hold that is facing down. You usually have to hold it quite low and use lots of biceps to stand up.
Side-pull - any tipe of hold that is turned sideways. You have to pull from the side towards your body to put a force on it.
Tufa - a rock feature that is usually found in overhangs. It is created by condensating minerals and it is long. You usually have to pinch it. Tufas can be often combined with stalactites and other features found in caves.
Volume - an artificial big feature / hold in indoor gyms. It if often created from plywood and it makes the climbing wall more 3D. In modern climbing, it often serves as a good hold to create boulders for smearing and body balance
Barn Door - when only your same sided limbs are holding to a wall, the other side of your body is not holding to anything. This set-up forms a hinge and it can make you swing like out a barn door does. A common thing that happens to beginners or climbers that forget to have enough body tension.
Compression - two opposing holds are pressed together and thus you can stick to the wall. Those holds are often impossible to hold by themselves.
Cross - a move where your hands cross each other. If the holds are close, it is fine, but if you have to cross futher, the move can become very hard for your shoulder and coordination.
Dead-point - a dynamic movement where a hand does a long move. If you won't get the hold, you will fall. Compare to a dyno, feet stay on.
Dyno (double / tripple) - a move where you leave the wall with both legs and at least one hand at a time. It is more or less a jump. Double dyno - both hand have are moving at he same time, so you are not touching a wall at any point for a short time. Tripple (or more) dyno - after you already did a double dyno, your body keeps on moving. The hold that you jumed to is used only for a split secod as you immediatelly continue the jump for a next hold. This is extremly hard for coordiantion and is used only in competition bouldering as it is almost never done outside.
Fingerjam - jamming your fingers into a crack or a pocket.
Fistjam - jamming your fists into a crack or a pocket that is too big for fingers but too small for elbows.
Handjam - jamming your fingers and a pal. Too big a crack for fingers, too small for a fist.
Lieback / layback - if there is a vertical crack, arete or a hold, you lean against one side with the whole body and use that one side to pull agains. This is hard for biceps and upper body. Improper use of lieback leands to a barn door.
Lock-off - locking your arm in a position of 90 degrees or more and doing a move with the other hand. Locking means that the arm does not change its angle and keeps you high enough for reaching the next hold. Most of the weight is concentrated into your shoulder.
Mantel / mantle - pressing down on a ledge or boulder lip with one or both arms. You need to recruit the triceps, while you rock over your foot; short for mantelshelf. "A beached whale" is a poorly executed mantel, where you just end up doing funny small movement with your torso, not really being able to move anywhere.
Match - puthing both your hands to the same hold.
Palmpress - a move where you press away with your palm. It is usually a hold that is bellow you and you press down with a completely straight arm. All the force is going to your palm. It is mostly used for rocking over volumes.
Rose - a very hard cross move. You cross your with one hand under the other and you have to reach very, very far. So far that also your head and both shoulders have to cross under the arm theat is holding a hold. This is one of the hardest moves to do.
Shoulderpress - a move where you press away with your hand. It is usually a bigger hold that you press form and most of the force is generated by your shoulder.
Stemming - the simultaneous use of two widely spaced footholds, where you use the faces that are at an angle less than 180° to each other. This allows you to press against each other and thus stand up.
Thumbpress - a hold that is used only by your thumb to press with. You always press away from yourselve.
Static vs. Dynamic
Each climber has their own distinct style. When a person climbs statically, it usually means that they move much slower in a controlled way. This way, you reach the hold and take some time to grab it in a way that works the best. Dynamic movements usually means fast, where if you don't get the hold in a way you intended to, you fall. Dynamic climbing is more efficinent way as yo spend less time doing moves, but somewhat more risky.
Click here to see "Foot Techniques for Beginners".
Backstep - pressing of a shoe’s external edge onto a foothold with the knee dropped lightly. The purpose is to push from the position.
Bat-hang - a quirky rest position in roof climbs. You place use the top of your feet as your only contact with the wall and you hand upside down. It is used for resting as you don't hold yourselve up with your hands. Hard to get to, hard to hold. But it looks so cool, if you can do it.
Bicycle - One of the very advanced techniques for overhanging climbs. You get a footholds with both you feet and the compress it. You use one foot as usual and the other from the other side of the hold using the top of the foot. This way, you don't compress the holds with your thighs. You combine a toehook with a normal foothold.
Bridging - it's all about oppositional force. Both arms and legs should press outward on opposing faces to support your weight. Always maintain three points of contact, using your hands only to hold your body while you move your feet up. It is almost the same as stemming but in this case, it can a climbing in a chimney or so.
Dropknee - drop one knee down to th inside. This allows you to get closer to the wall and create some opposing force. If you are flexible in your knees, it was a great way of getting through some hard moves.
Flag - gaining ballance by crossing you feet in order to get balance, when the same sided leg/arm has to be used. One foot stands on a foothold, the other smears or just serves as a counter balance. This allows for gaining ballance as creating a force triangle is achieved. This technique is used when swithing feet is not a good option.
Footjam - jamming your foor somewhere and thus using a crack or a pocket as a good foothold.
Heel-toe jam - heelhook combined with a toehook. An active push with the toe increases a friction and help to lock the foot in the place.
Heelhook / heel - a heel wraps around a hold. By pulling with the heel towards your body, you create a tansion and balance is achieved. It is almost like using a side-pull with you hand but in this case, it is a foot.
High-Step - one foot is placed very high compare to the other. It is generally tougher to engage the upper foot. Rocking over the upper foot is often used to stand up.
Kneebar - pressing with the knee against a hold or a wall. An other way of description would be to to jam your foot and a knee in between two holds. If the angle is right, you can press strongly enough to release you hands and rest. This is very often used for rest positions in lead climbing. For bouldering, it often makes big difference in difficulty, whether you use a kneebar or not.
Match - getting two feet/hands together on a single hold.
Pogo - a momentum is generated by swinging one foot from side to side. This is typically used for a dyno. For example, it is done if there is no foothold for the right foot to jump from, while you want to jump to the right. This is one of the hardest coornination moves you can do in climbing.
Rock-over - placing a foot on a high hold and rocking (moving) the centre of gravity onto it. Often done by sitting on a heel.
Smearing - using only a friction between the foot and a wall as a foothold. It is done in case of non-existence of a foothold at a desired location. It works well for as long as you can put enough force on the foot = you create enough friction. At the same time, your hands have to take more pressure as well. You will be surprised of how bad footholds can be used when the smearing is done perfectly.
Stem - it's all about oppositional force. Both arms and legs should press outward on opposing faces to support your weight. Always maintain three points of contact, using your hands only to hold your body while you move your feet up.
Step through - a technique for moving sideways on the rock where both feet point in the same direction placing weight on the inside of one foot and the outside of the other.
Toehook - using the top of the foot to hold the foothold. You push with the toe towards your body in the same way you would use a sidepull for your hand. This move is usually used in roof climbing.
Have any questions about the terminology? Please don't hesitate to reach out to us!
About the author
Climbing Wall Designer and Admin
Vojtěch is a passionate sports climber and boulderer - actually he is one of the best climbers in Denmark with ascents up to 8a+ although he expects harder ascents coming soon. You can find him training or being a climbing instructor in Aarhus Climbing Club or climbing at many sport crags around Europe. Vojtěch is educated as an Architect from Czech Technica University in Prague and as a Building Engineer from Aarhus School of Science and Engineering. At Gubbies He combines his expertise in how climbing works with his architectural background.
You can contact Vojtěch on