Climbing Terms

There are a number of terms that people use when climbing. The following list of climbing terms should hopefully be helpful in understanding what we are talking about when you go climbing.

Climbing Vocabulary

Aid climbing: Using gear to hold a climbers weight as they go up a wall. You use the gear to hold yourself or to pull yourself up the rock.

Anchor: In rock climbing an anchor is what you set up at the top of a climb so that you can begin climbing.

ATC: ATC is a simple device that has two holes on it for the rope to go through and it has a line so that you can connect it to a carabiner. You will use the ATC to manage the rope as you pull it in and let it out.

Belay: To attach a rope to a rock or heavy object. In rock climbing we use the word belay to describe the system that we use to keep people safe while they climb.

Belay Loop: The loop on a harness that is in the front. Carabiners and other pieces of metal gear will go here.

Belayer: The person who will be pulling the rope in as the climber goes up a climb so that the climber will be safe.

Big Wall Climbing: Climbing a longer route that requires multiple pitches to climb. Big wall climbs can take several days to do.

Bolt: A bolt is a piece of gear that is inserted into the rock. You can attach your gear to the bolts to help you climb up the rock. Some bolts, like this one will also have some metal rings that are attached to it.

Bouldering: Climbing at low heights without a rope.

Butterfly Coil: An efficient method for coiling a rope

Brake Position: Holding the rope in the position so that the rope will not go through it.

Carabiner: A carabiner is a metal loop with a gate that can open and close. Carabiners are used to hold ropes and slings.

Chalk: Material that you use to keep your hands dry while climbing.

Chalk Bag: A bag that can hold your chalk while you climb.

Chalk Ball: A ball full of chalk that goes in your chalk bag. Some climbers use the ball so they can hold the ball and get a bunch of chalk at once.

Cleaning: Removing an anchor from the rock so that none of your gear remains when you leave.

Climb Length: How long a climb is. This information can be found in guidebooks.

Climber: The person who is climbing.

Climbing Commands: The initial commands that a belayer and a climber will say before a climber goes up the climb:

  • Climber: On Belay?
  • Belayer: Belay’s on
  • Climber: Climbing
  • Belayer: Climb on”

Clove Hitch: A simple hitch to secure a rope to a carabiner. Both sides of the rope can be weighted after the hitch is tied.

Crash Pads: A pad to protect a bolderer if they fall.

Double Back: Tying off webbing so that it goes back through the buckle in order to make sure that your harness won’t loosen while climbing.

Equalized: When the load is shared equally between the pieces that connect an anchor to the wall.

Equalized Anchor: A climbing anchor that has a very fixed master point on it (usually created by a knot in the sling)

Falling: The command that a climber yells to their belayer to let them know that they are falling.

Figure 8: The basic knot used for tying a climber into the rope.

Fisherman’s Knot (Single, Double, Triple): A knot (based on the overhand knot) that ties two ropes together. It is the strongest method to tie two ropes together.

Footholds: Cracks, ledges or textured parts of the rock that you can put your feet on to help you get up the rock.

Free Climbing: Climbing by using the rock to climb up. Free climbing does not use artificial aids to get you up the rock, but you can still use gear for safety (you’re just not pulling on the gear to get up).

Free Solo: Climbing high without a rope.

Gear: The equipment that you use while climbing (ropes, harnesses, helmets, cams, etc.).

Gollum Style: Climbing without shoes.

Good/Bad vs Time: To help me use hold’s I might not normally use, I tend to think of a hold in terms of time; how long can I use this particular hold. This opens up opportunities that I might not have taken if I thought of a hold as “good or bad.”

Guidebooks: Books that you can use to find climbing routes.

Handholds: Cracks, ledges or textured parts of the rock that you can put your hands on to help you get up the rock.

Harness: The piece of webbing that you wear around your waist to tie into the climbing rope.

Helmet: Head protection to keep your head safe when you fall.

Holds (Handholds and Footholds): Cracks, ledges or textured parts of the rock that you can put your hands or feet on to help you get up the rock.

Lead Climbing: Putting in gear into the rock as you are climbing up the wall.

Leg Loops: The two tings on a harness that goes around the each leg.

Locking Carabiner: A locking carabiner is a metal loop with a gate that can open and close. These carabiners have the ability to lock the gate of the carabiner so that it will only open when it is unlocked.

Lowering: Having a belayer lower a climber down the rock. What a climber says when they are ready to be lowered from a rock.

Magic X: Putting a twist in one strand of a sling connecting two pieces of protection. Doing this prevents a catastrophic fail of an anchor if one piece of gear falls out.

Master Point: The lower point on the anchor. Climbers place their carabiners in it to set up a top rope.

Multi-Pitch: Climbing up a wall using multiple belay stations. This allows the climbing group to go higher than they can with one length of rope.

Quick Draw: Two carabiners on a sling. Climbers will use this when sport climbing.

Reinforced Tie in Points: The top and bottom loops on the harness that the belay loop is attached to. We use these points to tie ropes and tethers to the harness.

Rappelling: Lowering yourself ad you descend from a rock. Also called abseiling.

Resole: Repairing rock climbing shoes when they are worn out. A Typical resole can cost you around $45.

Rock Climbing: A sport where you climb up rocks, usually with specific types of gear.

Rope: The piece of line that is connected to the belayer and climber while climbing. People will also yell “rope” before throwing a rope down the rock so that people down below know that someone is throwing the rope down.

Rope Backpack: A method of attaching the rope to someone’s back so that it is easy for them to carry it.

Self-Equalized Anchor: An anchor with a movable master point that ca be adjusted depending upon where the load is on the anchor.

Simul Climbing:  A style where climbers “move together”, a risky but speedy technique. Both leader and second move at the same time without stopping to belay.

Slack: What a climber says when they want the belayer to loosen the rope a bit.

Sling: A sling is a piece of webbing that is used in climbing for a variety of reasons, including setting up anchors.

Smart Rock Climbing: A rock climbing training website that feature videos to train people how to climb. Smart is an acronym for Safety, Mechanics, Atmosphere, Recreation, and Techniques.

Solo Climbing: Climbing without the assistance of a partner. There are several ways to solo climb including top rope solo, lead solo, and free solo.

Sport Climbing: Lead climbing by attaching quickdraws to bolts while going up a wall.

Spotters: Someone protecting a boulderer while they climb.

Tension: What a climber says when they want the rope to be taken in by the belayer so there is more tension in the rope.

Top Rope: Setting up the anchor before climbing. Usually hiking to the anchor.

Traditional (Trad) Climbing: Climbing by placing gear in cracks as you climb.

Universal Size Chart: The chart that will help you find the right show size for you.

Waist Belt: The top portion of the harness that goes around the waist.


As we make more videos, we will continue to add terms to this list. Comment below to share about any terms that you might find confusing in rock climbing.

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