The long awaited Glossary of Climbing Terms

First, I found an Australian site that does a pretty good job of capturing a lot of terms and their appropriate uses (some even with examples), but it is very Australian centric.  Therefore, I have taken the liberty of using it as a base and modifying it to capture or clarify terms that Americans may not understand. Note, references to terms in my clarification can be cited back to the chockstone definitions. I’ve also used the second reference to fill in some gaps from the chockstone list.  Undefined terms in this list usually reference back to the chockstone list.
And a few terms I borrowed from
The following are my modifications:
  • Anchor – protection found at the top of a climb in the form of chains attached to bolts or double ring bolts.  Also can be established by the use of climbing devices to create a reliable and safe arrangement of gear from which to belay.
  • Back Clean – A method of removing protection from a pitch that has already been climbed either for use in upper pitches or as a way to remove all gear from a climb when a climb has no anchor point at the top
  • Back Clip –  An improper method of clipping a carabiner where the rope has a higher likelyhood of unclipping itself
  • Bail Biner – carabiner left behind on a hanger because a climber could not continue to the anchors. the bail biner then becomes bootie for the next climbing party.
  • Bite – Bend in the rope
  • Bumblie – An Australian term for a beginner climber. Newbie is another example. Can’t think of an american specific term offhand. 
  • Burly – powerful or strenuous
  • Classic – a term used to indicate the climb has obtained a reknowned status, locally, nationally or globally. Classics are ‘must do’ climbs.
  • Clipping – a signal called by the climber to indicate to the belayer that they should feed out slack because the climber is about to take up the extra rope to clip into a carabiner on a quickdraw. this signal is usually useful when the belayer’s veiw of the climber is obstructed (belaying under a roof, for example).
  • Cordelette – 6-8mm cord typically used for equalizing anchors
  • Flag – a move in which a foot is placed off to one side, not necessarily on a hold, to prevent barn dooring
  • Gaston – opposite of side pulling, where the climber uses a hold by pushing away from themselves to the side usually with bent arms
  • Grade – Difficulty of a climb, see Rating.
  • Heel Hooking – placing your heel on a hold and using it for leverage or balance, typically encountered on steep routes with roofs
  • Harness – Chockstone’s definition is fine. Nappy refers to a diaper in their explanation.
  • Heinous – extremely difficult or dangerous
  • Kneebar – knee-foot counterpress (with one leg), such as between two stalagtites on an overhanging climb, that may allow a climber to let go with one or both hands and rest
  • Rating – Also referred to as a grade for a climb. There are several rating systems in use in the world. America uses the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) (5.0 – 15a) where the first number in the YDS designates the class of the climb (always "5" for free climbs), while the second number defines the difficulty. Australians use the Ewbanks system that starts at difficulty level 1 and continues numerically increasing by 1 to the current max of 34. For a complete mapping of the various rating systems used, check out the comparison table at the bottom of the page at  Note, matching of grades across systems is approximate.
  • Scumming – A method of progressing up the rock while using some part of the body other than the hands and feet frictioned against the rock to assist in the progress. For example, hip scumming, butt scumming.
  • Send – the act of redpointing a climb



About Audrey Sniezek

Audrey Sniezek is a rock climbing athlete and computer software/technology enthusiast.
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