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This Is The Best Climbing Terminology Guide

woman with red hair looking up at a climbing wall

Venturing into the world of rock climbing can be thrilling, but the unique jargon might leave you scratching your head. Whether you’re scaling an indoor wall or tackling outdoor routes, understanding climbing terminology is crucial for a safe and enjoyable experience. This guide aims to decode the climbing lingo, helping you feel confident and prepared to enjoy the sport.

The Essentials of Climbing Terminology

This blog will walk you through essential climbing terms, from basic phrases used in the gym to advanced terminology for outdoor adventures. You’ll learn the language of climbers, ensuring you can communicate effectively with fellow enthusiasts and enhance your overall climbing experience. By the end, you’ll be well-versed in climbing jargon, ready to tackle any route with confidence.

Basic Climbing Terms


A crag is a steep or rugged cliff or rock face, often used to describe outdoor climbing areas. When climbers refer to heading to the crag, they mean they’re going to an outdoor climbing location. Crags can vary significantly in size and difficulty, providing options for climbers of all levels.


A route is a specific path up a rock face that a climber follows. Routes are usually rated by difficulty and may have specific names given by those who first ascended them. Indoor climbing gyms often colour-code routes to indicate their level of difficulty, making it easier for climbers to choose appropriate challenges.


In bouldering, a problem is a short climbing route or sequence of moves. Problems are designed to challenge the climber’s technique, strength, and problem-solving skills. Unlike traditional climbing routes, bouldering problems are typically only a few metres high, allowing climbers to attempt difficult moves without the need for ropes or harnesses.


To belay means to manage the rope for a climber, ensuring their safety by controlling the rope to catch them if they fall. A belayer is the person performing this task. Belaying is a critical skill in climbing, requiring attention and trust between the climber and the belayer. There are various belaying techniques and devices, each suited for different types of climbing.

Intermediate Terms


The crux of a climb is the most difficult section of the route. Climbers often discuss the crux to strategise how to tackle the hardest part of their climb. Identifying and overcoming the crux can be a major achievement and often determines the overall difficulty rating of the route.


Beta refers to information or tips about a climbing route. This can include advice on handholds, footholds, and sequences of moves that make the climb easier or more efficient. Beta can be shared verbally, through guidebooks, or even via videos, helping climbers prepare for and complete challenging routes.


A jug is a large, easily gripped hold, often found on beginner-friendly routes. These holds are easy to grip like a jug handle, hence the name! Jugs provide a solid grip and are usually the most comfortable holds to use. They are ideal for resting or making big moves and are commonly used in warm-up routes or easy climbs.


A sloper is a hold with a sloping surface, requiring the climber to use friction rather than a firm grip to stay on the wall. Slopers are challenging and test a climber’s balance and technique. Successfully using slopers often involves subtle body positioning and a keen sense of balance.


A crimp is a very thin edge that’s only big enough for the tips of your fingers. By getting your body weight closer to the wall, you can get a better angle on this tiny hold and you’ll have a better chance of staying connected to it but you’ll also need strong fingers.


A dyno (short for dynamic move) is a powerful, explosive movement where the climber leaps to grab a distant hold. Dynos require strength, precision, and courage. They are often seen in bouldering and sport climbing, adding an element of athleticism and excitement to the climb.

Advanced Climbing Terms


To redpoint a route means to climb it from start to finish without falling or resting on the rope, after having practised and learned the moves. It’s a significant achievement for climbers. The term originates from the practice of marking a successful ascent with a red dot in a climbing guidebook.


To flash a route is to successfully climb it on the first attempt without prior practice or falls, often with some prior knowledge or beta about the route. Flashing a route combines skill, strength, and strategy, and is considered a notable accomplishment in the climbing community.


An on-sight climb is one where the climber successfully completes the route on the first attempt without any prior information or beta. It’s one of the most respected accomplishments in climbing. On-sighting requires the ability to read the rock or wall and make quick decisions, showcasing the climber’s experience and adaptability.


When climbers say they’re pumped, they’re referring to the intense fatigue and buildup of lactic acid in their forearm muscles from gripping holds. This feeling can make it difficult to continue climbing and is a common challenge, especially on long or difficult routes.

Climbing Equipment and Gear


A harness is a critical piece of safety equipment that secures a climber to the rope. It consists of waist and leg loops and is used in conjunction with a belay device. Harnesses come in various styles, each designed for different types of climbing, such as sport, trad, or ice climbing.


A carabiner is a metal loop with a spring-loaded gate used to connect components in climbing systems. Carabiners come in different shapes and sizes, including locking and non-locking varieties, and are essential for securing ropes, belay devices, and other gear.


A quickdraw is a set of two carabiners connected by a piece of webbing, used to attach the climbing rope to protection points on the route. Quickdraws are crucial for sport climbing, allowing climbers to clip the rope to bolts as they ascend.


Climbers use chalk to keep their hands dry and improve their grip on holds. Chalk is usually stored in a small bag attached to the climber’s harness or waist and can be applied to the hands as needed during a climb.

Climbing Techniques


Smearing is a technique where the climber uses the friction between their shoe and the rock surface to maintain balance and ascend. This technique is often used on slab climbs or when footholds are minimal.


A mantle is a move where the climber pushes down on a hold to lift their body up and over it, similar to getting out of a swimming pool without using a ladder. This technique requires upper body strength and precise body positioning. Imagine trying to climb onto the mantle piece above you fire, that’s where the name comes from.


Edging involves placing the edge of the climbing shoe on a small foothold, using the shoe’s stiffness and the climber’s balance to stand on tiny features. Edging is essential for technical climbs with small holds.


Flagging is a technique where the climber uses their free leg to counterbalance their body, improving stability and control. This move is particularly useful on overhanging routes or when reaching for distant holds.


Decoding climbing jargon is essential for anyone looking to immerse themselves fully in the climbing community. Understanding these terms not only enhances your communication with fellow climbers but also improves your ability to navigate and enjoy the sport. From the basic lingo of crags and routes to the advanced terminology of dynos and on-sights, being fluent in climbing jargon equips you with the knowledge to tackle any challenge.

As you continue your climbing journey, remember that learning the language is just the beginning. 

Ready to put your newfound knowledge to the test? Check out Awesome Walls UK | Awesome Walls Ireland.