Popular Rock Climbing Terms, Explained

Rock climbing can be a bit intimidating, but how you prepare for your first class doesn’t have to be! Half the battle of having a successful climbing session is understanding the lingo and being able to execute movements safely. This glossary of terms covers the basics you’ll hear regularly during class.


Accessory Cord: A rope that is not your climbing rope. 

Aid Climbing: This is common in most rock climbing gyms. This refers to any equipment that is used to help in your ascent, like: foot slings, fixed bolts, etc.

Anchor: This refers to the point at which your climbing rope is attached. It’s comprised of slings, runners and the rope itself.


Belay: To keep a climber from falling too fast, friction is applied on the rope through an apparatus. This includes the rope itself, anchors and the belay device itself.

Belayer: This refers to the person that will be helping you not to fall while you’re mid-climb.

Bottleneck: A crack with converging sides on the climbing wall.

Bouldering: Climbing with no ropes, very close to the ground. This technique is used to practice traverses, foot and hand placements, and weight transfers. This is a great place to start for newcomers!


Carabiner: A metal loop with a spring loaded gate that is used to connect various parts of the climbing system.

Crack: A break in the wall, either very slim or wide.

Crux: The toughest sequence and moves of your climb.


Dihedral: Two planes of a rock wall that intersect. It’s an inside corner where you can apply counter pressure to climb.


Edging: Standing on small edges or footholds with the edges of your climbing shoes, not the soles.


Free Climb: Climbing only with your hands and feet. The rope is only used for safety. This is the opposite of an aid climb.


Jam: To wedge a body part in a crack in order to put weight on it and move upward.

Jug: Large, easily gripped hold. It can also mean climbing up a fixed rope using an ascender.


Leg Loops: The part of your harness that goes around the upper legs. It’s typically attached to the waist belt.


Passive Protection: This refers to any gear that is used that’s not attached to your rope. Think: wedges, hexentrics, etc. Anything that you can wedge into a crack to use as leverage on your climb.


Quickdraw: A runner that is used to attach a rope to a bolted anchor with carabiners.


Rack: The selection of gear chosen for your climb.

Rand: The upper rubber strip running around the edge of your climbing shoe.


Smear: This refers to a climbing technique in which the sole of the shoe, plus proper weight over the feet, provides traction for moving upward.

Solo: To climb alone without protection.


Whipper: A long fall.

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