Our guide to useful rock climbing terms
Rock Climbing: A type of climbing that involves ascending rock formations, often using climbing gear such as ropes, harnesses, and anchors.
Rock climbing can be a dangerous sport if you don’t know the proper safety procedures and communication can be critical to safety. Make sure you are aware of the following rock climbing phrases before you attempt to climb:
If you are keen to try rock climbing for the first time then check out our Rock Climbing sessions
Important rock climbing phrases
Buddy Check: Before you start climbing it’s important to do a buddy check. This involved checking each other’s harness, knots, ropes, helmet and carabiners are all attached, and secure and everything is ready for the other person to climb.
“On belay” or “On belay, climb when ready” This is said by the belayer in order to let the climber know that they are ready and the climber can begin climbing.
“Climbing!” This is said by the climber as they begin their ascent and is said in response to “On Belay”
“Take!” This is shouted by the climber to their belayer in order to indicate that they would like to take a break or are about to fall off.
“Slack” This is shouted by the climber if they want more slack in the rope. This could be because the belayer has the belay plate locked off and is not paying attention.
“Safe” This should only be shouted by the climber when they are securely attached to the belay point and ready for the belayer to be taken off. This is a safe word in climbing and should only be used when the climber is secure and fastened to the belay.
“Off belay” This is shouted by the belayer to let the climber know they are no longer being belayed. This must only happen after the climber has called “Safe”
The climber then gets himself and becomes the belayer and the belayer becomes the climber. Then the calls are repeated again starting with “On belay”
These few rock climbing phases above will be enough to know if you are heading out climbing and will keep you safe. The phrases below are not critical to having a good time on the rock, but knowing them can be useful when talking about climbing or your friend is telling you to “Dyno to that Jug”
Types of Rock Climbing
- Aid Climbing: A type of rock climbing in which the climber uses gear to assist in the ascent, such as pitons, bolts, and ladders. (i.e. they place and climb ladders rather than the rock)
- Free Climbing: A type of rock climbing in which the climber uses only their natural strength and agility to make progress up the route and only climbs the rock (i.e. no points of aid are used).
- Free soloing: rock climbing without the use of ropes or other protection, typically done on routes that are difficult and require advanced technical skills. (see also Free Solo Movie)
- Sport Climbing: A type of rock climbing that emphasizes physical strength and endurance, typically done on routes with pre-placed protection in the form of permanent bolts.
- Trad climbing: A type of rock climbing that emphasizes adventure and exploration, typically done on routes without pre-placed protection. The lead climber places nuts which are then removed by a second climber
- Bouldering: a form of rock climbing that is performed without the use of ropes or harnesses generally on boulders or short climbing routes
Useful rock climbing phrases
- Abseiling: a descent from a cliff or rock face using a rope. (in USA Rappelling)
- Aider: a device used in rock climbing to assist in the ascent.
- Aid Climbing
- Arete: a sharp ridge of rock formed by two faces of a mountain or cliff
- Anchor: a device or point of attachment used to secure a rope during climbing.
- Belaying: the process of controlling a rope during climbing, lowering or abseiling.
- Belay device: a mechanical device used to control the rope during belaying.
- Bight: a loop of rope formed by doubling back the end of the rope.
- Bolt: A metal anchor that is drilled or hammered into the rock to provide protection for the climber
- Boulder: a large piece of rock that has fallen from a mountainside or cliff
- Cairn: a pile of rocks used as a marker or to mark a trail. Historically cairns were burial mounds for important local people such as village chiefs.
- Camming device: a mechanical device used in rock climbing that expands to fit into a crack and can be rotated to provide protection.
- Carabiner: a metal loop with a spring-loaded gate, used for attaching ropes and other gear to anchors.
- Chalk: a substance used by climbers to keep their hands dry and improve grip.
- Chimney: a crack in the rock face that is wide enough to allow a climber to ascend by wedging their body between the walls
- Clean climbing: completing a route without falls or rests.
- Crimp: a type of grip used in rock climbing, typically involving placing the tips of the fingers in a small indentation and using the strength of the fingers to hold on.
- Daisy chain: a length of webbing with loops sewn into it, used for attaching gear to a harness.
- Dyno: a move in bouldering or climbing in which the climber leaps from one hold to another.
- Figure-eight knot: a type of knot often used in rock climbing and other activities where a loop is required.
- Flash: to complete a route on the first try with no falls after having received beta, or information about the route.
- Gear: the equipment used in rock climbing, including ropes, carabiners, and other hardware.
- Harness: a piece of equipment worn by climbers that attaches them to a rope.
- Jug: a large, easy-to-hold on to rock climbing hold.
- Jugging: the process of ascending a fixed rope, typically using a mechanical device such as a jumar.
- Lead climbing: a type of rock climbing in which the climber attaches themselves to a rope and climbs first, with their belayer holding the other end of the rope and providing support.
- Munter hitch/Italian Hitch: a type of knot that can be used to belay or rappel.
- Nut tool: a tool used for removing protection from cracks in the rock.
Onsight: to complete a route on the first try with no falls and without prior knowledge of the route
- Overhang: a section of rock that projects out from the wall at an angle, typically greater than 90 degrees.
- Piton: a metal spike that is driven into a crack in the rock and used for protection.
- Project: a route that a climber is working on but has not yet been able to complete
- Prusik: a knot that can be used to ascend a rope or as a safety device.
- Pumped: the sensation of fatigue in the arms caused by repeatedly contracting the muscles while climbing.
- Rappelling: a descent from a cliff or rock face using a rope. (US term – Abseiling in the UK)
- Redpoint: to complete a route after having fallen on it multiple times
- Send: to successfully complete a route, often used as a verb (“I sent that project”).
- Slab: a type of rock climbing that involves climbing across a rock face that is less than vertical (i.e. not overhanging).
- Slackline: a tightrope that is not tensioned and is used for balance training, acrobatics, and slacklining
- Soloing: rock climbing without the use of ropes or other protection, typically done when the route is familiar to the climber or considered to be easy
- Sport climbing: a type of rock climbing that uses permanent anchors (bolts) rather than removable protection (nuts).
- Top roping: a type of rock climbing in which the rope runs through an anchor at the top of the route.
- Trad climbing: a type of rock climbing that uses traditional gear such as nuts and cams.
- Traverse: a type of rock climbing in which the climber moves horizontally across the face of the rock, rather than vertically
- Wire/Nut/Wallnut/Set of Rocks: A metal wedge that is placed in a rock crack to protect the climber in a fall.