Rock Climbing Terms Explained


Looking for an intense and unusual sport to try? Rock climbing is one worth considering! While it can be exciting, rock climbing can also be confusing. There are many rock climbing terms you need to learn to understand the sport better and do it safely. 

Need help understanding rock climbing terminology? Read on and we’ll let you know some of the words you need to learn. 

Rock Climbing Terminology You Need to Know 

Even when it comes to rock climbing, knowledge is power! Know your climbing terminology! 


A controlled descent that the climber makes using a fixed rope. This is similar to a technique called rappel. This climbing terminology is often used in Europe and Asia. 

Accessory Cord 

Smaller than a traditional climbing rope, it is often made of proprietary materials, including Kevlar or Spectra. It is static and has a low stretch. Accessory cords are commonly used for slings and anchors. 

Active Protection 

Any climbing protection device with moving parts usually springs. Tube chocks, sliding wedges, and camming devices are some of the most common examples. 

Aid Climbing 

Especially if you are a beginner, you will find it hard to climb without any help. Aid climbing refers to ascending with the use of a fixed or temporary gear that will help you reach the top. 


This is the point at the top of the climb where the rope attaches. It has fixed or removable protection. 


It stands for American National Standards Institute. It is an organization that enforces industrial standards to ensure top-notch quality of the products related to rock climbing and other disciplines. 


It is a 90-degree outside corner. This forms a point where two rock planes intersect. 


An action that involves pressing your rock climbing shoes into a foothold while also lightly dropping your knee. It uses the outside edge of your foot to stand on a hold. 


To secure the rope while someone else is climbing. It involves using a belaying device that creates friction to support weight and lock the rope in case of a fall. It also includes using ropes and anchors. 


A climbing terminology refers to the person who is in control of the rope connected to a climber. The belayer is responsible for ensuring the safety of the climber, making sure that he or she does not fall. 


Information or instructions are given during the climb. It can be shared in books or verbally. It is a step-by-step direction on what you need to follow to complete a climb. 


One of the rock climbing terms for a must-have protection tool. It is a spring-loaded and mechanical piece that can wedge into a crack and protect the climber from falling. 

Cambered Sole 

Advanced climbers often use shoes with cambered soles, which have an arched or curved sole. This improves the position of the foot for more precise placements. 


One of the rock climbing terms that refer to an important tool you need, is a metal loop that comes with a spring-loaded gate on its side. This will connect different items of your climbing gear. It is also vital for your protection. 


When a person enhances or creates holds during a climb. It is considered bad practice, and hence, it must be avoided. 

Chalk Bag 

A small pouch or hand-sized bag that holds chalk to keep your hands dry when you are climbing. It usually has a clip or drawstring to secure the opening and keep the chalk inside the bag. 


Similar to a fireplace chimney, it is a wide or deep crack that has enough space for you to crawl in. You need to apply opposing forces on your feet and body to enter a chimney. 


It is a bad form of climbing and one that you need to avoid. This happens when you create a boulder problem by enhancing holds. 


A climbing terminology that refers to cleaning or getting rid of the protection left by the lead climber. This is done by the climber following the leader either when descending or ascending. 

Clove Hitch

Tying a clove hitch knot allows you to tie the rope at an anchor. This is a useful technique for belaying to the next climber. 


A small cliff that also refers to a climbing area.


A small edge where you will crimp your fingers. It requires bending your fingers while exerting pressure on the knuckles, allowing you to form a tight grip. 


This refers to a situation when a climber’s body part touches the ground or a hard object while bouldering.


Two intersecting rock faces or planes. Also called an open book it is a perfectly-cleaved corner at an angle of 90 degrees. 

Dry Fire 

This happens when a climber blows off a hold while also pulling hard. 

Dynamic Rope 

A rope that exhibits a certain amount of stretch upon the application of force. It slightly stretches when a climber falls, which is good in terms of absorbing impact. 


A climbing terminology refers to the technique of placing the climber’s weight on a small foothold. Instead of the soles, you will be using the edges of your feet. 

Elvis Leg 

When your legs tremble uncontrollably and you are nervous during a climb, you are having Elvis’s leg. It is the involuntary vibration of your leg muscles. This is among the most popular rock climbing terms referring to a jittery feeling when you are up there. 


One of the popular rock climbing terms among competitive climbers. This is a technique that involves using large volumes and trickeries. 


Used to refer to a stable anchor. This means that weight is equally distributed and it is safe for the climber to start its use. 

Figure 8 Knot 

One of the most popular climbing knots, it weaves the rope into the shape of a number 8. It is commonly used for tying a rope to a harness. As the rope is loaded with weight, this type of knot becomes tighter. It is also a common camping knot

Finger Lock 

Hold formation wherein digits are inserted and twisted in a finger crack. You can do it either with your thumb up or down. 

Fisherman’s Knot

It attaches the two ends of a rope or accessory cord. It can have two or three wraps depending on the material. 

Fist Jam 

A crack climbing terminology involves placing the whole fist inside a large crack. This helps to improve your stability as you ascend. 


Draping one of your legs crosswise and across the other. While doing this, your toes are pointed to a rock that counters a barn door. 


It refers to a poor form when you are climbing. Your limbs end up being sloppy, acting as if they have their mind and is difficult for you to control. 


A thin rock that is separate from the main wall. It is useful if you are looking for a positive hold. 


When you use your prior knowledge and experience to ascend from the top to the bottom on the first attempt and without falling. One of the pre-requisites is to have beta or instructions from someone during your climb. 


Climbing a boulder in an almost effortless manner. This is often used to describe the way the pros are climbing. 

Free Soloing 

A high-risk type of climbing. It is done alone and without using ropes or safety equipment. The route is often high. This isn’t ideal for inexperienced climbers. 


This happens when you get hold of moss or any form of vegetation on the rocks while you are climbing. 


A system used to gauge the difficulty of a climb. There are different grade scales available. Yosemite decimal system and rock climbing protection system are some of the most important grades you need to know. 


Making a hold that is about to break stronger. This reinforcement needs to be done only with permission from the first ascensionist. This is the opposite of chipping. 

Hand Jam 

Similar but smaller than a fist jam. This is a small crack where you can fit your hand as opposed to your fist. 

Heel Hook 

Commonly done in an overhanging rock, it involves placing your heel on or around a rock. It can be a lateral or frontal position. 


This refers to a traditional large hold when climbing. There should be enough space for both of your hands to fit in the hold. This hold is easy to grasp, which makes it the favorite of many climbers. 

Knee Bar 

A maneuver in rock climbing where the climber creates a leg hold by camming the lower thigh or knee. 


Happens when you shift your weight from one side to the other to create tension for a vertical hold when moving up. You will move your foot up the crack to push your body’s weight. 

Leg Loop 

The part of the climbing harness that goes around the leg of the climber is called the leg loop. It connects to the waist belt and provides the support that you will need. 


A climbing technique for getting into a ledge. It uses the hands to apply downward pressure to lift your body at such a point that you can also position your feet on the ledge. 


A wedge-shaped metal that attaches to the end of a wire. This also functions as a protection tool in cracks. 


A 4 to 10-inch crack. It is narrower than a chimney, which means that you cannot fit your body in it. Meanwhile, it is too wide for your fist. 


Climbing without prior knowledge or instruction and without resting on gear. To be classified as an on-sight, you must also be able to climb without falling. 


A rock that is too steep hanging over the ground. 


The feeling of having tight and swollen forearms during a climb. This is a result of limited blood flow and the accumulation of lactic acid. 


It refers to a single rope length. This is one of the rock climbing terms used as a unit of measurement. It can range from 30 to 1,000 feet. 


This is the looped nylon webbing that you can find at the end of the carabiners. It forms a short sling to connect two carabiners. This bar clips the rope for protection when you are climbing. 


The rubber strip around the shoe where the sole connects to the upper. This improves the grip of the toes and heels. 


The act of descending a cliff or rock using a fixed rope while having your feet against the wall. A belay device is often used to exert friction into the rope to control the descent. 


To climb a route successfully after several tries. To be classified as a redpoint, there should be at least one unsuccessful climb before completing the ascent. 


The use of two or more anchors. This is often done to have a backup in case the first anchor encounters a problem. 


To let go of climbing gear because of damage or old age. It warrants a replacement to ensure your safety when climbing. 


A nylon webbing loop that attaches to a climbing rope for anchoring or protection. It can be sewn or home-made. 

Running Beta 

This is a variation of the beta as earlier described. Here, the instructions are given to the climber that is given in during the climb. 


A passive protection wherein one end is wider than the other. This allows the protection to wedge into a crack.


The next person to go up a route following the lead climber. 

Send Beer 

Among the most commonly used rock climbing terms after completing a climb, it refers to a celebration of success. 


A variation of rock climbing wherein the rock is at an angle that is less steep and lower compared to a vertical rock. Your moves will depend on balance and friction to complete the climb. 


A loose rope that forms part of a climbing system. This is found in between the climber and the belayer. 


Shoulder-length nylon that is often sewn. It is clipped to offer protection or anchoring. 


This climbing terminology does not refer to the traditional slippers you are wearing. Rather, it is a snug-fitting shoe that you slip on your foot instead of lacing. It is popularly used for bouldering and gym climbing. 


A gripping technique that uses an open hand to maintain a good hold despite the slope. 


Using your shoe’s sole to climb. Combined with proper weight on the feet, this will improve traction while you are moving up. 

Speed Climbing 

A type of competitive rock climbing that involves timing the ascent to the route. Outside of competition, it involves climbing walls quickly. 

Spring-Loaded Camming Device 

One of the rock climbing terms refers to active climbing protection with multiple cams that are positioned on a stem with a trigger bar. Upon pulling the bar back, the cam will minimize its size, making it small enough to fit it into a cam. 

Sport Climbing 

This refers to a type of rock climbing that involves using permanent anchors. This is in contrast to traditional climbing wherein climbers are the ones responsible for attaching removable protection or anchors as they climb. 


Someone ready to immediately assist the climber in case of a problem or fall. The spotter is responsible for directing the climber to a mat or to minimize injury.


A climbing technique wherein you will press your hands or feet opposite each other as far as possible. 


This happens when you point your feet in the same direction while placing the weight of one foot in and the other foot out. 

Stitch Plate 

A friction device wherein the plate has two holes. A rope passes on one of the holes and locks to the harness of the belayer. The friction from the plate stops or slows the rope. The spring, on the other hand, prevents the rope from wedging. 

Stopper Knot 

Tying the end of a rope to prevent the belayer from lowering a climber on the other end. This also stops the climber from rappelling. 


With a webbing wrapped around the climber’s waist, this is a traditional climbing harness. This is also the waist-belt portion of a harness. 

Three-Point Suspension

Moving only a single foot or hand at a time. This leaves your other hand free to use it as an anchor, which is important to keep your balance. 


A description of a poor form that is characterized by losing balance. This happens when you move from one hold to another. 

Top Roping

A variation of rock climbing where the climbing route has a rope running through an anchor. One of the ends of the rope is connected to the belayer and the other to the climber. This makes sure that the climber won’t fall too far. 

Trad Climbing 

Short for traditional climbing. It involves no permanent man-made protection. You will create protection using your gear. It does not harm the natural features of a rock wall, making it an eco-friendly alternative to other types of climbing. 

Twin Rope 

When a single rope isn’t enough, you can use a twin rope system. These ropes run in pairs and in a parallel position to offer excellent protection. Compared to a single rope, twin ropes are often thinner. 


The application of a counter-pressure on the underside of a slab or rock flake. This is done by pulling up your body as you push down your foot. 


Taking a large and long fall. This usually happens when you are leading. 


One of the popular rock climbing terms used to refer to someone who is already exhausted. It means that the person can no longer climb because of extreme fatigue. 



Got questions about climbing terminology? We’ll answer some of them below. 

Q: What are the rock climbing commands?


The basic climbing commands include on belay, off belay, belay off, slack, on me, lower me, tension, on rappel, off rappel, and rope, among others. It is important to know the rock climbing commands to maintain proper communication.

Q: What does it mean to send in rock climbing?


When you say send in rock climbing, it means ascending a route cleanly without resting or falling on ropes or any other gear. It entails reaching from bottom to top without falls.

Q: What does belay on mean?


To belay is a climbing terminology that means to secure a rope while your partner is ascending. It involves using a belaying system, such as a rope or an anchor. It is a safety method that prevents falling and provides rope friction.  

Q: What is a crux in rock climbing?


In rock climbing, crux refers to the most difficult part of the climb. This is the climbing route’s most difficult section, which is also where the most danger is present. It is important to know how far it is before the crux to know the strength that you need to reserve for the climb.  

Q: What is a Gaston in rock climbing?


Gaston is one of the techniques to learn rock climbing. This is a kind of grip that requires you to push instead of pulling a hold. Under this technique, your fingers will be facing inward, similar to forcing to open an elevator door.

Q: What does climb on mean?


To climb on means to ascend. It is used not only to represent an upward motion in climbing rock but also in climbing ice or snow.

Globo Surf Overview 

Before you embark on a climbing adventure, it is important to be familiar with the words you will encounter. The rock climbing terms mentioned above are some of the most important you need to learn. Like with cross-country skiing glossary and fishing terms, climbing terminology can be intimidating. So, know what they mean and stay safe on the rocks!

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!