I overheard a conversation between two climbers at Substation the other day which went something like this:-
First Climber So, did you send it then
Second Climber Yeah, eventually. It was desperate.
First Climber You got any beta?
Second Climber Yeah, you start matched on the undercut then dyno for that minging sloper, match again, slap out for the arete, get your feet high and then pop for the jug.
So much jargon that it’s like a foreign language! It made me wonder how many people would understand any of that conversation. Here’s a glossary of climbing terms that might come in useful the next time your surrounded by Substation natives.
Anchor A piece of Gear used in a Belay.
Arete An outward facing corner of the wall, the opposite of a corner.
Barn Door In involuntary (and sometimes quite amusing) swing out from the wall caused by hand and footholds being on the same side of the body and acting like a hinge.
Belay Can refer to the technique used to hold a Route climber’s rope or the place where a team of climbers Anchor themselves in between Pitches.
Beta Prior knowledge of where to find the holds on a Route or Problem and how to move between them.
Bouldering Climbing shorter problems usually above pads or soft mats for safety. What we do at Substation!
Bouldering Mat or Pad A portable foam pad placed under outdoor boulder problems and used for landing when jumping or falling off. Also used to keep shoes clean.
Bridge To climb (normally a Corner or Groove) using opposing pressure of the hands and feet. Americans call it stemming. Avoid, if possible, the tearing noises associated with a bridge too far.
Bulge A short and normally rounded overhanging section of climbing.
Campus Board An overhanging ladder of small wooden holds used to train contact strength and power. Found on your left as you walk in to the main climbing area at Substation.
Cam Also known as a Friend or SLDC (spring loaded camming device), a cam is a passive Protection device which, when placed in a Crack, converts the pull provided by a falling or resting climber into an outward force which creates friction against the side of the crack. When not loaded, springs hold the cam in position.
Carabiner An oval or pear-shaped ring of metal with a spring-loaded gate into which the rope and Protection may be clipped.
Chalk Not chalk at all! Just the same as gymnasts chalk it consists mainly magnesium carbonate (the same substance used in some indigestion tablets). It dries your sweat and increases the grip between your skin and the holds. Buy a ball or a scoop from the desk.
Corner Two walls meeting and making the shape formed inside an open book is called a corner. Can be climbed by Bridging.
Crack Not normally found indoors, a crack is a vertical split in the rock. Cracks are often climbed by Jamming and often provide places where Trad climbers can place Protection.
Crimp A small hold which is only big enough for the fingertips.
Crimping The best way of using small holds is to crimp. A half crimp requires that the fingers remain bent as they fold over the hold. A full crimp involves placing the thumb over the index finger.
Crux The hardest move on a problem.
Desperate A really hard Move or Sequence.
Dead Hanging Hanging your bodyweight (advanced climbers sometimes use extra weight in the form of a Weight Vest or weights dangling from a harness) from the fingers, often using a Fingerboard.
Drop Knee See Egyptian
Dyno An all-out jump for an out of reach hold. More committing than a Pop.
Egyptian Technique where a climber drops their knee to bring their body weight closer to the wall. When the climber is viewed from behind, they look like people do in Egyptian hieroglyphics. Also known as a Drop Knee
Epic Making a meal out of a route or problem. Becomes more involving thought provoking in more committing forms of climbing; the pinnacle of the genre being the multi-day epic. Always makes for a good story.
Ethics An example of ethics in bouldering would be to be truthful about what you have done. Did your foot graze the pink hold just before you topped the blue problem? Honestly now!
Fingerboard A wooden board with various depths and configurations of hold routed into it. Deadhanging on a fingerboard isolates the fingers and strengthens them. At Substation we have a Beastmaker 2000 series in the main bouldering area. It’s easy to injure yourself using a fingerboard so make sure you’re fully warmed up before a session and, if you’re not entirely sure how to use it, ask a staff member for some tips.
Flag To throw a leg out to change your centre of balance.
Flapper A flap of skin torn off, usually by a sharp hold. Flappers are really annoying because they tend to bleed a lot and therefore signal the end of your session. To prevent them sand or pumice any callouses or hard patches of skin and use a moisturising ointment, we even have some available at Substation.
Flash To climb a problem on the first attempt – either with Beta or without.
Free Climbing To climb using only hands and feet on the rock. As distinct from aid climbing where the climber makes progress by pulling, sitting and standing on Gear.
Friend See Cam.
Gaston A technique which involves pulling a (generally sidepull) hold away from you to keep you on the wall a bit like the opposite of a layaway. Probably best described in terms of the “Double Gaston” which is a way of holding yourself into a Crack by pulling with both hands as if to pull the sides of the crack apart.
Gear Trad climbers, ice climbers and mountaineers need stacks of gear to practise their craft. This is everything from shoes, helmets and harnesses to more technical equipment such as Wires, Cams and Slings. Boulderers just need a pad, shoes and chalk. At Substation we’ve provided the pad and we can also provide the shoes and chalk!
Grade The source of so much argument! A grade is given to a problem to denote how hard it is, but the trouble is that it’s hard to agree; we can only do our best so tell us if you disagree with a grade. At Substation we’ve adopted the V grading system invented by the American John Sherman whose friends called him “Vermin” – hence the V!
Groove A shallow Corner.
Guppy To cup a hold with your palm to try to give your fingers a rest.
Headpoint To practise a Trad route before going for the Lead. See also Redpoint.
Heel Hook Using your heel to pull your body either into or up the wall.
Highball Either a high and scary outdoor boulder problem or a short Route. Routes are often “highballed” which means climbing them with Spotters above lots of pads.
Hold Any protuberance or indentation on or in the wall that helps make upward (sideways or downward!) progress.
Jamming Generally an outdoor technique involving placing hands and feet into Cracks in such a way as to use the crack itself as a hold.
Jug A really good hold that you can wrap your fingers round – like on the handle of a jug.
Layaway A handhold that is used by leaning body weight away to one side of it.
Layback Strenuous technique where the feet are forced onto their Holds or Smears using power from the arms. Often used on Cracks and Aretes, typically the climber faces left or right and brings their feet high while bending at the waist.
Lead When climbing a Route, the leader ties the end of a rope to their harness and clips this rope to protection as they climb. This means that, should they fall, the leader will only fall the distance between themselves and the last piece of Protection plus the same distance again. On some poorly protected Trad routes, this could be a long way and involve the danger of hitting the ground. Some purists say that you haven’t really climbed a route until you have led it.
Mantleshelf A balancy move where the climber balances their weight over the hands and then places the feet on the same hold. Imagine climbing on to a mantlepiece.
Match To place both hands or both feet on the same hold. See also Share
Monodoigt A pocket only big enough for one finger. From Greek and French meaning “one finger”.
Move One body movement on a Problem or Route.
Nuts See wires.
Overhang A dramatic steepening of the wall, giving a negative (backward) gradient.
Overlap A smaller Overhang
Pinch Normally a vertically orientated hold that must be squeezed using the thumb. You can often turn a pinch into a Sidepull by changing your body position.
Pitch A roped climbing term meaning the distance between Belays.
Pocket A hole that can be used as a hold. A Monodoigt is a small pocket.
Pop A dynamic move where both hands let go of their holds in order to reach higher ones.
Problem A short line or sequence of movements up the wall generally indicated at Substation by holds of the same colour. Could be solved by technique, strength, or cunning.
Protection A Trad or Sport climbing term meaning Gear into which the rope is clipped either to catch the climber if he or she falls or as an Anchor in a Belay. Trad protection is removed by the climbers as or after they climb but Sport protection is permanently fixed to the rock.
Pump A type of fatigue normally felt in the forearms caused by the build-up of lactic acid. You will recognise this when you feel the muscles are hard and tight – they’ll probably hurt too.
Quickdraw Used in trad and sport climbing. Two Carabiners, connected by a short sling, one of which is clipped to a piece of Protection while the other is clipped to the rope.
Redpoint A Sport Climbing term from the German “Rotpunkt” meaning to practise all the moves on a route before going for the Lead. It originated in Germany in the late 70s and 80s. Before climbing a bolted route, the developer of the route would paint a red circle on the rock at the bottom. This meant that the route was a private project. When the developer had led the route, he or she would fill-in the circle with red paint, creating a red point, and meaning that the route was now open for all to climb.
Rockover The action of moving your weight over a high foothold and then standing up on it.
Roof Very steep – often horizontal – Overhang.
Route A way up the wall that is high enough to warrant using a rope. Often also used as an interchangeable word for a Boulder Problem.
Send American term short for “ascend”. You’ll often hear people say, “Did you send it?”, meaning, “Did you climb it?”
Sequence The way a Problem is climbed using Moves in a particular order.
Share See Match.
Sidepull See Layaway.
Slab A section of wall that leans away from you so you can climb it in balance with nearly all the weight on your feet.
Slap A last chance grab for a hold. Usually involves falling off if you miss!
Sloper A sloping hand hold best used by keeping your bodyweight below it for maximum friction.
Sling A sewn loop of strong tape used outdoors either to extend pieces of Protection (in order to keep the rope straight or to help building Anchors) or to act as Protection by placing directly over a spike of rock.
Smearing Finding friction where there are no footholds by applying the maximum amount of rubber and trusting your feet. Often used on gritstone.
Spot To position yourself in such away that you can ensure that a falling climber lands safely on their feet.
Sport Climbing Similar to Trad climbing except that the Gear is permanently attached to the rock in the form of expansion or glue-in bolts. Sport climbing is a way of climbing the hardest routes of which a climber is capable while remaining in relative safety.
Sprag Originally used to describe the technique of opposing the push of the fingers on one side of a crack with that of the thumb on the other. Now often used to describe a pinch, the thumb is placed on the Positive section of the hold, for example round an Arete.
Stem American word for Bridge.
Taping Using climbing tape either to support an injury or to protect the hands when Jamming. Ask at the desk if you’d like to buy tape or for any advice on how to tape injured areas.
Topping Out Very rarely done indoors (and not at Substation, please!) topping out involves either a graceful and balletic dance over the top of a boulder or a harrowing, belly chafing squirm – like a beached minky whale but with more fear.
Trad Short for traditional, Trad climbing is a leave-no-trace form of outdoor Route climbing where a roped leader places Protection and then a second climber follows the Pitch and removes it all.
Traverse To climb horizontally.
Udge Squirming up a climb using (strong language and) every part of the body.
Undercut An upside-down hold that works best when the feet are high so as to engage the biceps. Sometimes called an undercling.
Weight Vest A vest with pockets in which to put extra weight for training.
Wire Metal chocks which are placed in cracks or slots as Protection normally while Trad climbing. The rope is then clipped to the wire using a Quickdraw. Sometimes known as Nuts.