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how to speak climbing: 15 terms to get by

Albert Einstein once said, "a person who never made a mistake never tried anything new", and at New Treks, we couldn't agree more. One of our main goals is to provide youth with the opportunity to try new things (i.e. adventure sports) and give them the tools to succeed at them. This being said, trying something new can be a daunting process! Especially when this new activity comes with a very established community, a whole new vocabulary, the potential for injury and a ridiculous amount of new muscles to be discovered (I'm looking at you, finger muscles). So while we are always here to encourage you and others to try new things and to learn to make mistakes, we're also here to make that new attempt as smooth as possible and today I'll be providing you with a list of climbing vocabulary to help send you up the wall. This is by no means comprehensive nor professional, it is simply a basic list of climbing terms explained in the simplest way to help you get by. You may not know exactly how to climb but at least you'll know how to talk about it and that counts for something.

  • Anchor: a point on a climb where the rope is fixed to the rock

  • Belay Device: a mechanism used by the belayer to "catch" the climber when they fall. When used properly, the device locks the rope in place and prevents the climber from falling a significant distance.

    • ATC: A simple but reliable belay device in which the belayer controls the friction of the rope through the device by pulling it down to the side or allowing the rope to flow through. This belay device relies on the belayer to use it properly.

    • Grigri: An assisted braking belay device that has an automated feature that locks when the rope is moving quickly, for example when the climber falls, and thus relies not solely on the belayer

  • Belayer: The person on the ground using some sort of belay device to control the safety of the climber, when top rope climbing the belayer removes excess rope as the climber ascends and with sport/lead climbing the belayer gives additional rope in small amounts to allow the climber to ascend safely

  • Bouldering: Climbing without ropes. Bouldering is performed on small rock formations without the use of ropes or harnesses.

  • Campusing: Climbing without your legs using only your arms to pull yourself up. This is commonly used to train at climbing gyms.

  • Crag: Any outdoor climbing area where climbing can be done

  • Crimp: A small ledge or hand hold that requires using only the very tips of your fingers

  • Dyno: Slang for a short, dynamic move from one climbing hold to another. This is often an explosive movement such as a leap or lunge. These look supremely cool and are equally as difficult.

  • Figure 8 Knot: The knot used to secure the rope to the harness of the climber

  • Harness: ok you can probably figure this out but it goes around your waist and legs and is used by both the climber and belayer

  • Sport or Lead Climbing: A type of climbing in which climbers rely on fixed anchor points along the route as they climb. Climbers clip their rope in to each point as they reach them to prevent long falls.

  • Top out: when a climber reaches the top of the climb/boulder and is able to climb right over the top and walk down instead of repelling

  • Top Rope Climbing: A type of climbing in which the climber is attached to a rope which then goes up to the top of the route, through an anchor and back down to the belayer

  • Trad Climbing: A type of climbing in which climbers use their own gear to protect themselves from big falls as they climb. Different pieces of gear (metal pieces in various shapes attached to strong wires) are placed carefully in cracks or pockets and the climber attaches their rope to the other side to secure their progress.

To any climbing aficionados out there, I apologize for my crude explanations. For those of you looking to get into it or just starting your climbing journey, I hope to have provided at least a little glimpse into the sometimes complicated world of climbing. If you're looking for some more resources, REI has an extensive climbing term glossary along with some great videos to help explain the process and Cool of the Wild also has a great terminology list. Ultimately, you'll just have to get out there and get after it. You got this!

Happy Vertical Trekking,



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