Top Ten Pieces of Rock Climbing Jargon

Every industry, sport, and hobby has its own lexicon. Rock climbing is no different. Walk into any climbing gym in the world or up to the base of any sport or trad crag and you'll likely hear some words new and unfamiliar. Just like walking into a job on your first day, the amount of tribal knowledge and words used to express that information can be staggering. Once you get a few base words into your vocabulary however, the rest will start to make sense.

Here are the best words commonly used by climbers to explain everything from holds, equipment, personalities, and movements of other climbers. Paired with the specific genuflections and charades they use when describing climbs, they should both keep you entertained as well as informed.
The Top Ten
1 Spray

A word in common vernacular, when used in a climbing context, spray refers to the bragging and accolade spouting of a climber describing his climbing conquests like a college frat boy to his brethren after a wild Friday night. Only half of it is true and most of the details will be exaggerated.

2 Crux

Meaning a puzzling or difficult problem, when used by climbers it refers to the hardest move, or set of moves, on a particular route. Generally, the crux of a route (rock climbing) or problem (bouldering) is the hardest physically, mentally, or technically as it relates to the rest of the moves.

As a rock-climber himself, my brother uses these words a lot. At least this list has helped me to understand him better.

3 Crimper

A small hold used by only the climber's fingers to hold onto. Think anything from a hold the width of a standard door jam to an indent the width of a dime-edge.

4 Slimper

A small hold that manages to be both a small hold (see Crimper) as well as a slippery edge. Often the bane of a climber, you have to both put all your weight on the hold, as well as not put so much that you slip off.

5 Whipper

A whipper is what happens when you climb far enough above your last piece of gear (when lead climbing) that when you fall, you have enough time to go thru all 7 stages of grief before your rope becomes taut and you are stopped, hanging in the air (hopefully) by your belayer.

6 Belayer

A belayer is the person holding the end of the rope at the start of the climb (or pitch) you are attempting. Their job is to hold the rope and, in case you fall, to stop you from hitting the ground. Often the relationship between belayer and climber is similar to a marriage in that a relationship of trust must be earned and maintained over time - often falling victim to the same emotional pitfalls of a long term commitment.

7 Ape-Index

The Ape-inde is the ratio of your height to your armspan. When you put your arms straight out to your sides, typically the length from the fingertip on one arm to the farthest fingertip of the other arm is equal to your height from foot to head. However, some people have positive (arms are longer than their height) ape-indexes and others have negative. Generally, having a positive ape-index is preferred by climbers but admitting to having one will immediately result in the eye-rolling disgust of other climbers.

8 Pumped

As in "to be pumped" or a climb being "pumpy", a pump refers to the exhaustion felt, generally in the forearms, of a climber after doing a particularly difficult climb or section. The name comes from the feeling that your arms have been pumped up by a bike pump and have expanded with blood.

9 Sandbagged

Sandbagged refers to a climb's rating, or the person giving you the rating (a sandbagger) that is deceptively lower than the climb merits. For example, a climb can be extremely difficult (let's say a rating of 5.12) but the guidebook or resident climbing pro can tell you it is actually a 5.11 (considerably easier) which leads to you attempting the climb only to get rejected and spat to the ground in pumped frustration.

10 Jug

Innuendo aside, a jug can be a climber's best friend. In climbing, a jug refers to a large hold - often providing a rest - that the climber can use. See also: Thank-you-hold, praise-jesus-hold, and it's-about-time-hold.

BAdd New Item