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Top 10 Rock Climbing Terms

By Editorial Staff

rock climbing termsContributed by Info Guru Angela Hail

Rock climbing is a physically challenging and increasingly popular sport.

If you are new to rock climbing, here are a few terms to learn to get you started. This is just the barest tip of the ice burg, however, so be sure to learn from an experienced climber and familiarize yourself with all techniques and equipment before attempting your first climb.

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10. Rappel


To Rappel, or Abseil, as they say in Europe, is to descend a fixed rope, usually without belay. Most of us laypeople have seen this done in movies, when the heroes or bad guys hop-slide the length of a rope down the side of a tall building.

9. Protection


A very important word, as this describes any piece of equipment you can use to catch yourself should you slip on the rock face. These are nuts, cams, bolts, quickdraws, etc. Get to know your gear before you climb.

8. Leader


The climber who goes up first, placing the protection and rope needed for the climb. Rock climbers have an old saying, “The leader must not fall.”

7. Jam


A climbing technique in which the climber will wedge a body part into a crack in the rock to hoist their weight up to the next hold. It’s a strenuous move, but sometimes it’s the only option, and some experienced climbers actually prefer this method.

6. Gumby


Climber slang for someone new to the sport. Right up there with newbie, greenhorn, and rookie. Take it in stride. You’ll probably hear it a lot.

5. Free Climbing

Climbing without the aid of any devices for the ascent, other than protection to catch a fall. You use only the features in the rock itself to pull yourself up. However, this is not to be confused with free soloing, which is climbing without any devices at all, for ascent or for protection.

4. Dyno

Short for “dynamic movement,” it means literally leaping to the next hold, momentarily losing contact with the rock. This is the sort of move that makes non-climbers think rock climbers have a death wish.

3. Crimp


Gripping the rock with your fingertips, knuckles raised. This is only one of several hand techniques, and is usually for gripping small, shallow holds. Use this one sparingly—it’s a good way to injure your hand.

2. Belay


This commonly means that a climber on the ground steadily feeds out the end of the rope, holding it steady for the protection of the climber above. Belay can also mean the fixed point a climbing rope is attached to, again for protection, but not necessarily held by another person.

1. Aid Climbing

aid climbing

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Probably the best option for all you gumbies out there, aid climbing means the climber is completely supported by protective gear to aid in both ascent and descent. This technique is also sometimes used by experienced climbers to get past a section that is too difficult to ascend alone.


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