ABCs of Climbing Lingo

For those of you who are not climbers, some of the words we use may sound like gibberish. Maybe you just have no idea what rock climbing entails. There’s no way to explain everything. But I’ll try to cover some of the basics. If there is a word missing that you’d like me to add, feel free to contact us.

You may want to refer to Wikipedia’s glossary of climbing terms.

I’ll borrow ideas from the above glossary to point out the most important vocabulary:

  • Beta – the best strategy for completing a problem. This might vary based on your climbing style and body size (e.g. short-person beta is going to be very different than tall-person beta).
  • Bildering – “the art of climbing on buildings, which is often illegal”
  • Campus – climbing without the use of any feet (just crazy strong arms)
  • Chalk – similar to gymnasts, climbers use simple white chalk (magnesium carbonate) to improve grip by absorbing sweat
  • Choss – a climb may be considered “chossy” if the rock is loose, flakey, or otherwise poor quality. This term is also sometimes used to describe a loose, flakey, or otherwise poor quality climber.
  • Chuffing or a Chuffer – refers to a person who is really bad at climbing and also probably has bad climbing ethics. This can be a serious label to ascribe to an actual chuffer, or is sometimes used jokingly when a person who is normally good at climbing does something really dumb.
  • Climbing shoe – “Footwear designed specifically for climbing. Usually well fitting, with a rubber sole.” Very expensive, and must be replaced when the rubber wears out.
  • Crimp – “a hold which is only just big enough to be grasped with the tips of the fingers”
  • Crushing – being so strong that hard problems are actually super easy for you. Some might say that you are strong enough to literally crush rocks in your hands.
  • Dyno – “a dynamic move to grab a hold that would otherwise be out of reach. Generally both feet will leave the rock face and return again once the target hold is caught. Non-climbers would call it a jump or a leap.”
  • Flagging – “climbing technique where a leg is held in a position to maintain balance, rather than to support weight.” Think of it like a squirrel tail, only it’s a human leg.
  • Jug – a large, easily held hold.
  • Psyched – a ridiculously common and overused word for climbers that means someone is REALLY EXCITED!!!
  • Pumped – when lactic acid accumulates in the forearms due to climbing for an extended period of time, causing a person to feel so weak that even a basic grip feels challenging
  • Punting – an extremely frustrating experience when a climber falls off of an easy move at the end of a difficult rock climb (e.g. sweating through ten nasty crimps, and then missing the last jug move, rendering all your previous efforts as a complete waste)

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