Climbing Terminology: Nonsensical words that actually make sense

When I first started climbing, I remember hearing a lot of words that made absolutely no sense. When the much more climbing savy person with you is yelling, “hand heel the green jug!”, it really helps to know what those things are.

Over time, you learn what these terms mean simply by being around other climbers and putting two and two together. I would like to speed up this learning process for you, or at least provide you with some clarification if you’re a climber, or some entertainment if you’re a non-climber.

Oh, and the words themselves are in alphabetical order, but the pictures are not I’m afraid. Also, several words do not have an accompanying picture because I felt they didn’t really need a physical representation. But luckily, most of them do! So, enjoy – I hope you learn something!



Climbing Terminology – Nonsensical words that actually make sense

Arete: Where two walls meet to form a point. Often, this is at 90º.

Backstep: To place the outside of the foot (as opposed to the toe or inside) on a hold in order to gain more leverage.

Bicycle: Toeing the top of  hold, while simultaneously toe hooking the bottom with your other foot. It almost looks like you’re in the middle of peddling a bike, hence the name.

Beta: The sequence of moves necessary to complete a route. There is no correct beta; different people will find different ways to piece moves together though there is usually an intended sequence foreseen by the setter. 

Bucket: A huge jug hold that you can sink your whole arm into (not literally, but you can hold it quite easily because it has a deep opening).

Bump: Moving from one hold to another with the same hand. For example, the first hold might not be so great, so you move that same hand up to a second, better hold.

Post2 - Types of holds
Examples of the most basic hold types and grips

Campus: Moving from hold to hold without the use of your feet.

Chimney: A pair walls relatively parallel to each other that you can climb by using a point of contact on each wall (similar to the spider wall/climb on american ninja warrior.

Closed grip: The strongest (and also most prone to injury) grip which is typically used on small crimps.  Fingers are bent at 90 degrees at the second joint with the thumb wrapped over top of the index finger.

Compression: Using the pressure created by squeezing you arms/pecks inwards.  This is used when the only useable surface of two holds are close to vertical and the friction created by squeezing your arms together allows you to stay on the holds.

Crimp: Small holds that you can hold only with the tips of your fingers.

Post2 - random4
Heel hook, bicycle, wrap, rose move.

Dihedral: Two short segments of wall which come together at an inwards angle of 90 degrees (+/- 30 degrees).  Similar to a chimney; however, the walls flare out as opposed to running parallel.  This can also be referred to as a corner, although corners are usually when two full walls come together.

Dyno: Jumping between holds dynamically.

Feature: Variations in shape and degrees of the wall itself.

Figure 4: An advanced move typically used in ice climbing where one hand is on a hold and the opposite leg is placed over top of that forearm. This places the climber in a position where they are facing out from the wall. This can be used in bouldering for long moves where precision or a bad hold (and an absence of feet) prevents a dynamic movement from being possible.

Flag: With one foot on a hold, flagging uses the other foot placed on a blank spot of wall for the purpose of balancing and/or to push off of to gain a far handhold.

Flake: A projection of rock that forms a thin (flakes can be quite large but their thickness to size ratio makes them appear quite thin) outcropping from the main wall.  Picture a giant cornflake lying parallel to the wall with enough space in behind so one can easily grab its edges.

Post2 - random2
Smear, bump, toe hook.

Gaston: The opposite of compression.  When the useable surface of two holds is vertical and facing inwards to each other.  Friction is created by pulling the arms apart in order to stay on the holds.

Hand Heel: Matching a hold with a heel and a hand,

Half grip: A hand grip typically used on crimps where the fingers are bent at approximately 90 degrees at the second joint.

Heel hookInstead of having your toes on a hold, a heel hook is when you place your heel on a hold parallel to the wall. This keeps you locked into the wall making it easier to move up. 

JibA very small hold, usually intended for feet. 

JugA hold that is incredibly easy to hold. The hold itself sticks out leaving an often large gap behind, making it easy to hold with your entire hand. 

Post2 - random
Arete, compression, hand heel, back step (left leg) & flag (right leg)

Mantel: One of the only times in climbing you’re relying almost entirely on your triceps.  Starting with your body below a large hold, first pull up using your arms until your body is above the hold at which point you continue pushing up by extending yours arms downwards using your triceps.  Can be done with a high foot to the side of the main hold or with no feet (basically a muscle up except on a large hold or volume).

MatchBringing both hands or feet to the same hold, with the intention of swapping out the hand or foot that first gripped it. 

MonoA hold that you can only grab with one finger. This is usually a round hold with a small hole in the center intended for one finger. 

Open grip: A hand grip typically used on big holds and slopers.  Fingers are in a curved position with the majority of its surface area touching the hold.

Post2 - mantel
The sequence of movements in a mantel move.

PinchA hold that you literally pinch with your hand. Four fingers grab one side, while your thumb wraps around the other. 

ProblemA bouldering route. 

PocketA hold with a hole within. The hole is usually large enough for at least two fingers.

Rail: A long thin hold.

Roof: A kind of wall feature that comes straight out of the wall, parallel to the floor. Climbers climbing on this feature will have their back to the floor.

Rose move: An advanced move where you are holding a handhold which cannot be matched and you must bring your other hand underneath and through in order to gain the next hold.

Post2 - random 3
Volume, gaston, bat hang, figure 4.

Scrunchy: When your hand and feet holds are too close together your body is compressed into the wall resulting in a hard time moving out of that position.

Send: Completing a route. I’ve heard that it comes from the word “ascent”.

Sloper: A round hold that is gripped by squeezing your entire hand on as much surface as possible.

Smear: Utilizing the rubber on your climbing shoes by pressing it to the wall and pressing up.

Toe hook: Hooking your toe behind a hold to keep you sucked in to the wall.

Top-out: Climbing above a boulder; the only way to “send” a route outdoors.

Volume: A detachable feature we can move and rotate on a wall. We can also add holds onto a volume.

Wrap: Wrapping a hold with your hand or forearm for better grip or stability.

climb on xx




6 thoughts on “Climbing Terminology: Nonsensical words that actually make sense

  1. JMJ
    Dear Allezgirl,
    Thank you so much for reading about the Servants of Charity and St. Louis Center. Thank you also for writing this blog. I had no idea that rock climbing had created its own language.

  2. Thank you so much for this post! I have had only a couple of proper rock climbing sessions (apart from the mini rock patches I come across on treks) and I have had a tough time looking for the names of holds/moves while writing my blog. This ‘ll cut down on my work tremendously! Subscribed to your blog and looking forward to more posts enlightening beginners like me 🙂

    1. Such kind words, wow! Thank you – I’m very happy that you found it useful! 🙂 Thanks so much for the follow!

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