I have realised over the past couple of posts that climbing terms and slang come naturally to me now, so much so that I forget other people don’t know what I’m talking about! If you’re new to climbing, or just trying to translate a conversation you had with Gareth, you might find that this post can help! This is by no means a comprehensive dictionary; not least because climbers make up new terms as and when, but here are some of the more useful.

The holds

Bucket – A huge hold (often referred to as a jug), which the whole hand can grasp. Normally overflowing with chalk, for some reason.

Crimp – A teeny tiny hold that only your fingertips can contact. Fun to set, fun to climb. Side effects include pain.

Gaston – Imagine opening a pair of lift doors with your hands; this is the way to place your hands on the climbing holds when doing a gaston. Possibly named after French mountain guide and author Gaston Rebuffat, it’s more likely taken from Beauty and the Beast. No one climbs like Gaston.

Guppy – Pinky finger facing and parallel to the wall, then place hand on top of hold., If this hand position is done on the ground, it’s a request for immediate coffee.

Hand jam – Inserting the hand into a crack and squeezing it so that it grips. Also what is left in the crack after a day of hand jams.

Pinch – Thumb one side, fingers another, and squeeze. The only hold that requires significant effort to hold. In most climbing walls, coated with a thin layer of vaseline, because we like it when you fall.

Undercut – A downward-facing hold that is pulled upwards by the climber. Like a surfboard, nice when you’re above it, If you’re using it from below, you’re wrong.

Climbers’ jargon

Send – To complete a route

Sendgeance – Sending a route that has embarrassed and humiliated you on previous attempts. Must be loudly exclaimed from the top of said route, usually with a fist pump.

Sketchy – Adjective used to mean “Everyone that’s tried it has died. See ya later, New Doug.”

Redpoint – Attempting a single route in multiple stages or attempts

Onsight – The veni vidi vici of climbing. Arrive at crag, see the route, get ‘er done in a one-er.

Beta – Information about the route from people that already climbed it. Normally shouted, unwanted, and wrong.

Bomber – A super secure bit of protection, could withstand a bomb blast. Often used sarcastically to imply a sketchy bit of gear. Good luck figuring out which.

Sandbag – A route that’s way harder than its grade suggests. Sometimes says more about the climber than the route…

Arete – The sticky-outy corner of a crag or wall. Considered by some to simply be an enormous hold for the bypassing of tricky bits.

Tick – A completed route. A tick in the box.

Bouldering – Climbing for people that like tea more than climbing. Low down, no ropes, bring a portable mattress for nap time.

Chalk – Not actually chalk. Made by crushing the canine teeth of unicorns, chalk is a magical powder that cures you entirely of pain/redness/tiredness/incapability. More rarely, used to lessen slippery sweat. Should be applied liberally to hands, faces, leggings, and primarily the carpet.

Cheating – As a sport, climbing has no rules, so cheating is technically impossible. Instead, it has come to mean being tall, outclimbing a more experienced climber, using holds in a manner different to the setter’s intentions, being strong, or generally upsetting another climber with your success.

Dead rope – The part of the rope that has passed through the belay device, and is now out of the system. Must be held to keep your climber alive. The penalty for letting go of the dead rope varies from centre to centre, but usually involves forfeiture of all property, invalidating of all previous ticks, and summary execution.

Belayer – Stands below you and chats up anyone within earshot. Normal belayer etiquette involves forgetting your climber exists, and getting distracted at the crux. Usually by food, occasionally by the urge to pee off a ledge.

The Void – The place behind you on most routes. To be avoided where possible, as entering the void means your life is in your belayers hands. And he’s busy peeing.

Rock Rash – A common allergy to high friction contact with rock. Often results in Hand Jam.

Muppet – A climber that is preferentially adept at outmanoeuvring sensible instruction.

Punter – Stronger word for a muppet. The ultimate climbing insult – implies complete incompetence. Sometimes used as an affectionate name, much like a similar-sounding Glaswegian term.

Squeaky Bum Time – A move so sketchy that every muscle tenses at once, often with a small, high pitched side effect. Normally implies an imminent retreat, often involuntary and gravity assisted.

IGAR – Involuntary Gravity Assisted Retreat. A technique only used by instructors and professionals. You definitely could have sent it, but took an IGAR instead, because reasons, so shut up.


Now that you’re in the know when it comes to the strange slang that climbers use, why not put it to use at the wall? We’re open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends – so come along!

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