Rock Climber's Glossary of Terms

Rock Climbing Intro

Active Protection - Protection device with moving parts.

Anchor - A temporary secure point that climbers use to protect them from injury during a fall. (There are many different forms including trees, bolts, boulders, cams, pitons, etc.)

Belay - To protect a climber from falling using a rope, friction, and an anchor.

Belay device - A mechanical device used to create friction when belaying by putting bends in the rope. Many types of belay device exist, including ATC, stitch-plate, figure eight, gri-gri. Some belay devices may also be used as descenders. A Munter hitch can sometimes be used instead of a belay device.

Bolt - A metal shaft permanently fixed into a hole that was drilled into the rock, and is held there with epoxy or friction. A hanger accompanies the bolt, to which a ring or biner can be attached.

Bouldering - The practice of climbing on large boulders. Typically this is close to the ground, so protection takes the form of crash pads and spotting instead of belay ropes.

Buildering - The art of climbing on buildings. Note that this is often illegal.

Cams - A spring-loaded device used as protection, and also known as active gear.

Carabiner - Metal rings with spring-loaded gates, used as connectors. Also known as crab or biner.

Chalk - A compound used to improve grip by absorbing sweat. It is actually gymnastics chalk, usually magnesium carbonate. Its use is controversial in some areas.

Crash pad - A thick mat used to soften landings or to cover hazardous objects in the event of a fall.

First ascent - The first successful completion of a route.

Free Climbing - Climbing with your hands and feet to ascend the rock. The equipment and protection is only there to protect in the case of a fall.

Friction - Climbing technique relying on the friction between the sloped rock and the sole of the shoe to support the climber's weight, as opposed using holds or edges, cracks, etc.

Friend - A name brand of a type of spring loaded camming device (SLCD), sometimes used to refer to any type of spring loaded camming device.

Grade - Intended as an objective measure of the technical difficultly of a particular climb or bouldering problem. More often is highly subjective, however. A surveying term for referring to the slope of an incline.

GriGri - A belay device designed to be easy to use and safer for beginners because it is self-locking under load. Invented and manufactured by Petzl. Many experienced climbers advocate the use of an atc type device for beginners

Harness - A sewn nylon webbing device worn around the waist and thighs that is designed to allow a person to safely hang suspended in the air.

Hexcentric - It is an eccentric hexagonal nut attached to a wire loop. The nut is inserted into a crack and it holds through counter-pressure. Often just termed Hex.

Lead Climbing - A form of climbing in which the climber places anchors and attaches the belay rope as they climb.

Locking carabiner - A carabiner with a locking gate, to prevent accidental release of the rope.

Multi-pitch climbing - Climbing on routes that are too long for a single belay rope.

Munter Hitch - A simple hitch that is often used for belaying without a mechanical belay device. Otherwise known as an Italian hitch or a Friction hitch.

Nut - A metal wedge attached to a wire loop that is inserted into cracks for protection.

Pitch - In the strictest climbing definition, a pitch is considered one rope length (50-60 meters). However, in guide books and route descriptions, a pitch is the portion of a climb between two belay points.

Piton - A flat or angled metal blade of steel which incorporates a clipping hole for a carabiner or a ring in its body. A piton is typically used in "aid-climbing" and an appropriate size and shape is hammered into a thin crack in the rock and preferably removed by the last team member.

Protection - Process of setting equipment or anchors for safety. Equipment or anchors used for preventing falls.

Rack - The set of equipment carried up a climb; also, the part of a harness (consisting of several plastic loops) where equipment is hung, ready to be used.

Sandbag - A climb which receives a much lower grade than deserved. A traditionally protected climb can, if under graded, be very dangerous, and the term sandbag is often said with a note of respectful dread.

Scrambling - Non-technical climbing.

Sling - Webbing sewn, or tied, into a loop.

Solo climbing - Climbing without any protection (free solo) or setting and cleaning ones own protection on an ascent.

Sport climbing - A form of climbing where grace and technical (or gymnastic) ability are considered more important than danger, exhilaration or brute strength. Sport climbing routes tend to be well protected with pre-placed bolt-anchors.

Spotting - An alternative to belaying commonly used during bouldering. A friend of the climber stands beneath them and prevents awkward falls or falls onto hazards.

Static rope - A non-elastic rope. Compare with dynamic rope.

Technical climbing - Climbing involving a rope and some means of protection, as opposed to scrambling or glacier travel.

Top rope - To belay from a fixed anchor point above the climb.

Webbing - Hollow and flat rope, mainly used to make runners and slings.

Rock Climbing Intro

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