3 Killer Glossaries for Rock Climbing Terms and Slang

Climbers can sound like they are speaking their own, grunt-based language. To understand the lingo and climbing culture, you must search far and wide, sampling climbing terms of different disciplines and publications. Only then can you assemble the fragments to understand that when your friend tells you to “take,” he’s really telling you “pull in rope ASAP, otherwise I’m going to fall.”


A stalwart for desperate high school students and general knowledge seekers alike, Wikipedia offers the 30,000-foot view on just about everything, climbing included. You can learn about anything from gym climbing to gnarly alpine aid. But, it won’t exactly tell you what is what.

For example, screamers and screw-ons, while next to each other on the list, are about as disparate as any two climbing terms could be. One is a rippable quickdraw meant to lessen impact forces on marginal anchors, usually ice screws. The other is a small, plastic foothold attached to gym walls with screws. The list can be almost too comprehensive to digest, but is definitionally accurate. Approach with caution, but a good resource for that weird word your friend said.


Rock and Ice

A longtime presence in the climbing world, Rock and Ice focuses on outdoor climbing on–you guessed it–rock and ice. Its focus can be pretty alpine-heavy, so it isn’t always easily navigable for new-to-the-sport gym climbers. But, once you start to get vertical outside, it is a reliable and useful source. Their lexicon reflects their focus, but addresses the larger climbing world. Much of the current news in the climbing world requires a lexicon to parse. But, this glossary can help you understand and explain those NatGeo and Outside articles your aunt keeps sending you about your crazy new sport. Rock and Ice is a good place to get your footing before your first time on rock with jargon-spewing friends. Or, it can find its uses at Thanksgiving, explaining an ‘onsight’  or ‘redpoint’ to your parents.


Climbing is another major publication, focusing more exclusively on rock, particularly trad and sport. Though, they do cover indoor climbing and the competition scene more comprehensively than most other outlets. The magazine often has more commentary and satire than others, particularly the column “Unsent.” So you could probably guess that the column’s “18 New Climbing Slang Terms” isn’t meant to be taken seriously. But the list of semi-satirical terminology does reveal more about the sport’s culture than you might expect. The jokes are aimed at the bulk of climbers and their climbing lives, so expect to chuckle about your own gym experiences.

Proceed with caution, and prepare for ridicule if deploying new-found “Unsent” vocab, and, god forbid, don’t be a perma-gumby. When you describe how you sent that awful, greasy granite corner in 90 degree heat, make sure to mention the underfling move onto that nasty splingus above the last bolt. The magazine as a whole holds much more useful information, most of which you would not be made fun of for repeating, apart from other “Unsent” columns or James Lucas’ “Peaches Preaches.” Thanks, James.


10 Rock Climbers Inspiring Us on Instagram

Rock climbing isn’t easy. The blisters, the packing in equipment to remote locations, and the many failed tries make it frustrating. But after an epically successful route, the pain and tests of motivation are all worth it.

That’s why it’s encouraging to turn to Instagram to see some of the best rock climbers face their own trials and successes. We love the big name climbers, but there are also so many other lesser-known rock climbers whose stories may change the way you look at rock climbing.

Below are 10 quotes from rock climbers who are guaranteed to inspire you and get you rock climbing all summer long. Make sure to follow them on Instagram for incredible climbing stories and endless motivation.

“Yeah that’s me, 34 years ago, when I had more balls than brains…”
– Simon Carter

Simon Carter is an Australian adventure rockclimber who has documented his process by taking professional photographs of his climbs and the climbs of others. He has rockclimbed in 18 countries and climbs to overcome a fear of heights. His Instagram is full of shots from other professional rockclimbers on unique routes around the world.

“As a six year old girl growing up in NYC, I never imagined I’d become a rock climber, traveling all over the world. I didn’t think I was brave enough, and I was too concerned that others would think it was a crazy idea. Now I’m 17 and proud of how I’ve helped push the sport to new places, and how I’ve learned to never sweat the judgment of others.”
– Ashima Shiraishi

At only 18 years old, Ashima Shiraishi is the best female rockclimber in the world. She was the youngest person to climb a V15 route and the only female (by the way she was 14 when she did this). She is a first-generation American and uses her experience growing up in poverty in NYC to inspire other urban youth to climb.

“When you are facing a challenge that’s near your personal limit you are guaranteed to fail multiple times, so for me this is balancing a sense of humility with a sense of belief.”
– Nathaniel Coleman

Another coming-of-age star, Nathaniel Coleman, has won two IFSC silver medals in the World Circuit. He is on the road to compete on the US national team in Tokyo at the 2020 olympics. He is an inspiration for all young aspiring athletes.

“In my mind, being a true climber is not synonymous with how often or hard you climb outdoors. In my life, climbing outdoors often has only been correlative with privilege, disposable time, and disposable income.”
– Mélise Marie

Mélise Marie is a rockclimber who challenges the climbing community to have conversations about diversity and inclusivity.  She’s vocal about the divide within outdoor sports and encourages all underrepresented people to get involved and climb. She is currently earning her PhD in neuroscience and is overall an inspiring figure.

“The more we can open our eyes to other people’s visions of the world, and not write them off as crazy or silly or strange, the more we can just decide to try things because they are fun and enjoyable.”
– James Pearson

James Pearson is a British rock climber that has climbed in exotic locations around the world. He is a sponsored climber for The North Face, and his climbs have been featured in many mini documentaries for the brand. He has climbing skills in many climbing disciplines, including sawanobori (Japanese stream climbing).

“Being a veteran and utilizing the strengths to become a climber, to become a backpacker, to become a hiker, to become a fisherman or a kayaker you get to build off who you are and be something more than just a veteran.”
– Stacy Bare

Not a professional rock climber but rather an inspirational hobbyist climber, Stacy Bare is a veteran who used climbing to overcome his PTS from Iraq. From that experience, he founded Adventure Not War. The project’s aim is to climb, ski, and adventure in all the places where he had served in the army, including Iraq and Afghanistan. He also is the Director of Sierra Club Outdoors, founded the Great Outdoors Lab, and a brand ambassador for The North Face.

“Choosing to be a dirtbag climber is just not an option for many people of color.”
– Sophia Danenberg

The climbing community is plagued by a lack of diverse role models. However, climber Sophia Danenberg has set out to change this. She was the first African American to summit Everest in 2007. Her background has had a great impact on the way she connects with local community at her climbing destinations. She discusses how her lack of white privilege helps her get better information for exotic climbing spots.

“I dont get days like this above the clouds without months or years of prep and training and dreaming first.”
– Adrian Ballinger

Professional rock climber, skier, and mountain guide, Adrian Ballinger has been an idol for all challenging adventurers around the globe. He has summited Everest six times, varying between using supplemental oxygen and choosing to climb without.

“I could not see how high I was, I could just feel the openness and how exposed I felt as I climbed higher.”
– Shaun Sturges

Rock climbing fully-able bodied is a challenge in itself. But imagine climbing up steep ascents with no eyesight. This is the challenge of climber Shaun Sturges. He is a rockclimber who lost his eyesight as a teenager, but has continued to seek out the adrenaline. He has hopes to compete in the 2024 Paralympic Games.

“Climbing is for everyone, it’s an innate part of nature.”
– Kai Lightner

Kai Lightner is another young climber who some have said has the skills to become the best rock climbers in the world. The 19-year-old began climbing at age six, and has a long list of accomplishments. At 6’3” he towers amongst his competitors. But perhaps our favorite part about him is his passion and enthusiasm for the sport. It shines through him and makes him incredibly fun to watch.

Rock climbing is a sport that has been defined by the same demographics for decades. However, the rockclimbers quoted above are challenging these norms, and showing us that anyone can climb. They just have to want it.

Get out there and climb on. Rock climbing is officially for all.

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