You can thank my mum for this page! She subscribed to my blog and was enjoying it but was a bit lost on some of the technical terms. Climbing, as with most things in life, has a lot of them – words that have specific meaning in the context of the sport and if you don’t understand them, it can be very confusing.

So here are a host of technical climbing terms explained. There will be many ommisions to begin with, as to create a comprehensive list from scratch would be insanely hard! So if a word comes up that gives you a puzzled look, leave a comment and i’ll elaborate and add it on to the list.

  • AggregateNoun. A type of competition, lasting several months where indoor problems are reset regularly and the competitor ticks off problems on their scorecard as they complete each one.
  • AreteNoun. The end of a face of a boulder. From the French word for stop.
  • Beta. Noun. Information on how to complete a specific climb from a third party. Can come in many forms, from a fellow climber telling you, to watching someone on a problem, to watching a video online.
  • BoulderingVerb. Climbing on boulders with no ropes or artificial protection. A fall results in hitting the ground and falls can generally be accepted and safe.  Foam mats, sometimes known as pads, are used to make the landing safer and more comfortable.
  • ChalkNoun. Magnesium Carbonate mixed with other substances used on the hands to absorb sweat and improve grip.
  • ConditionsAdj.  Weather aspects that affect one’s ability to be able to climb successfully on a given climb at a given time. (Sometimes colloquially known as “connies”)
  • CrimpNoun. A type of climbing hold gripped only by the fingertips – fingers go on to a crimp.
  • CruxNoun. The hardest move on a climb.
  • DynamicAdj. Reaching for a hold where the body moves, using momentum to gain more distance.
  • DynoVerb. In essence, a jump to a distant hold.
  • Flash. Verb. Completing a climb on the first attempt, thus meaning you only have one chance to flash a climb. A flash can involve beta prior to setting off the ground, differing from an onsight which is without any prior knowledge – the latter is very unusual in bouldering.
  • GastonNoun. A hold that is pressed away from the centre line of the body.
  • GradeAdj. A system employed to distinguish the difficulty of a climb. There are two main recognised systems: the Font scale (5, 5+, 6a, 6a+, 6b, 6b+, 6c, 6c+, 7a… 8c+) and the Hueco scale (V0, V1… V16). Grades are often contested and controversial.
  • Heel hookNoun/verb. Use of the heel to give stability or propulsion on the rock.
  • HighballAdj. A tall boulder problem, one involving a large fall back to the ground. A highball can often be thought of as a small route which would be soloed. [Personal distinction: a highball is a tall climb you’d be happy to fall off the highest last move, a solo is a climb where a fall would want to be avoided on the higher moves.]
  • JugNoun. A type of climbing hold that allows you to get the fingers inside – fingers go in to a jug. Generally the easiest type of hold to hold.
  • MantleNoun/Adj. The action of climbing onto a shelf by pressing down with the hands and feet, where the hands will undoubtedly end up below the chest.
  • MoveVerb. The act of moving one part of your body, usually an arm or leg, to obtain the next hold.
  • OnsightVerb. To complete a climb on the first attempt with no prior knowledge of any of the holds or moves. Rarely used in bouldering, far more common in traditional climbing.
  • OverhangNoun. Rock that is angled towards you (the top will come over your head if you posistion yourself at the base of the wall). A very steep overhang is often called a Roof.
  • PadsNoun. Large foam pads carried to the crag for the boulderer to land on when a fall occurs.


  • PinchNoun. A type of climbing hold where the fingers and thumb act in opposition. These generally mean the fingers stack vertically while squeezing the hold to give you power.
  • ProblemNoun. Shorthand for a boulder problem: the term given to a climb that is generally not more than 15-20ft where no ropes are employed and a foam mat is used to make the landing safer.
  • ProjectNoun. A climb that one wishes to complete in the future.
  • ProwNoun. A rock feature clasped on both sides by hands and/or feet.
  • PsycheAdj. Enthusiasm and gleeful anticipation of climbing something soon.
  • Pump Adj. Where the forearms, usually, get a build up of lactic acid and the fingers struggle to grip properly
  • RoofNoun. A piece of rock so overhanging that it becomes around horizontal and is climbed on it’s underside.
  • Send. Verb. To complete a climb/boulder problem.
  • SessionNoun. The period of time where climbing occurs.
  • SidepullNoun. A way of holding a hold, where the fingers are generally vertical and you pull the hold towards one from the side.
  • SlabNoun. Rock that is angled away from you (the top is further away from you than the base).
  • SloperNoun. A type of climbing hold where the palm of the hand sits on the hold, fingers extended in an open fashion.
  • StaticAdj. Reaching for a hold where the body remains stationary.
  • StokedAdj. Another term for psyched or enthused.
  • Thumb SpragNoun. Usually a gaston, sometimes an Undercling/Undercut applied by using the thumb alone. Very rare.
  • TickVerb. To complete a climb/boulder problem. Also used as the action of “ticking” the climb off in the guidebook or as a potential climb for the future.
  • TickmarkNoun. A line drawn on the rock to indicate to the climber where an out-of-sight hold will be.
  • Toe HookNoun/verb. Use of the top of the toes to give stability or propulsion on the rock.
  • TopoNoun. A picture or diagram showing where the climbs are on a given piece of rock.
  • TraverseNoun. A climb that goes from one side to another without gaining height. If there is predominantly sideways movement but you also gain height, it may be classed as a Rising Traverse.
  • Undercling/UndercutNoun. A way of holding a hold where you pull up on said hold from above, normally with your feet and body quite high compared to your hands.

Got any more? Leave a comment at the bottom and i’ll add them on!

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