Language is a difficult thing to communicate with. Sadly it is all we’ve got. The form of communication that climbers use is particularly riddled with phrases and terms that are exclusive to the climbing community. With this in mind I am publishing a post dedicated to the jargon of the vertical life.

A: Alpine- Where the real stuff goes down. Think big walls, big weather, big beauty, lakes, flowers and clear air.

Alpine Start- Waking up early, to get to the alpine and maximize daylight. Climbing is hard, it’s a hell of a lot harder when you have to do it in the dark.

B: Bail- Getting off a climb, due to previously unforeseen or unmanageable circumstances. (eg. weather)

Belay- A method of managing a rope connected to the climber to ensure their safety.

Belayer- The person actually doing the management.

Belay device- The piece of equipment that is used to belay. (eg. Gri-gri or an Air Traffic Controller (ATC))

Beta: The information, the best sequence to do a climb/single move, the best camping spot. Anything you want to know and are looking for is the beta.

Bivy: Spending a night (often unplanned for) somewhere other than your tent/place of preferred slumber.

Bolt: Literally a bolt with an attached hanger drilled into the rock. This serves as a piece of protection, should the lead climber fall, the bolt will catch them.

Bouldering: Often referred to as pebble wrestling, it is the act of climbing boulders. It is too small to require the use of ropes.

C: Crag- The cliff. Often only single pitches. An easy place for a day outing.

Crash Pad- A big foam mattress placed on the ground when bouldering to protect any falls.

Crack Climbing- Using a crack to make upward momentum.

F: Face climbing- A type of climbing that uses edges, knobs, dimples and friction as holds. This is often done when Sport climbing, and is the opposite of crack/trad climbing.

G: Gear- Cams, nuts, hexes. Stuff you put in the crack to protect yourself.

J: Jamming- The act of putting various body parts from hands-head-feet in a crack and trying to get them stuck so as to enable upward motion.

L: Lead climbing- When a climber trails a rope they are attached to and connects it via a carabiner to protection on the wall. This can be as either Sport Climbing or Trad Climbing.

M: Multi-Pitch- A climb consisting of several pitches. This can range from 2- over 20.

P: Pitch- The distance between two belay spots.

Protection- Either bolts or traditional gear, that protects the lead climber from hitting the ground if they fall.

R: Rack- The trad gear.

Rating- The arbitrary assessment of climb based on difficulty. At the moment in roped climbing it goes from 5.0-5.15c (at 5.10 it is broken down further into a,b,c and d) and in Bouldering it goes from v0-v16.

S: Sport Climbing. Clipping into bolts for protection. This is often done when Face Climbing.

T: Trad Climbing- The act of placing trad gear into a crack for protection.

I hope this helps to clarify some terms. For a more complete list see wikipedia.

An update on the adventure will come after we make dinner. Here’s a cliffhanger though, we left the Wind Rivers early and are now in Jackson. Find out why soon.

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