• Rock Runners - Zach

Rock Climbing For Beginners: Rock Climbing Language

If it's your first time in a climbing gym, or are relatively uneducated in climbing lingo, you may find yourself in an awkward situation when an experienced climber tries to explain something to you. This post is going to outline some of the most important words and phrases you need to know when talking with your climber friends.

Hold Types

There are seven main hold groups that practically all holds fall into, it's important to know what's what so you can discuss the route beforehand with other climbers.


Jugs tend to be the most common hold you will find on beginner walls. Mainly because they are easy to grab and hold onto, they lend themselves to being the safest of all the holds. A jug will typically have a rounded edge and should support your entire body weight


Pinches are exactly what they sound like, pinches. Typically these hold will have a rough edge on both sides and require lots of finger strength to hold. These can be tough for beginners especially if your grip strength is sub-par


Pockets are commonly confused with jugs for their similar shape and feel, but pockets are much different. Pockets only allow for a few fingers to fit into the usable part of the hold and are a bit more strenuous than jugs.


Slopers can be difficult for beginning climbers because they don't allow you an actual grip on the wall. Palming them like a basketball as seen in the picture is typically the best way to utilize them, as well as keeping your body pressure below them so you don't slip away from the wall.


Crimps are often the smallest holds you will see in your gym, generally, you will only be able to fit about your first knuckle on the flat edge. These ARE the most difficult holds for beginners because they require the most finger strength and technique when trying to keep your body on the wall.


Volumes come in all shapes and sizes, blocky or round, smooth or rough. Think of them as extensions of the wall. Typically you will see volumes with other holds on them they technically are not holds but sometimes they can be used as one. Before starting your route make sure to check the route card to see if your volumes are on or off. On meaning usable and off meaning not usable.

Other Important Vocabulary


The most technically difficult section of a climb.

Edging A technique used to place weight on very small or thin footholds. The climber uses the edges of their feet instead of the soles.


When you start your route or bolder you are sending.

Flash When a climber uses prior knowledge and beta to ascend a route cleanly from start to finish on their first attempt, without falling.

Heel Hook When a climber uses their heel to hook onto an edge or foothold to help secure their position on the rock.

Toe Hook

When a climber uses their toe to hook onto an edge or foothold to help secure their position on the rock.

Spotter Typically a spotter is a person who is ready to break the fall of a climber on a boulder problem. Their job is to direct them (More importantly, their head) towards the safety of the bouldering mat and make sure that should they fall awkwardly or suddenly, they are protected from hitting the ground or nearby rocks.


When a friend or fellow climber explains a route to you when you are on the wall, pointing out holds explaining techniques, etc.

Undercling When a climber pulls up on a downward-facing handhold to create opposing tension against their feet that are pushing down.

Barndoor When a climber swings away from the rock as a result of being unbalanced.

Arete The edge of a wall that is at a 90-degree angle like that of a corner of a building. These are found typically on the ends of bouldering caves.


A point of attachment for a climbing rope, usually made with slings, runners or the rope itself.


To keep a climber from falling too far by using friction on the rope. The system that stops a climber's fall. It includes the rope, anchors, belay device and the belayer.


To descend from the top of your wall and essentially reverse climb your route without jumping down.

Dynamic Climbing

To climb using very quick and fluent technique typically jumping and swinging hold to hold.

Static Climbing

To climb using a very slow and methodical technique generally moving from hold to hold one arm or leg at a time.


Climbing technique in which the sole of the shoe, plus proper weight over the feet, provides traction for moving upward.


A flat, near-vertical, surface with minimal hold requires good balance and proper technique.


As the name suggests an overhanging wall that forces climbers to hang onto the negative or outward-facing angle.


When belaying someone, safety is ALWAYS the number one priority. These phrases are the most commonly used and accepted when communicating with your belayer or climber.

Once both the climber and belayer are securely clipped in, the climber will start by communicating with their belayer and saying,

Climber: "On Belay"

This lets your belayer know that you are ready and prepared to climb the wall. If the belayer feels the same way and are prepared to belay they will respond with,

Belayer: "Belay On"

The climber then approaches the wall noting that both sides are ready and says,

Climber: "Climbing"

This is the belayer queue that they are about to start their route. Lastly, the Belayer responds with,

Belayer: "Climb on"

As a final OK for the climber to begin.

When a route is finished the climber is ofter too far away to clearly speak with their belayer so they give a simple gesture such as a thumbs up or a head nod to let the belayer know that they are ready to come down.

I hope this information proves useful for you in all your endeavors and will keep you safe when climbing booth outdoor and in gyms, it's important to stay educated and cal when you are putting yourself in risky situations. Happy sending!

I recommend you check out this book on Amazon, it's full of great information for beginning climbers and will surely prove useful. It's only $2.48 plus shipping so I highly recommend you consider.

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