Rock Climbing terminologies

Types of Climbing

Climbing without getting too high off the ground and without using any ropes. A crash pad is often used to protect the climber in case of a fall. It is also a good idea to have someone spot the climber.

Top roping
Climbing while being tied to an already set up rope. In case of a fall, the climber falls only a short distance because of the stretch in the rope (and maybe some slack).

Lead Climbing
Climbing a route where the rope has not yet been set up. The climber carries a rope up the route, and peridiocally clips the rope through anchors in the rock. In case of a fall, the climber will fall at least double the distance to the closest anchor below him plus the stretch in the rope.

The route has bolts that were drilled (or glued) into the rock. As the climber goes up the route, he or she will clip the rope through these bolts.

(Traditional) There are no pre-set anchors along the route. The climber has to place special devices (rock protection) into the rock and clip the rope through them.

The climber uses special devices to scale the rock. For example, he could clip a ladder into an anchor, climb the ladder, set up another anchor higher up and so on. Basically, if you are using any additional equipment for anything other than protection in case of a fall or resting then this is considered aid climbing.


A technique used by a belayer to give/take out the rope from the climber and to catch the climber in case of a fall. While this can be done without any equipment (body belay), it is safer and more comfortable to use a belay device. Check out this graphical guide to belaying -

(Same as abseiling) Descending a rope usually with a use of a rappelling device. Unless you plan to leave your rope behind, you would rappel on two strands of the rope. This way you can pull down the rope after you get to the bottom. This also means that one rope gives you only half a rope-length of rappel. To get a full-length rappel you need to tie two ropes together.


This is how you attach yourself to a rope. Instead of tying the rope around your body (which works, but is quite uncomfortable if you fall), the climber wears a harness that is then attached to the rope.

Dynamic rope stretches under tension. In case of a fall, the stretch in the rope absorbs some shock, which would otherwise be passed on to the climber and the anchors. If you lead-climb, then this is the type of rope you would use. It is recommended to use dynamic ropes for top-roping as well.
This rope has very limited elongation under tension and is used in situations where there in no chance of sudden loading - caving, rappelling and hauling.
Ropes with smaller diameter that are designed to be used in pairs while lead climbing. The climber alternately clips them through the anchors. If done smartly this reduces rope drag and lowers the risk of equipment failure. In certain situations when there is no risk of big falls (such as rappelling or glacier travel), half ropes can be used singly (or tied together to get a longer rope). Half ropes are marked by a '1/2' symbol on one of the ends.
same as half ropes (confusing, isn't it?)
Can be used singly for all types of rock climbing activities.
Similar to double ropes as they have to be used in pairs. However, you have to clip both ropes together through all pieces of protection. A pair of twin ropes can weigh as much as or just a little more than a single rope, but provides a full-length rappel. Used primarily by mountaineers for added safety and full-length rappel.

Belaying Device
In case of a climber's fall, most belay devices provide friction to multiply the stopping force applied by the belayer. This type of belay device includes Black Diamond ATC, Petzl Reverso and figure eight. The other type is the device that does not require any stopping force from the belayer (basically it works like the safety belts in your car). Currently the only such device on the market is Petzl GriGri.

Rappelling Device
Most belaying devices also work as rappelling devices.

Climbing Shoes
A special type of shoes used for climbing. They have to fit tightly and have good traction on the rock.

(aka biners) These are used to hook things together. They can be locking or non-locking. For top-roping in a gym you will only need one big locking biner to attach the belay device to your harness.

(aka draws) Two non-locking biners connected by a sling. Used in leading to clip one biner into the protection piece and clip the rope through the other biner.

Rock protection
A special device placed into the rock to provide an anchor. Rock protection works either by wedging or by camming. Camming means that as you try to pull on a protection piece in the direction of the fall, it will rotate and thus wedge in the rock even better. There are two main types of rock protection - passive and active.
Passive devices have no moving parts. This type includes nuts, chocks or stoppers, which work by wedging; and hexes and tri-cams, that can be used for wedging, but also have a camming action.
Spring-loaded camming devices (SLCDs). These devices are initially hold in place by pressure from the springs, but if you try to pull on them, they will cam into the rock. This is the perfect device to use in parallel cracks.

Rating Systems

Yosemite Decimal System
This system is primarily used in the US. Each route is assigned a class from 1 to 5 depending on how hard the hardest part of the route is.
Class 1
Hiking on an easy trail.
Class 2
More difficult than class 1, may require route finding skills.
Class 3
May require scrambling on rocks using hands, rope is not required but may be used for comfort.
Class 4
A very exposed class 3 climb - imagine a ladder with no guardrails over a 1000-foot drop. Using a rope is highly recommended, as any fall can be fatal.
Class 5
Technical rock climbing. Class 5 routes are further subdivided into categories: 5.1, 5.2, ..., 5.15, with 5.1 being the easiest. Plus and minus are used to indicate harder or easier grades, e.g. 5.8- is not quite a 5.8, but is harder than a 5.7. Grades 5.10 and above are further subdivided by appending a-d, e.g. 5.11a is easier than 5.11d. Most people can learn how to climb 5.8 with some training. With extensive training many people can learn how to climb 5.10. The hardest climb-able route as of now is 5.15a.

Bouldering V-Scale
(Vermin scale) V0 through V15. V1 is equivalent to 5.11c and V15 is equivalent to 5.15. V0 is anything easier than V1.

Other Climbing Jargon (used in US and EUROPE)

To lead a route on the n-th attempt without falling or resting.
To redpoint a route on the first attempt with some prior knowledge (beta) of the holds and moves.
To flash a route without any prior knowledge (beta) of the holds and moves.
To redpoint a route with pre-placed protection or draws.
Also known as "top-rope rehearsal", this style of climbing involves practicing a poorly protectable route (i.e. X or R rating) on top-rope and leading it. A lead fall usually means severe injury or death. Some purists frown on this ethic though it's somewhat common among hardy British climbers.
To flash a route on toprope.
(as in do you have any beta on this route?) advice/information on how a route should be climbed. Apparently, this comes from the days when climbers taped themselves using now extinct Betamax recorders in order to analyze their moves. Beta also refers to one's particular and possibly unique moves on a particular route (as in "nice beta" or "Cat Woman's got some funky back-stepping beta on 'Your Momma Wears Pants'".

Climbing equipment reference link: How to choose equipment as basic guideline by Kaivalya Varma?

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