Climbing Glossary

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Ice Climbing Vernacular
 Go to Cameron Burns' Ice Climbing Glossary for a peek into the speak of those who can't get enough of the frozen stuff.
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on-sight: to successfully lead a route without prior knowledge of the climb and without falling or otherwise weighting the rope; see flash

opposition: nuts, anchors, or climbing maneuvers that are distinguished by the simultaneous stress of two forces working against each other

overhang: see ceiling

peg: see piton

pinkpoint: to lead (without falling) a climb that already has been rigged with quickdraws; a variation of redpoint

pin: see piton

pitch: a section of a climb, usually no more than the length of a standard climbing rope (165 feet)

piton: metal spike hammered into the rock to provide an anchor in a crack; in the 1970s pitons were generally replaced by chocks as clean climbing became the standard

placement: the quality of a nut or anchor in reference to its durability as an anchor

protection: equipment placed in rock, snow, or ice for safety in the event of a fall; also called pro

prusik: [noun] a loop of cord wound around a rope of large diameter, which grips the rope when weighted and slides when unweighted; [verb] any means by which one mechanically ascends a rope

quickdraw: short slings with biners at either end used to clip a rope to a protection bolt or extend the length of a piece of protection

rappel: to descend a rope using friction devices to control speed

redpoint: to lead a route without falling or resting on protection

roof: see ceiling

runout: the distance between two points of protection

second: [noun] after the leader, the first person to climb a pitch; [verb] "to second" means to follow a pitch

sewing machine: (slang) when a fatigued climber's leg begins to shake rapidly up and down

slack: extra rope

sling: a webbing loop used to extend protection

smear: to gain purchase by using friction to adhere the sole of the shoe onto a rock

sport climbing: climbing routes on which pre-drilled bolts are used for protection; emphasis on gymnastic movements rather than route finding and gear placement

stem: to bridge or straddle a corner or chimney by using a technique in which the hands and/or feet are in opposition to one another

subalpine: region of a mountain below the tree line

tension: to belay the climber tightly with the rope; to take up slack

top-rope: a belay from an anchor point above; protects the climber from falling even a short distance

traditional/trad climbing: type of climbing in which the climber places his/her own gear as he/she ascends

traverse: a series of sideways moves without ascent; a horizontal section of climbing

verglas: a film of ice that often covers rock, usually requires the climber to use crampons

webbing: flat profile nylon

zipper: the action of popping out many pieces of protection as one falls


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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