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Climbing Glossary
[A-L] [M-Z]

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Bad, heinous, atrocious, dreadful, ghastly. Usually applies to a piece of protection, but can refer to anything that is generally worthless, disgusting and/or offensive.

A technique wherein a climber grasps a hold waist-level and powers the body upward with minimal assistance from the feet. (From "mantelpiece.")

To grasp a hold with both hands, or to place the feet side by side on the rock.

Mixed Climbing:
Ascending a route by a combination of methods, e.g. mixed free and aid climbing; also, ascending a route wherein both rock and ice, and sometimes snow, are encountered.

An accumulation of stones and various debris pushed into a large pile by a glacier.

Multi-Pitch Climb:
A climb that is longer than a single rope length, necessitating the setting of anchors at progressively higher belay stations as the climbers ascend.

Munter Hitch:
A belay knot through which the rope slides when pulled in one direction and brakes when pulled in the other.

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Nailing a route:
A descriptive term that refers to aid climbing with pitons, which are hammered into a wall's cracks to provide protection.

Permanent granular snow formed by repeated freeze-thaw cycles which is found above the head of a glacier.

A small rock protrusion, often a crystal, that can be utilized as a hold.

A metal wedge with a wire loop that is inserted in cracks for protection.

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"Off Belay!":
Vocal signal from a climber who has reached a safe stance and no longer requires protection from his or her partner.

A crack, dreaded by most rational climbers, that is too wide for a hand or fist jam and too narrow to "chimney." Generally awkward and strenuous to climb, and difficult to protect.

"On Belay?":
Ritual query from a climber to verify that his or her belayer is ready to belay the climber.

On-sight (or "On-sight Flash"):
Leading a climb with no falls and no "dogging" (hanging on the rope) on the first attempt without any prior knowledge (beta) of its features or difficulties.

Open Book:
A dihedral, or right-angled inside corner.

Rock or ice that is angled beyond vertical.

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A thin piton resembling a bird's beak.

To swing on a rope across a rock face to gain a distant anchor point.

A section of rock between two belay points, no more than the length of one climbing rope.

Metal spike or peg of various shapes and configurations that can be hammered into the rock for protection, primarily in aid climbing.

A hole formed by a depression in the rock. Usually measured by the number of fingers that can be crammed in it.

A lightweight device consisting of stretched nylon over a metal frame which can be hung from a vertical rock face to provide a place to rest/sleep on big wall climbs.

Protection (or Pro):
Any anchor (such as a nut, chock, camming device, piton or stopper) used during a climb to prevent a fall.

A sliding friction knot used to ascend a rope; to ascend a rope by means of such a knot.

A condition of severely depleted strength and lactic acid burn caused by overworking the forearm muscles while climbing.

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The collection of protective devices that a climber carries on a route, attached to harness loops or on a sling slung across the shoulders.

An ascending ledge.

Rappel (or "Rap"):
To descend a fixed rope by means of mechanical braking devices.

To lead a route from bottom to top while placing one's own protection, without falling or hanging on the rope.

A thin crust of icy snow which accumulates on the surface of rocks.

A short metal stud which is tapped into a drilled hole and connected to a short sling or hanger. Rivets are used as protection on aid routes and hold the body weight of a climber, even in very shallow holes.

An overhanging rock ceiling.

Rotten Rock:
Unreliable rock which has a tendency to break off under a climber's weight.

The original brass nut or taper, a small and effective form of protection for clean aid.

An uncomfortably long and often dangerous distance between two points of protection.

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A high pass between two peaks.

To deliberately underestimate the difficulties of a climb in order to get a climber in over his or her head, often with hilarious or tragic results.

Easy, unroped climbing.

A long fall.

Small loose rocks that gather on the slope at the base of a cliff.

Scumming (or Scuzzing):
To gain purchase on the rock with body parts other than the hands or feet, however tenuous or aesthetically displeasing.

The climber who follows a lead up a pitch, belaying from below while the lead advances, then ascending to the end of the pitch.

A pinnacle or tower of ice, usually unsafe and unreliable in nature, and prone to toppling in warm weather.

Sewing Machine Leg:
An embarrassing climbing condition caused by panic and/or fatigue which is manifested by an involuntary vibration of one or both legs. Also known as "Elvis Presley Syndrome."

Sharp End:
The top, or leader's end, of the rope.

To mount an extended assault on a mountain by moving laboriously upward through a series of progressively higher camps. Siege tactics include the use of oxygen, previously cached equipment dumps, and high-altitude porters to do the heavy lifting.

An ethnic group of Tibetan origin living below Mt. Everest in the Solo Khumbu area. From the Sherpa's effective monopoly as high-altitude porters, the name has come to be applied generically to all who work in that profession.

The head Sherpa on an expedition.

Slab Climbing:
Climbing a smooth sheet of rock that lacks large handholds by holding the body out from the rock and using friction and balance to move around and up the slab.

Spring-loaded camming devices, such as Friends or Camalots.

A length of nylon webbing which is either sewn or tied into a loop and is used in conjunction with the rope and anchors to provide protection. Also called a runner.

A technique of applying to a rock slab as much of the sticky sole of the climbing shoe as possible to achieve maximum friction.

Loose, powdery snow.

Sport Climbing:
Ascending routes of extreme gymnastic difficulty protected by closely spaced bolts.

A rock or snow rib on the side of a mountain.

Static Rope / Line:
Special climbing rope used ( usually 8 or 9 mm in diameter ) as fixed rope / line for jumaring or rapelling that does not stretch.

To bridge the distance between two holds with one's feet; to push against adjacent or opposing walls with the feet.

A trapezoidal metal wedge of varying size attached to a loop of flexible wire which is fitted into cracks and depressions in the rock to provide protection for an ascending climber.

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An accumulation of rocks and boulders that have fallen from a crag or face to form a steeply sloping fan at the base.

Top Rope:
A climbing rope that is anchored from above.

A sketch of a route showing its line, bolt placements, belay stances, crux and rating.

A thin piton resembling a bird's beak.

Moving sideways across a section of terrain instead of directly up or down.

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A usually awkward and tenuous hold that requires applying upward pressure on a downward facing hold.

"Up Rope":
Command shouted by a climber when he or she desires a tighter, more secure belay.

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A thin coating of ice on rock which makes for extremely dicey climbing conditions.

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Flat nylon tape or tubing used for slings.

To delicately rest one's weight on a piece of protection to test its security.

A type of avalanche which occurs when a snow layer compacted by wind settles insecurely atop old snow; when it detaches it falls in large slabs or blocks of snow.

To have a route totally figured out.

A homemade climbing wall.

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Zipper Fall:
A fall of such length and velocity that the climber's protective devices are ripped from the rock in rapid succession.

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Glossary: A-L