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Jargon Buster! 

Abseiling - involves the descent of a rope using a friction device to control the speed of descent. It is popular as an activity on single pitch crags and walls, from structures such as bridges and as a method of retrieving equipment stuck on a climb.

Bouldering - a form of rock climbing that takes place on artificial bouldering walls, large natural boulders (rocks) or small rock formations, close to the ground without the use of ropes or harnesses. Members who are leading bouldering activities do not need a climbing permit but must be aware of the risks involved in the activity and plan for the limitations of their groups. Where artificial bouldering venues provide operating procedures these must be followed. For more information on running bouldering activities, please visit the bouldering page of scouts.org.uk/a-z.

Crag - generally refers to a steep or rugged cliff or rock face.

Deep Water Soloing - Soloing above deep water, often referred to as DWS. Seen as a safe, fun activity, but care is needed.

Highball Bouldering - Boulder problems that take the climbing higher than normal bouldering height and into the fear zone.

Ice Climbing - generally refers to the climbing of ice formations such as icefalls and frozen waterfalls, although there are also artificial ice climbing walls available. Ice Climbing is climbing done using ice climbing equipment and/or on ice surfaces, this includes dry walling. An ice climbing permit is required for all ice climbing activities. For more information on running ice climbing activities, please visit the ice climbing page of scouts.org.uk/a-z.

Lead Climbing - a climb where the climber places protection devices into the rock face, or uses pre-installed protection devices, to clip their rope into as they climb. Sport climbing and trad (traditional) climbing are types of lead climbing.

Multi-Pitch Climbing - where a route that can only be completed in two or more stages (pitches), or from which the climber cannot safely walk off unroped from the top, or cannot be safely lowered to the bottom of the climb.

Single Pitch Climbing - where a climb can be completed in one stage (pitch) where the rope is anchored only once and not moved on to form a second pitch, and from which the climber can safely walk off unroped from the top, or can be safely lowered to the bottom of the climb.

Soloing - To climb without a rope. A risky business.

Sport climbing - Climbing on routes which use bolts. Often shortened to Sport.

Top Rope - a single pitch climb where the climber is belayed either by a person at the top of the climb, or by a person at the bottom of the climb when the rope runs from the belayer through an anchor at the top of the climb.

Traditional Climbing (Trad) - climbing routes outside, where the lead climber places protection such as hexes, cams and nuts as they go up. Often shortened to Trad climbing.

National Governing Body Awards (NGB)

Style of ascent

How you get from the bottom to the top of a route is often considered as important as getting to the top at all.

On Sight
To climb a route clean first time from bottom to top in one continual flow, placing your own equipment or clipping the bolts with no falls and no resting on the rope.

Climbing a route clean with prior knowledge and/or equipment already in place.

Ground up
To climb a route, starting at the bottom, and working your way up. You might take some falls, return to the bottom and start again.

To climb a route, usually a sport route, with no rests, after having spent some time on it rehearsing the moves.

Leading a climb, usually a dangerous one, after rehearsing the moves beforehand on a top-rope.

This is what other climbers give you when imparting information about a route such as any trick moves or equipment placements.


The hardware that a rope is clipped into to make a climb safe. There is natural protection in the form of nuts and cams; alternatively, bolts. Also known as gear.

A climber’s personal collection of protection.

In situ
Literally, in place. Usually refers to protection from ascent to ascent that is left in a climb, such as a peg.

Two Karabiners linked together by a length of sown cord. Used to clip the rope to protection.

Another word for a quickdraw.

A very small, brass, climbing nut.

Hold types

A wide range of terms are used to describe what a particular hold looks like, or how it is best used. Most often heard when climbers are recounting the moves on a recent route, or giving advice to others about how to complete a difficult section.

A huge hold (often referred to as a jug), which the whole hand can grasp.

A small edge that is held with fingertips, with the fingers bent to bring the hand closer to the rock. Larger holds can be crimped by using the same hand shape.

Imagine opening a pair of lift doors with your hands; this is the way to place your hands on the climbing holds when doing a gaston. Named after the famous French mountain guide and author Gaston Rebuffat.

The climber's hand is turned sideways and grips a hold by cupping it with the little-finger side of the hand.

Hand jam
Inserting the hand into a crack and squeezing it so that it grips.

A hold that is squeezed between the thumb and fingers for grip.

A downward-facing hold that is pulled upwards by the climber. Needs good body tension and strong biceps.


The body shapes assumed and movements enacted when ascending a route have descriptive names, used when describing a route to other climbers.

Applying equal pressure with the feet and hands in opposite directions on opposing pieces of the rock face.

A semi-dynamic move where the climber hits the hold she is moving to at the end of her arc of movement.

A climbing move in which the climber jumps or moves dynamically from one hold to another.

A move used on steep rock to take the weight off your arms. The feet are placed on two separate footholds and one leg is rotated so the knee is pointing towards the other leg.

Dangling or sticking a leg out to improve balance when climbing.

Heel hook
Using the heel to grip and pull the body towards the rock.

Climbing up by pushing the feet away from the body and pulling the hands towards the body.

A climbing move whose name originated from how one would get stood on a mantelpiece. How you get out of a swimming pool without using the steps.

To gain height by placing the foot on a high hold and rocking the centre of gravity onto it.

Experiential terms

There is also a rich language used to describe the experience of climbing rock.

Bombproof. Used when referring to equipment or holds. Means very good.

A feature of the rock; a crack wide enough to fit your whole body in to.

Soil, dirt, rubble, stones, vegetation; in fact, anything other than good, clean stable rock.

The most difficult move on a climb or the hardest part of the route

A piece of skin that hangs off your finger. Usually sustained on sharp rock or rough holds.

Cleaning vegetation off a climb.

Consumed with fear when on a climb.

Hot aches
An exquisite pain felt in the hands when blood returns to chilled fingers. Usually experienced in ice climbing, winter bouldering or when throwing snowballs with no gloves on.

A crack that is not the size of any particular body part. Usually wider than a fist and smaller than a body.

When the muscles fill with lactic acid and become bloated with blood resulting in a worrying loss of strength. Often combined with being gripped.

Run out
The distance the climber is above their last protection. A route can be described as run out if there are large gaps between the gear placements.

A route or boulder problem that is notoriously tougher than the advertised grade/information given.

A cool cat. A term used to describe a good climber.

Upcoming events

belmont house
7th - 8th September 2024

Explorer Climbing - Peak District
13th - 15th September 2024

District Camp - Cudham Shaws
27th - 29th September 2024

medway district
28th September 2024