Yeah, Did You Just Make That Up? I Think Ya Did — 20 climbing terms and their potentially nonsense origins

Climbers have a very particular vocabulary. If any outsider were to eavesdrop on a conversation between climbers for even five minutes, they would leave very confused and probably disgusted. Our slang terms get slangier, and shortened, and misspelled until we're left with a language so exclusive, that I'm still learning new words all the time — and I have been in the climbing game for about 13 years now. I compiled a list of 20 of the most common climbing terms that y'all might be interested in hearing the origins of. Let me know if I missed any! GriGri: Believe it or not, the term "GriGri" is derived from Voodoo. Yep, spell castin', doll stabbin' Voodoo.  In Voodoo, a "gris gris" is a good luck talisman —  thanks to its auto-locking feature, I'd say the GriGri is a pretty good luck charm against your partner's crappy belaying. So be sure to make an animal sacrifice to the Petzl gods, in appreciation for them creating you such a glorious device.

A traditional gris gris. DON'T BELAY WITH THIS

A traditional gris gris. DON'T BELAY WITH THIS

Beta: Coined by Texan climber Jack Mileski in 1981, "beta" was taken from Beta-max — as in the old videocassettes used in the 80s, for those of you who've never seen a world without DVDs. (Man, we used to have to rewind stuff!)  Mileski used to film himself climbing and save it to Beta-max tapes, so he could watch how he made certain moves later. If another climber would ask him how he did a certain move, instead of just telling them, he'd say "I'll show you the Beta!"

ATC: No, it doesn't stand for "A Terrible Catch." ATC actually stands for "Air Traffic Controller," which sounds a lot like someone who works in the control tower at an airport, or even that guy with the cool tiny lightsabers that directs planes on the runway. It's kind of funny to think that your friend taking a whip on his project is considered "air traffic," and that makes you as the belayer a traffic cop of sorts, keeping him from a collision course with the dirt. The acronym ATC is technically trademarked by Black Diamond, so not every tube-style belay device is an ATC, but we call them that anyways. Kinda like how every tissue is a Kleenex.

Figure-4: Potentially the most useful and practical move in climbing, I use the figure-4 on an almost daily basis. That's probably why I can't climb harder than V2, but whatever. The figure-4 is the move that everyone wishes they could find a route they could functionally bust it out on, but it very rarely actually presents itself as useful. This term was purportedly coined in 1982 by British climber John Arran, who took the name from the wrestling move the figure-4 leg lock, which the climbing move looks very similar, too. Except with the climbing move you're not wrestling another person; you're basically just wrestling yourself on the wall.

A figure-4 as seen in the wild!

A figure-4 as seen in the wild!

Gaston: Named after the French alpinist Gaston Rebuffat, after he was photographed performing the move in Chamonix. Man, I want a climbing move named after me. How about, every time you can't reach something, it's a "Caillin?" I like it. Let's do it, people.

My name's Gaston, and IDGAF.

My name's Gaston, and IDGAF.

Rose move: A total cross-body reach-through, where you're so far extended that your hips rotate outward until you're facing away from the wall. Named after The Rose et la Vampire, a route in Buoux, France.This route was chiseled by French climber Antoine le Menestral to require an exaggerated cross-through, which was known henceforth as a "Rose" move.

The Rose move

The Rose move

V-scale: Named for bouldering pioneer John "Vermin" Sherman. Also known as the "Hueco" scale, since Sherman first created this rating system specifically for problems at Hueco Tanks. I'm assuming the "V" in the V-scale stands for Vermin, a name apparently given to him by a high school teacher. That teacher is definitely not winning any Educator of the Year awards.

Belay: Derived from the Old English word belecgan, which roughly meant "to surround something with other objects." This word eventually morphed into "belay," and was used as a nautical term to refer to anchoring something by securing it with coils of rope. In the 20th century, "belay" was finally adopted by mountaineers to refer to anchoring a climber with a running rope. Let's start a pact to be pretentious and bring belecgan back — "Hey man, could you belecgan me on this route?"

Arête: Plain and simple, "arête" means "ridge" in French. That was easy.

An arête — fun to climb on, not fun to fall on.

An arête — fun to climb on, not fun to fall on.

Dihedral: All you math and geometry nerds already know this one! The definition of "dihedral" is"having, or formed by two planes." "Dihedral" is the name of the angle created, when two planes of rock intersect to create the inverted corner we all know, love, and get Elvis leg while stemming on.

The inverse of an arête, the dihedral ... otherwise known as a corner.

The inverse of an arête, the dihedral ... otherwise known as a corner.

Carabiner: Most likely coined by the German climber Otto Herzog, after he saw a fire brigade clipping something very similar to the modern carabiner onto their belts. At the time, they were called "karabinerhaken," which roughly translates to "hook for a carbine." Otto introduced these into the sport of climbing, and the rest is history.

Crux: Not just a climbing term, the "crux" is the most difficult part of basically any situation. Like, how getting out of bed is the crux of your day, or deciding whether to get rainbow or chocolate sprinkles is the crux of a visit to Cold Stone. The word itself is Latin, and means "torture." So every time you're cruxing out on your project, remember that in ancient Latin, you're being tortured.

Deadpoint: A term used in basketball to describe that moment of weightlessness when a player reaches the apex of their jump while throwing the ball for a field goal or scrimmage or whatever, I don't care about sports. American climber John Gill was the first to use the term in reference to climbing in 1969.

Dyno: A shortened form of "dynamic movement." This slang term was first used by boulderers in California in the 1970s. Before John Gill made sick mad dynos cool in the 1950s, all-points-off dynamic movements were seen as desperate and thrutchy, and were to avoided. Nowadays, you have no chance of landing a girlfriend unless you insert an insane dyno into like, every climb.

THIS MAN NOW HAS 30 GIRLFRIENDS

THIS MAN NOW HAS 30 GIRLFRIENDS

Flash: The origins of this term are a little muddy, and the internet lead me to two different options. Either because "flash" is synonymous for something quick and attention-grabbing, which "flashing" a climb can be, or it's named after Jack "Flash" Metcalfe, who may? have coined the term to differentiate between an onsight, and a first-attempt redpoint.

Redpoint: A term invented by German climber Kurt Albert at Frankenjura in 1975. As he projected the route Adolf Rott Ged. -Weg, he painted a hollow red circle at the bottom of the climb to signify that he had free-climbed all of the moves. Once he linked all the moves for the send, he filled in the circle completely, and it was called a "rotpunkt" — or, a "redpoint."

The famous red dot

The famous red dot

Send: Most likely just a botched version of "ascend." Because climbers are notoriously bad spellers.

Mantle: Kind of a no-brainer. It's short for "mantleshelf," because a mantle is exactly the sort of move you'd need to do to climb on top of your fireplace mantle. Not sure why you'd ever do that, but someone has thought of it. A "beached whale" is the gnarliest of mantles, because it's less of a pressing motion and more just dragging your body across the rock like some poor, stranded marine mammal.

Hangdog: Ray Jardine, inventor of the Friend cam, came up with the concept of hanging on gear between free-climbing sections of his project in 1976 while working, and eventually sending, America's first 5.12. Jardine later that year established another 5.12, Hang Dog Flyer, which eventually became the adopted term for Jardine's resting on gear technique.

Highball: According to bouldering god and inventor of the V-scale John Sherman, the term "highball" most likely came about because of the similarity between a highball climb and the height of a highball drink glass. Both can be excessively tall, and treacherous when enjoyed to excess. Don't combine drinking highballs with climbing highballs or you're gonna have a bad time.