Alternative facts - 15 common climbing terms and what they REALLY mean

We climbers pride ourselves on our lingo - it sets us apart from the rest of humanity and makes us feel good when we mystify regular folks with talk of "crash pads" and "toe hooks." (Both of these sound pretty weird when taken out of the context of climbing, eh?) But did you know there is a sub-language within our climberisms? There's the climbing term we use, and then what we actually meant. You might not even know you're doing this but believe me ... you're doin' it. I translated some common climberisms, and here's what I came up with:


What it's supposed to mean:  You lightly brushed an off-route hold or object while climbing - depending on your ethics, this may invalidate a send.

What it REALLY means: Yeah ... you totally used that off hold. Like, not even just a little bit. We're talking like, fully-weighted it, but it was only ONCE and it started as an accident so the send TOTALLY still counts, right?

Send temps:

What it's supposed to mean: The ideal temperatures at which to climb, which can vary depending on the location, climate and rock type.

What it REALLY means: A temperature so perfect, you could send like, 2 grades harder if it ever occurred. Unfortunately for you, this temperature is more elusive than a unicorn, so you're stuck projecting things WAY below your limit.


What it's supposed to mean: A large, dynamic lead fall, where the rope is weighted significantly.

What it REALLY means: Any fall, really. Like top-rope, lead ... you can even whip off a boulder nowadays if you try hard enough. Whipper is a state of mind - if it felt big, it WAS big.


What it's supposed to mean: The hardest sequence, or sequences of moves of a problem or route.

What it REALLY means: Any move you can't do.


What it's supposed to mean: Working a route while taking and hanging on the draws.

What it REALLY means: Spending half your climbing session hanging at the same draw while brushing the same hold and saying "just one more try" like seven tries ago.


What it's supposed to mean: New and innovative routesetting.

What it REALLY means: No holds. Only volumes.


What it's supposed to mean: Climbing a route on your first try, without any previous knowledge or beta for the route. 

What it REALLY means: When you send something after only watching someone do like, the first half. Or it was so long ago you don't remember any of the moves so it was basically an onsight.

Heel Hook:

What it's supposed to mean: A climbing move where you place your heel on a hold and weight it almost like you would a hand.

What it REALLY means: A move that looks cool when other people do it, but every time you try it you have to ask yourself "Am I doing this right?" and you know the answer is no because you don't know what you're doing. 


What it's supposed to mean: Loose, poor quality rock.

What it REALLY means: Any route or area that sucks, regardless of rock quality.


What it's supposed to mean: A handhold grabbed with your thumb pointing down and elbow out.

What it REALLY means: A hold employed by routesetters when they hate you.


What it's supposed to mean: A hold with the usable surface on the underside, and is grabbed by pulling up instead of down.

What it REALLY means: A hold that just HAS to be a spinner.


What it's supposed to mean: To climb a route from bottom to top without falling, weighting any gear, or using anything considered "off."

What it REALLY means: You only fell like, one and a half times.


What it's supposed to mean: A constructed feature that either can be used as a hand or foothold or can have additional holds bolted onto it. 

What it REALLY means: A death feature that will literally MURDER YOU TO DEATH when fallen on. THANKS AGAIN ROUTESETTERS.


What it's supposed to mean: A climbing command meant to express that you want excess rope in the belay system to be taken up.

What it REALLY means: Something yelled after you've already fallen off the wall.


What it's supposed to mean: A route graded easier than what most of its previous climbers would generally agree with. 

What it REALLY means: Everything ever set. EVER.

There you have it! Feel free to tell me any I might have missed!

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.