Climbing Glossary

Climbing jargon has the tendency to isolate those in the know from those out of the scene.  A major component of our site is built around rock climbing, and while rock climbing plays a role in many of our discussions, our primary aim centers around inclusiveness, community, and the role that nature plays in our lives.  The notion of inclusiveness and climbing specific jargon tend to be at odds. This post is an attempt to remedy that apparent disconnect.

So, if you aren’t up to date on your contemporary climbing argot, I have taken the pains to construct a song to keep you in the loop!

My motivation for this song comes from one of the most underrated poetic lyricists of all time1.  Big L.

Ebonics by Big L is truly a brilliant poetic classic that basically serves as a Google Translate from Standard English to what Big L calls “Criminal Slang”.  Aside from serving as a suburban thesaurus it also has a sick flow, dope beat, and tight rhymes.  You can check it out here if you aren’t familiar with it!

I am not a poetic lyricist by any stretch of the imagination, so essentially I’m plagiarizing commandeering the genius of Big L to help create a fun translator from Climbing Slang to Standard English.  (If you want read to the beat, click here.)

Climbing Slang

Yo, pay attention
And listen real closely how we break this slang shit down

Check it, a monkey fist is a ball
A giant whip is a fall
You clip ropes to a draw
And Crampons is your claws

Drop foot is a flag, rope friction is drag
Rocks is crags, homeless is dirt-bags

The beta’s your map, torn skin is a flap
If you rappel then you rap, up and down is a lap

Gun powder is chalk, Starring hard is a gawk
The approach is a walk, and memes is rawk tawk

If you retreat then you bail
If you dirt then you fail
Extra rope is a tail

The gear you place is cams, wedging is jams
Draw descend is a tram, your climbing crew is your fam

When you uncoil rope you flake
A safe knot is an eight; a sliding fall is a cheese grate

I know you like the way we freakin’ it
we talk with slang and we’ll never stop speakin’ it

Speak with climbing slang

That’s just the way that we talk, yo
Vocabulary spills, we ill (2x’s)

Yo, yo

If you scared then you take, it’s also a break
And if you Elvis, then you got leg shake

You put both hands on a hold…it’s a match
An outside corner’s Arete
And if you stop a fall it’s a catch

A clean 1stattempt is a flash
A sloppy route is just called trash

The best hold is a jug, the hardest part is the crux
And if you off-width…the way you move is to udge

Lactic Acid is pumped, Switch holds is a bump
Dyno’s a jump, to come down is to dump

A length of rope is a pitch
Sliding foot is a smear
A friction knot is a hitch
And a rack is your gear

Traditional’s trad
Finger tips is your pads
Low angled rock is a slab, and off route is a dab

I know you like the way we freakin’ it
we talk with slang and we’ll never stop speakin’ it

Speak with climbing slang

That’s just the way that we talk, yo
Vocabulary spills, we ill…(2x’s)

Protection is Pro, concentration is flow
To climb without gear is to free solo

If your toe out, then your shoe blow’d out
A sport climb is a bolt route
And if a rock falls you give a rock shout

If you on a small ledge, then your shoes gotta edge
And if you workin a crack then your pro is a wedge

Redundant is ya back-up, Grabbin gear is to rack-up,
Pullng rope is to slack-up, and funny off-width is a crack-up.

Solid pro is passive, a highball is massive
Pro with parts is active, belay a hang-dog means you captive

The OG Cam is the Friend, a clean climb is a send
A rope loop is a bend, if straight-armed then you stemmed

Sliding down snow’s a glissade
The difficulty’s the grade
theDIHEDRAL is a diedre, uh!

I know you like the way we freakin’ it
we talk with slang and we’ll never stop speakin’ it

Speak with climbing slang

That’s just the way that we talk, yo
Vocabulary spills, we ill…(2x’s)

THERE YOU GO, all your climbing questions answered in the form of a song!!! The next time you’re wondering just what the heck some climbing slang means, just consult this little piece of inspiration from one of the greats.

Thanks for bobbin along.

Big L Rest In Peace! (May 30, 1974 – February 15, 1999)

Carrot (Co-writer)

  1. I know I have a tendency to hyperbolize every now and then, but when I say that Big L is one of the best rap lyricists ever I’m not exaggerating (I swear). His work remains by and large underground, which lends itself to his underrated status. However, Hip Hop Scholars and colleagues are well aware of the brilliance of Big L.  He has been rated as one of the top 25 MC’s of all time. Number 1 on that list is Nas who had this to say about Big L “He scared me to death.  When I heard that on tape I was scared to death.  I said, ’Yo, it’s no way I can compete if this is what I gotta compete with.’”  Big L remains a shrouded icon; maybe this post sheds a glimmer of light in his direction.

12 Replies to “Climbing Glossary”

    1. Oh thank you, This was so much harder than I thought it was goin to be. I am so happy to hear that it hit the mark. You have made my day, thank you, thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When it comes to playlists, I just let Spotify do the heavy lifting. But since we are on the topic of hip hop, I can recommend the ‘acid jazz’ playlist on Spotify. Not purely old school rap classics, but still an epic playlist. check it out!


  1. Badass! Can’t wait to show my daughter, she’s 7 so if I can manage to memorize a few lines I should get a laugh and an eye roll.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is epic and I need to see someone who can handle it perform it! Come on give us a vlog performance!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Northeast Alpine Start and commented:
    Climbing friends (and rap aficionados) you got to check this out from my friends over at The Dihedral <- happens to be an awesome climbing blog you should probably be following.

    Liked by 1 person

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