5 Essential Terms for New Climbers

Knowing the lingo is half the battle. Do yourself a favor and read up before you head to the bouldering gym for the first time
August 17, 2016Words by Alec Walsh

In our ongoing collaboration with the good folks over at The Field, we bring you the latest – five key words that every aspiring climber should get the hang of before they hang off any rocks. Head on over to The Field for an additional 10. 

With climbing gyms and public walls popping up left and right, it’s time we acknowledge how popular climbing has become. And while the growth is great for the industry, it means an influx of enthusiastic but often clueless climbers. For newbies, simply deciphering what the hell anyone is talking about at the crag or the gym can be a real challenge, but learning the lingo is the first step any prospective climber should take. 

To help you avoid sounding like a total newbie, we’ve outlined the most essential terms to know before you get in too deep.


This is one of the most useful terms for beginners to learn. Beta is any help or advice from another climber in regards to a climb. Stuck on a move? A request for beta from a more experienced climber will often help get you past it. Careful though, it isn’t usually wanted unless asked for!


This is a term that you’ll hear and probably use a lot. And contrary to what you might think, getting pumped doesn’t mean 'excited' in the climbing world. Far from it. Getting pumped describes the sensation of extreme fatigue you get in your forearms while you're climbing. When you’re hanging on with everything you’ve got for an extended period of time, lactic acid begins to accumulate in your muscles as the forearms fatigue, making them feel inflated and clumsy – AKA, pumped.


"Sending a route" is the most common use of the term. This means successfully reaching the top and finishing a climb. You might also hear someone yelling at you to “Send it!” If you’re climbing strong, they’re most likely encouraging you not to give up and keep at it. If you’ve been frozen in the same position for the last five minutes, scared to make the next move, being told to “send it” likely means, “Quit being a wimp and go for it already!” Either way, it’s good to know.


A whipper is a big fall. It’s called this because when a climber falls on lead from above their last piece of protection, they’ll plummet in an arcing, whip-like motion. If you take an impressive fall, you might hear another climber exclaim in admiration, “That was a whipper!” Hopefully the verbal support will reduce the sting of the fall itself.


The crux refers to the most difficult move or series of moves on a climb. Climbs are rated based on the crux, not their average difficulty. You might cruise easily up half a climb but find yourself unable to make it past the crux move. While the moves in gyms are usually fairly consistent with their ratings, top to bottom, when climbing outdoors, you might be in for 100 feet of 5.9 or 90 feet of 5.7 with about 10 feet of 5.9. This is why reading guidebooks and researching routes is so important in climbing. Know before you go. [H]

Head on over to The Field to find out ten more essential climbing terms.

Images ©: 1, 3; Bryson Malone. 2, 4-7; Courtesy of The Field.


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