Rock Climbing Terms Every Beginner Should Know Blog Feature

By: Christina Damon

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Rock Climbing Terms Every Beginner Should Know

Rock Climbing

If you’re a new climber, listening to people talk in the gym might feel like hearing a different language. If your head is spinning hearing your friend talk about how they finally sent their project after struggling with the crux, don’t worry—we’ve all been there! Climbing has its own set of terms and slang and we’re breaking down some of the essential terms for you in this handy glossary.  

Rock climber ascends an arete

A climber ascends an arete.  

Climbing Terrain Terms 

Arete – An arete is an exposed corner, sticking outward from the main wall.  

Diehedral – A diehiedral is a contained corner, nestled inward from the main wall.  

Overhang – Overhang terrain is at an angle greater than 90 degrees. Overhang routes often require movement that focuses on pulling (and pushing) to stay on the wall.  

Roof – Terrain that is extremely overhung or close to parallel to flat ground.  

Slab – Slab terrain is at an angle less than 90 degrees. Slab routes often require movement that focuses on balance. If you feel like a goat traversing a cliffside, it’s slab! 

Vert – Vert terrain is at a 90-degree angle (aka, vertical). Vert routes vary in the skills and technique required.  

A climber cuts feet on overhang terrain.

A climber cuts feet on overhang terrain.

Climbing Movement Terms 

Campus – To campus is to climb without feet, ascending only with arms.  

Crux – The crux of a climb is the most difficult sequence of moves on the route.  

Cut feet – Cutting feet happens when both feet leave the wall surface. 

Flag – To flag is to counterbalance your weight with a leg or arm as you complete a move.  

Dynamic – A dynamic movement where your momentum propels you to the next move.  

Static – A stable movement where you move slowly and with purpose from hold to hold. 

Mantel – To mantel is to push down onto a hold with your arms. Picture trying to get out of a swimming pool with no ladder. 

Smear – Smearing happens when, in lieu of a foothold, you use the friction of your shoe against the wall. Just place your soot and smear that shoe rubber into the wall as hard as you can and boom! Instant foothold.  

Stem – Stemming is pushing against two surfaces simultaneously. Stemming is a common climbing technique on diehedral terrain.  

Two climbers exchange beta for a climb. 

Two climbers exchange beta for a climb. 

Climbing Culture Terms 

Beta – Beta is advice on how to complete a climb. For many folks, the joy of climbing comes from discovering the solution to a problem, so always ask before sharing beta! To share unwanted beta would be to “beta spray.” 

Crag – A crag is an outdoor climbing spot.  

Flash – To flash a climb is to send it on the first try, but with advice from others or after watching someone else attempt the climb. 

On-sight – To on-sight a climb is to send it on the first try, the first time you encounter the climb, with no prior insight or advice from others.  

Project – In climbing, project is a noun and a verb. Your project is a route or problem you’re working on that you haven’t sent yet. When you’re working on your project, you’re “projecting.” 

Redpoint – To redpoint a climb is to send it after prior attempts. Redpointing is commonly used in lead and sport climbing, and practice in these disciplines would include successfully sending a route on top rope before redpointing it on lead.  

Send – To send a route is to successfully climb it from start to finish.


Don't be intimidated the next time you overhear your fellow climbers throwing around these terms—you're ready to talk the talk! The most important thing is feeling welcome to ask questions. We're all constantly learning and growing in this community. Keep on crushing while steadily growing that climbing vocabulary!