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How to Understand Indoor Rock Climbing Terminology

Learn how to understand indoor climbing terminology from rock climbing expert Cliff Simanski in this Howcast video.


Okay, when you guys are in a climbing jam, there's a lot of terminology you're probably going to hear that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, a lot of weird words that climbers use that seemingly have no context. A couple of those words apply to how a climb is completed. One term would be a redpoint. A redpoint is when you make an ascent of a climb from the bottom to the top without any falls or any takes. Also you've done that climb clean, meaning bottom to top, no falls, that would be a redpoint.

If you do a climb on your first attempt without ever having seen the climb before or knowing anything about it, that would be called an onsight. So a clean ascent of the route without having ever tried it before, your first attempt. A flash is a word that applies to doing a climb on your first attempt, but perhaps this time you've seen some videos of the climb, you already knew what to expect, maybe someone has already gone over it with you, so you knew how to do every move, you just executed it on your first attempt. That would be a flash.

Other terms you might hear is something called a beta. It is a really common word floating around in climbing gyms that applies to the specifics of every type of move you're going to be doing. So someone offers to give you beta, that means maybe some hints as to the sequence, or a way to hold a particular climbing move. So if someone were to give you beta before you made an attempt on a climb, that would mean you would then be flashing the climb, you wouldn't be onsighting, because now you have some insight into what to expect.

Other things might be the term spraying, which would be someone who tells you all kinds of beta when you don't want to hear it. A lot of the time the fun is figuring out how to do the climb on your own, and if you have someone sitting down or standing in the background telling you everything that's going on while you're doing it, it could be kind of annoying. So that's known as spraying, so try to avoid that.

Other terms might be dabbing. A dab is something that when you're climbing, maybe your foot or your hand touches something that's not a part of the climb, that can be anything from a hole that's not on your particular route, that could be part of the rope, part of the gear, that could be the spotter while you're bouldering. Alot of times if you do a big jump move and your feet swing out, you might dab on your spotter while their arms are up, particularly when you're outside, when there are boulders next to you, or trees, things like that, all those types of things are potentials for dabbing.

Lastly, you have some terms that apply for when you're doing some lead climbing, and when you take a big lead fall, that's also known as a whipper. A whipper is just a big fall when you climb way past your gear and you fall well below it, take that big whip. Oftentimes associated with taking a whipper, you will hear someone toss a wobbler, and a wobbler is basically a temper tantrum. So if you see someone shouting, yelling, screaming, kicking the wall, making a fuss, drawing a lot of attention to themselves, that's known as tossing a wobbler, so try to avoid that. The whippers, that's fine, but the wobblers, not necessary.

And those are some terms you might hear in a climbing gym, to give you a little bit of idea of what to expect, and maybe how to express yourself.

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