Glossary of Climbing Terms

Abalakov Sandwich – a Russian lunch entre consisting of tubular shaved ice dowels served on potato skins and tightly wrapped in 5mm synthetic cord, a staple of suicidally inclined Eastern European alpinists prior to 1989.

To Abseil – to rappel, often to detrimental effect, a British term. Pronunciation unknown.

Arete – a sharp ascending ridge, often between two glaciers or couloirs, providing a well defined route to a summit; alternatively, any old random vague protuberance from a mountain face. Properly pronounced ar-ET.

Balancy – of or related to balance, usually in reference to a climb that is easy to fall off of.

Bomber – able to withstand the approximate explosive force of a bomb, usually in reference to an anchor but occasionally used for single pieces of protection; almost always used without any demonstrable evidence.

Boulder Problem – a common malady affecting climbers from the city of Boulder, Colorado, characterized by an inability to stop spraying about “Eldo.” Much research has been conducted concerning this troubling illness and it has been determined that the fixation on “Eldo” is completely irrational and without any discernable source, there is no “Eldo,” there never has been an “Eldo,” there never will be an “Eldo.” Those afflicted are advised to visit the small town of Index, Washington, and direct their gaze south and upward by 25-30 degrees.

Bro – short for “brother,” a term of endearment; alternatively, the type of person who often uses the word “bro,” as in, “That bro over there in the designer flip-flops, holding the chalk bucket, go ask him what a boulder problem actually is, he’ll know.”

Burly – of or relating to burl, usually in reference to a climb that requires an excess of brute strength.

Chandeliered – a characteristic of water ice, ice that looks nice enough to hang from the ceiling of the ballroom of a European royal family; also, ice that is highly featured and therefore easy to climb but difficult to protect.

Choss – broken, fragmented rock, see Canadian Rockies.

Clean Climbing – climbing naked and shaven while recently bathed and completely covered in a light dusting of chalk, see Climbing Ethics.

Climbing Ethics – the official compendium of decrees that have been released by the International Committee for Ethics in Climbing, updated annually by raven-post from Reinhold Messner’s secret castle in the Vale.

Couloir – a steep, usually snow-filled gully, see Standard Route. Properly pronounced KOO-lar.

Dyno – short for dynamic, as in a dynamic move that involves the climber jumping.

Gendarme – a pillar, tower, or minor summit along a ridge, usually in the way; as in, “How the hell are we going to get around that gendarme?” From a French term for a policeman, proving, once and for all, that the French know what’s up.

Loose – of a rock face, possessing regrettable moral character, wanton, slutty.

Neve – glacial snow, or snow elsewhere that seems like it could be on a late season glacier. Pronunciation unknown.

Plastic – a characteristic of water ice, ice that accepts a pick easily, without fracturing, and provides a solid, dependable stick.

Rotten – of a rock face, chossy, loose, or otherwise undesirable; of an ice formation, aerated and/or sun-softened.

To Send – short for to ascend, to complete a route according to a given style, usually clean and on lead.

Snice – a portmanteau of “snow” and “ice” that has resulted because Americans have trouble pronouncing “neve.”

Spindrift – light powdery windblown snow, typically windblown into one’s face, backpack, or tent.

Splitter – properly, of a crack, parallel sided and clean; in common usage, slang for good, not unlike “awesome,” “cool,” “radical,” “gnarly,” and “sacred earth mother.”

Spraying – loud, incessant, unwanted, and often self-aggrandizing chatter; usually originating from a man, or “bro,” wearing a beanie and cargo shorts.

Standard Route – the most commonly climbed route on a given mountain or mountainous feature, often the easiest and safest route. Also called the “dog route,” referring to the supposed ability of a dog to climb said route, ultimately referring to said route being a “walk up.”

Stonemasters, The – properly, a close-knit group of young rock climbers who lived in Yosemite Valley during the 1970s, some of whom went on to fame and fortune; in common usage, any climber who visited Yosemite Valley between 1960 and 1990 and sent hard. Those interested in the expansion of the term should consult Classic Rock: The Greatest Hits of 3 Decades, by Pander Oulson.

Stone Monkeys – a group of homeless people who inhabited Yosemite Valley during the 1990s and early 2000s, characterized by their proclivity for filming themselves jumping off of cliffs and hiding under boulders.

Take – short for “take in the slack,” a belay command. Should only be uttered on the gravest of occasions, when all reasonable methods of upward locomotion have failed, or when your belayer is fucking stoned and can’t remember to take in the slack at a reasonable rate.

Techy – short for technical, usually in reference to a climb that requires skill or finesse. See Granite.

V Thread – a sexual act popular in the climbing communities of Canmore, Alberta, in which a pre-measured length of cord is inserted into a woman’s vagina and removed rapidly.

Walk-Up – a climbing route that does not involve any climbing; a paradoxical, escheresque situation in which climbers, often pursued by crocodiles, ascend a cycle of staircases in an endless loop, see Mountaineering.

Yosemite Decimal System – an arbitrary and completely random arrangement of numbers and letters usually post-scripting a route name, as in, Aries 5.8 or Sacherer Cracker 5.10a. Used for cataloging purposes by climbing archivists.


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