Climber’s Catalog

rock climber montana lingo

Understanding some very strange jargon.

Learning how to talk with a climber can be as hard as ascending the route itself. Seriously, how can an activity that demands clear and concise communication be filled with so many esoteric words? Here’s a guide to some of the lingo flying around the vertical world.

Route. A section of rock. As in, “Brody’s hung over and wants to climb an easy route today, but I said, ‘Bro, no way!’” Also a means or figurative path, as in “Climbing is the fastest route to poverty.”

Dirtbag. A climber; harkens back to the days of zealous devotees with questionable hygiene and no fixed address. Also a flexible container useful in hauling soil around for springtime gardening projects.

Sandbag. A route that was originally explained to be much easier than the actual experience. Also a heavy sack of soil used for traction in pickup beds and for protection from spring floods.

Protection. The tools and devices placed by climbers to prevent a fall to the ground. Also, the foam ear plugs used to safeguard your brain from too much dirtbag lingo.

Solo. Climbing without protection or rope. Also, every dude in the Rocking R Bar on a Friday night.

Scramble. To move through terrain in a manner that’s more demanding than a hike but less intense than rock climbing. Also a great way to cook eggs in the morning. Ropes aren’t required for either.

Pitch. The length of a single point-to-point climb, before anchoring to reconfigure the rope for another climb. Also the unsuccessful rationale used by an R Bar patron to convince another patron to help him with his rope.

Deck. The ground. Also the wood patio you hang out on behind your house. Both hurt when you fall on them from a height.

Highball. A challenging bouldering move at a height far above the deck. Not to be confused with the alcoholic beverage. Combining the two is not recommended.

Beta. Helpful knowledge and information about specific routes. Also slang for subservient males. Climbing elitists and word policers frown upon using either.

Flash. To successfully complete a climb on the first attempt after receiving some beta on the route. Also when a climber reveals her breasts to a crowd of onlookers. Both are held in high regard among solo males.

Jug. A bulge of rock offering positive friction. Also a pitcher of beer and what’s revealed during a flash. Holding any of them in your hand feels good.

Chimney. A vertical crack wide enough to climb up. Also a vertical pipe that delivers smoke up and out of your fireplace. Neither are comfortable places to be.

Flake. A slab of rock detached from the primary substrate. Also a dirtbag who bails on a climbing trip because he’s too hung over.

Horn. A pointy piece of rock protruding from the main face. Also a pointy piece of keratin protruding from animals’ heads, such as mountain goats and antelope.

Crack. A continuous linear gap in the rock, where fingers and hands can be wedged. Also an infamous drug from the ’80s wherein ambition and happiness could be wedged, and what forms between two large jugs.

Nut. Small metal block with a loop on the end; used to stick into cracks and connect the rope to. Also something men want to crack.

Nut Tool. Metal key used to dislodge nuts from cracks. Also the figurative key used to get into the harness of the person you’re attracted to.

Bomber. Term used to emphasize the excellent quality of an anchor or hold. It also refers to a person who gets his jollies by setting off explosives, usually after consuming a highball.

Crimp. A small edge that requires pinching your fingers around to hold onto. Also a medical term that describes someone’s posture after hitting the deck during a fall.

Dyno. A move where a climber surges off the rock, leaping for the next handhold. Not to be confused with the giant megafauna that roamed the earth 65 million years ago.

Hand Jam. The motion of making a fist and twisting it in a crack to use as leverage. Also one of the weirdest fetishes humans have dreamt up, and typically used in conjunction with a nut tool.

Layback. A move where a climber pulls on edges with her hands while pushing on the surface with her feet. Also the type of movement one does after consuming one too many weed gummies.

Cheese Grater. Falling a long way on non-vertical rock, taking multiple tumbles along the way. Usually combined with a scramble for a fine start to the morning.

Epic. A long day where plans go awry due to unforeseen circumstances and difficulties. Also another word for awesome. It’s really not clear when one becomes the other.

Pumped. A condition in which a climber’s muscles are so fatigued that he cannot grip the rock anymore. Also the euphoric condition a climber is in while planning climbing trips, going on climbing trips, talking about climbing, and thinking about climbing.

Run-Out. A section of the route that lacks proper protection. Also the state of a climber’s finances after every epic trip.