Decoding Bouldering Lingo

Written by:
Alex Agnoli
Bouldering lingo can sound like a completely different language! Here is a short list to help get you started.

Have you ever been chatting to your mate at the climbing gym and only understood about 3 words? Well you're in luck! We have a climbing lesson like no other! We have you covered with a comprehensive list of rock climbing terms to help you navigate the world of bouldering.

Equipment and gear

Before diving into the HUGE number of bouldering terms, here is an overview of all the essential equipment and gear:

Crash pad - A thick foam pad placed on the ground to cushion falls and protect climbers from injuries. Used in outdoor bouldering.

Climbing shoes - Specialised footwear with a snug fit, sticky rubber soles, and a downturned shape for enhanced grip on the rock.

Chalk bag - A pouch filled with magnesium carbonate (chalk) used to keep your hands dry and improve friction on the wall.

Spotter - A person positioned close to the climber to help guide and protect the climber from falling badly.

Moves and techniques

Bouldering has a wide variety of moves and techniques designed to conquer shorter, challenging routes. Key terms include:

Dyno - When a climber makes a dynamic movement that uses momentum to get to the next hold. It's not a controlled reach or a stretch. And once you go for it, you're committed (everyone knows that dynos are the coolest moves in climbing)

Crimp - A small, shallow hold requiring a strong grip using only the fingertips.

Sloper - A rounded hold with no distinct edges, relying on friction and body tension for grip.

Heel hook - Using the heel of the foot to grip a hold or create leverage.

Toe hook - Hooking the toe over a hold to create balance and additional support.

Mantle - A move where a climber places their hand on top of a hold and pushes down to gain leverage and move upward.

Drop-Knee - Rotating the knee inward and downward to improve body positioning and reach.

Knee Bar - Using the knee to press against a hold, creating a stable position and relieving weight from the arms.

Bouldering routes

When discussing bouldering routes, specific terms are used to describe their difficulty and characteristics:

Grade - A numerical or alphabetical rating system indicating the difficulty level of a bouldering problem.

Problem - A specific bouldering route or sequence of moves.

Crux - The most challenging part of a boulder problem.

Arete - A vertical corner of rock pointing out, away from the main cliff mass. Also called an “outside corner.”

Highball - A boulder problem with significant height and a potentially risky fall. Highballs are only found outdoors as indoor climbing walls have a maximum height of 4.5m.

Safety and communication

Safety and Communication Safety is paramount in bouldering. Here are some crucial terms related to safety and communication:

Spotting - Providing assistance and protection to the climber by guiding their fall and ensuring a safe landing on a crash pad. Spotting is most common in outdoor climbing.

Flash - Successfully completing a bouldering problem on the first attempt without any prior practice on the boulder problem.

Beta - Information or advice about a bouldering problem, including sequence, holds, and techniques.

Downclimbing - Descending from the top of a boulder problem rather than jumping or falling.

Send - Successfully completing a bouldering problem.

Mastering the language of bouldering is key to fully enjoying and engaging in this dynamic sport. By familiarising yourself with the terminology outlined in this comprehensive guide, you'll be able to communicate effectively with fellow boulderers, understand route descriptions, and ensure safety while pushing your limits and conquering challenging bouldering problems.

Written by:
Alex Agnoli
Routesetter & Content Editor, The Font
Published on:
June 15, 2023