Rock Climbing Jargon Buster

Don’t know your trad from your sport? What about your cams from your hexes? Our A-Z of the most common climbing terms is a great place to start learning all that jargon!


A point at the top of a climb where you can secure your ropes. This could be fixed bolts on a well used climb or a rope sling around a tree.


Useful inside knowledge about a route or problem. What are the moves like, what is the ‘gear’ like. Arguable spoils your ‘onsight’!


The hardest part of the route.


The inevitable and uncontrollable shaking of your leg when you least want it (i.e. when you’re scared and it’s getting hard!). Top-tip – drop your heals – this can help.


A route or problem that doesn’t follow the most obvious line. Often found to weave their way between other routes.

Free climbing

No, not that thing without ropes. That’s ‘free soloing’. Free climbing is progressing up a route without pulling on anything other than the rock.


Generally refers to climbing equipment that is placed in the rock and offers protection in the event of a fall, or anchors the climber to the rock to enable them to look after their second as they climb. Can be ‘good gear’ or ‘bad gear’!


A ‘trad’ route that is lead after practicing first on a top rope. Often associated with hard trad projects, but headpointing works well even at the lower grades. Afterall, difficulty is relative.


Gear that is semi-permanently in the rock. Think old pegs, or a piece of gear that another ascensionist has placed but then failed to retrieve. Always treat in-situ gear with caution and back it up as soon as possible.


Typically a climbers favourite feature. A jug a large and obvious hold that’s easy to use.


Sometimes spelt ‘carabiner’ – an oval, D-shaped or pear shaped piece of gear that is used as an attachment point between 2 pieces of equipment, ropes, climbers etc.

Lead a climb

To climb a route whilst taking the rope with you (i.e. it’s not already in place). Protection is found by placing and clipping ‘gear’ on the way.


A move that involves the climber having to get onto a ledge from below when there are no holds on the wall above to grab onto. Kind of like getting out of a swimming pool.


Sometimes called a ‘wire’ this is a passive piece of protection that’s attached to thin cable (aka wire) that sits in a crack of other feature and hopefully stays put. Called a nut as in the old days climbers actually used nuts from the local hardware store.


To climb a route with no falls, no pulling on gear, no resting and no prior knowledge of it – i.e. no ‘beta’ and no practicing. Some argue that even looking at a guidebook description ‘blows the onsight’. We really don’t care!


A section of the climb. Can be short, long or be the whole route (i.e. single-pitch). A multi-pitch climb is a series of many pitches, one on top of the other.


2 karabiners connected by a sling or dogbone (think stiff piece of nylon webbing). Used mainly to connect gear to the rope when leading.


Like a ‘headpoint’ but for the sport climbers.


A route that is harder than the grade suggests – “wow, that was a total sandbag”. To sandbag someone is to encourage them to get on a route of said grade, knowing it’s actually much harder and they’re going to struggle. Cruel, but sometimes amusing!

Trad Climbing

Short for ‘traditional’. Routes that are climbed using protection/gear that is placed in the rock and then removed by the second climber. Nothing is left and the rock isn’t damaged.


A hold that is used by grabbing it from underneath and usually pulling upwards.


A temporary feature on an indoor climbing wall that you have to climb around or over – i.e not a hold that’s actually part of the route, more the ‘shape’ of the actual wall.


To take a big fall – hopefully one that gets caught by your belayer!

X (as a climbing grading)

Used in the US as part of the Yosemite Decimal System, this refers to a climb that little or no protection (aka gear). A fall on a climb like this could mean serious injury, if not death.

Yosemite Decimal System

A walking, trekking, scrambling and climbing grading system developed in Yosemite and used mainly in the USA. Rock climbing starts at 5.0 (‘5th class terrain’) and is open ended, with climbs recorded up to 5.15 (i.e. really really really really hard!).


When your gear ‘un-zips’ from the wall as you fall. Not good. In fact really flippin’ dangerous and a bad place to be!


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Top Mental Health Benefits of Rock Climbing

Rock climbing can undoubtedly be a daunting activity, especially for those who are new to the sport and even the most experienced climbers can find routes and problems that will challenge them, as how difficult you find something is often relative to how much experience you have. Rock climbing is physically demanding for sure, but it also requires you to problem solve and focus your mind, so you’ll quickly find that you are exercising your brain, not just your body and that this ‘brain exercise’ is great for your overall mental health.

Many people (us included) champion rock climbing as a great stress reliever and being super beneficial to your mental health – here are our top mental health benefits of rock climbing:

Strengthen your mind and body connection

As mentioned, climbing is mentally demanding, not just physical. When climbing you’re constantly confronted with challenges and puzzles to solve and they will require both your mind and body to work in unison in order to overcome them.

Building a strong mind and body connection is really key to maintaining good mental health. Rock climbing teaches you how to listen to your mind and body and teaches you to make quick calculated decisions, whilst also feeling safe doing so.

Learn how to overcome fear

For many people the fear of heights holds them back from trying out rock climbing. Plus, even if you’ve not previously had a fear of heights, climbing a high wall is a completely new experience and can easily bring it on.

By learning how to master your fear (through trust, communication and patience) and understanding you are safe, you’ll realise that your fears are just emotions.

When you climb your body also releases hormones including dopamine (which rewards you) and serotonin (which makes you happy). This is your body naturally assisting you to overcome your fears.

Regular climbing is a great stress reliever

We completely understand if climbing doesn’t exactly sound relaxing. However, this is probably the most powerful mental health benefit of climbing.

That’s not to say climbing is easy, it’s precisely the opposite. But the more you expose yourself to the stresses of climbing the more your mind learns to not let small stresses bother you, both on the wall in your day to day life.

Climbing also focuses the mind so while you’re up there, working out the next move, your brain doesn’t have the capacity to think about the stresses of work – you’re just focused on one thing – climbing.

Learn to be patient

Becoming a skilled climber takes a lot of patience and routes or problems that are hard for you will take time to master.

In theory rocking climbing isn’t a complicated sport, you slip in your harness and start climbing, right? In reality climbing takes a lot of time and patience both to build your muscle strength and also to learn the right techniques and body positions.

Everything in life that’s worth doing takes time and you can apply your new found patience to all parts of everyday life.

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Top Tips for Mountain Navigation in Bad Weather

Mountaineering is an enjoyable and thrilling hobby. In clear weather, navigating the terrain can be effortlessly fun and a simple for even a beginner.

However, mountain weather is known for being unpredictable meaning significant changes can frequently happen with little warning. No matter how much experience you have on the mountains, you can find yourself being caught out by the weather, so it is vital to understand how to stay safe no matter what climate you find yourself facing.

Time constraints, steep climbs and the ability to read a map can all become much harder once a sudden spell of bad weather occurs. In these situations, knowing how to cope with reduced visibility and severe conditions before setting off can potentially be a lifesaver.

Plan the route

One thing you’ll definitely want to do before setting off is to plan a carefully constructed route with landmarks along the way to provide of sense of direction. This will provide you with a mental checklist that you can tick off as you go along the route, giving an idea of where you’ve been and where you’re going.

You’ll also want to have the map and compass to hand during the trek for you to refer to if the weather starts to turn. If your visibility deteriorates, it is incredibly handy to have multiple methods of figuring out if you are on the correct route.

Be aware of hazards

Hazards that were once clear and obvious in good weather can suddenly become a much more significant risk in rain, fog or snow. These hazards include everything from avalanche-prone terrain, cliff edges or watercourses that could arise when the rain starts to fall.

As such, this is where the understanding of landmarks in the area can prove helpful, as they will give a better understanding of the places you need to show a wide berth. 

It will also be wise to be aware of steep or rocky grounds as these are harder to pinpoint and can be just as hazardous in low visibility conditions. Slowing down your pace by only making short steps will reduce your chance of tripping and ensure you have ample time to get a feel of the ground.

Understand the usefulness of pacing

Pacing can also help you to measure distance and can be an incredibly valuable technique in measuring how you’ve travelled in poor conditions.

Determining your pace count by recording how many steps you can do throughout a 100-metre length will help predict how far you’ve travelled and will assist in ensuring you don’t get lost. You’ll need to take into account any steep slopes, physical or mental tiredness and the weight you are carrying, as they will severely hamper the number of steps you can achieve.

Trust your compass

During poor weather conditions, it can be incredibly easy to become disoriented and completely lose track of the direction that you need to be heading. In this situation, a compass can become your biggest ally. Unless you have specific cause to doubt it, such as significant damage or suspected magnetic rocks nearby, you should always trust what it tells you.

It will be worthwhile double-checking your compass with other members of the group to ensure it is correct, and even partake is a professional navigation course to learn house to use it properly before heading out, so you’re confident in your abilities when using it.

Get familiar with a GPS

Navigation of mountains during bad weather is helped more and more by the improvement in GPS technology and smartphones. The ability to pinpoint your exact position can be a godsend in improving your safety margin and making finding your way significantly easier in challenging conditions.

For use in a mountain environment, you should take into consideration the battery life of the device, as well as the robustness as it needs to be waterproof and hardy enough to manage accidental drops in adverse conditions.

However, remember that there are certain limitations to the technology, and proper mountaineering still requires vital skills such as reading and interpreting a map correctly, not just blindly following an arrow.

Know how to respond to the change in weather

When your mountaineering and the weather turns ugly, it is important not to panic and to assess the situation at hand calmly. Round the group together, ensuring not to lose any stragglers, and co-ordinate your notes about the last landmark you passed. If you’re about to get onto high ground, it will also give you a better view of the terrain and get your bearings.

It will also be useful to get out your compass and orient the map before the weather starts to worsen. This will help anticipate where you’re going and keep track of how far you have left to travel.

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Why hire a professional mountain guide

For some people, visiting somewhere like the Lake District and tackling one of the famous mountain climbs is an exciting prospect. The thrill of reaching any famous summit can be exhilarating but many visitors find they lack the navigation skills that are required to find the safest and most efficient routes high in the mountains, in all weathers. At higher altitude both the weather and terrain can change in a few moments and a fun adventure can quickly turn into a risky situation if you don’t have the right skills and experience.

A professional mountain guide has the skills and experience to not only safely lead people up a mountain but can also demonstrate and teach a variety of different activities. This can include navigation skills but also scrambling, climbing, abseiling and teach individuals how to use a range of different climbing equipment.

Here’s a few reasons to hire a professional mountain guide for your next adventure in the Lake District:

Experts in their field

Lake District mountain guides have undergone extensive training and will know exactly how you should prepare for any trip. Their priority is to keep people safe and make qualified decisions should difficult situations occur.

They know the area and the safest routes

If you’re heading into the Lakeland fells and don’t have a good idea of which route to take or how to navigate then hiring a local mountain guide is your safest bet. Lake District mountain guides have an in-depth knowledge of the area and can guide you safely through it.

Professional guides can help you get the best of your short trip

A guide can ensure you get the very most out of what is likely to be a limited time you can or maybe want to spend in the fells. Mountain guides can not only recommend the best trips but also the best spots to rest or even safely enjoy more thrilling activities.

A guide can help plan your entire trip

Whilst they are far from being a travel or booking agent many Lake District mountain guides will be able to recommend places to stay or even to best places to eat. They will also ask you the right questions and create a trip that gets the most out of your abilities.

They can help improve your mountaineering skills

Not only can a mountain guide show you the best and safest route they will also pass on navigation skills or improve your climbing. They’ll be happy to provide feedback or encouragement, they may even try and push you to achieve something you didn’t think possible.

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How to get into rock climbing

Climbing can be an intimidating sport to get into initially, however once you are involved, it promises a full-body workout and a fun experience like no other.

Whether you’re interested in climbing to keep fit, as a way of meeting new people or to fulfil a grander quest for a more exciting adventure, climbing is an incredible activity and just needs a bit of guidance and explanation to get you properly started.

Climbing has a rapidly growing community of participants meaning accessibility to the sport is becoming easier than ever before. All age groups are getting involved and the sport has even been added to the 2020 Olympic Games, putting it under an even bigger spotlight than it has ever had before.

There are loads of ways to get into climbing, but if you need a bit of advice on the best methods to get involved with this exhilarating activity for the first time, here are some pointers on where to begin.

1. Find a near by climbing wall

As a first move, head online and check out which climbing walls (aka climbing ‘gyms’) are in your area and fit with your goals and budget. 

Most will offer taster sessions and introductory rock climbing courses for beginners. This will give an excellent initial introduction to the skills that are needed to climb safely. There will also be a ton of experienced instructors and trained staff on hand to pass on their knowledge and ensure you are getting the most out of your experience in a controlled but fun environment.

Gyms and indoor walls will attempt to replicate the experience of outdoor climbing in a safer atmosphere through the use of artificial walls, handholds, and footholds and are an excellent way to help prepare you for the real thing, should you decide to head down that path.

Indoor climbing will help you to learn crucial skills such as how to correctly put on a climbing harness and how to attach yourself to the rope. You will  also learn safety techniques such as how to ‘belay’ to and keep your climbing partner safe while it is their turn to climb.

2. Head outdoors

Once you’ve got to grips with the basics, you will no doubt want to test your new abilities on something a little more challenging. As much fun as indoor climbing can be, there is no thrill quite like climbing outside, on real rock. 

If you’re comfortable climbing indoors, it’s now time to transition your skills to the outdoors. Keep in mind however that the transition from indoor to outdoor climbing still has its dangers, so please remember that climbing outside should not be attempted without the guidance from a professionally qualified Climbing Instructor. 

Guided rock climbing trips are very common, and a quick internet search will provide hundreds of recommended and thrilling events that you can take part in. Most will either be a half or full day event, and they will almost always offer the opportunity to borrow or rental climbing gear so if you’re new to the sport you  can have no worries about getting immediately stuck in.

Britain has some of the best climbing venues suitable for everyone from beginners’ right through to experts. For example, rock climbing in the Lake District, the Peak District, Snowdonia  and Pembrokeshire, are all top-rated locations and offer exhilarating climbs alongside picturesque backdrops.

3. Join a climbing club

If you want to find like-minded people who share your passion for your new hobby, you may want to consider joining a climbing club.

They are a great way to meet new people, develop your skills and challenge yourself amongst peers of various skill levels. Most people flourish in new activities when there is a good support network around them, and this is exactly what a climbing club can provide.

When new to the sport, a club can also be a smart choice due to their cost-effective nature. Equipment such as guidebooks, helmets and harnesses can be shared, while accommodation for weekend trips is usually split into groups, thus making it much more affordable.

There are around 300 climbing, hill walking and mountaineering clubs in England and Wales, so you are bound to find one perfect for you. Meetups happen across the country and clubs make for a wonderful excuse to get more in touch with nature, travel to new places and, more importantly, advance your climbing skills.

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