New to the sport of indoor rock climbing?
No one wants to look like a complete beginner when they start something new, so we’ve compiled a handy guide to get you started with indoor rock climbing terms. Your rock climbing gym should introduce you to many of these terms in an introductory safety class, but you can be prepared by reading up on them beforehand!
Belay – Attaching a rope to a climber and a fixed point (most likely another person, known as a belayer, for beginning climbers.) This rope, which is tied to a climber’s harness, and the belayer will support your weight when you descend the wall, and if you lose your grip on the rocks so that you won’t fall.
Belayer – the person holding you up when you fall! The belayer will create friction on the rope as you descend the wall, often using a belaying device, to slow your descent down.
Belay Device – a tool used to create friction on the rope, helping the belayer to hold the rope and release it more slowly. The most common belaying device is the Figure 8, which is two metal rings together that look like the number 8. The rope goes through one ring, then around and under the other. A carabiner attaches to the ring that doesn’t have rope running through it and clips to the belayer’s harness.
Bouldering – This type of climbing is done without ropes or harnesses – just your strength keeps you on the wall. The rocks are close to the floor and there are mats underneath so that it is not dangerous to fall.
Carabiner – Usually an oval or sort-of D-shaped metal ring with a spring-loaded gate opening. These are used as connectors to clip things together.
Chalk – Powdered chalk can be applied to your hands to keep your skin extra dry and prevent slipping on the rocks. Chalk is kept in a chalk bag. It is optional and may be rented at most rock climbing gyms.
Climbing Shoes – Shoes with extra grip made specifically for rock climbing. Climbing shoes are optional, but will improve your grip on the rocks. These can be rented at most rock climbing gyms.
Harness – Climbers wear a harness to keep them supported. Climbing harnesses have a belt around the waist and loops around the thighs, which puts more of the force on your legs rather than your stomach. The rope is tied to the front of the harness and will support you if you lose your grip on the wall or when you’re coming back down the wall.
Holds – Another name for the faux rocks on the climbing wall.
Lowering – One way to get back down the wall. In this method, the belayer supports the climber’s weight as they slowly release the rope and lower the climber to the ground.
Rappelling – Another way to get back down the climbing wall. The climber will use their legs to bounce off of the wall while the belayer slowly releases the rope, lowering the climber to the ground.
Rating – Indoor, top-roped climbing walls are rated for difficulty. The ratings range from 5.6 for beginners to 5.14 for experts. As a beginner, you’ll want to start with 5.6 or 5.7-rated walls.
Top Rope – An indoor climbing wall with a bolt in the ceiling above it. A carabiner is attached to the bolt and a rope is run through it. One end of the rope is tied into the climber’s harness, the other is attached to the belayer and their belaying devices.