How to: Speak like a Climber

This semester I climbed at the rock wall periodically- yay for Free Climb Fridays at Kent State’s rec center- and I quickly learned there’s a certain culture that exists at the wall. Most people I met drink black coffee, wear khakis and flannels and spend as much time as possible outdoors. I fit right in.

 

However, the more time I spent with my friends at the rock wall, the more I noticed the language barrier that existed between us. There’s a whole slew of words and phrases that make up a climber’s vocabulary- from belays to arêtes to the Yosemite Decimal System– all of which make up this new language I’m learning.

Below are a couple common conversations I heard at the wall, translated into standard English:

What they say: “Can I get a belay?”

What they really mean: “Can someone hold my rope so I can climb up the wall and not fall to my death?”

What they say: “Oh that route’s tough. It supposed to be a 5.8 but it’s more like a 5.10.”

What they really mean: “The direction you’re supposed to climb up the wall is hard. On the Yosemite Decimal System (a system that rates the difficulty of technical climbs from 5.0-5.15) this route is labeled as a medium level route but it’s actually closer to medium-hard.”

What they say: “Let’s climb over by the dihedral instead. There’s a route there that has a couple nice jugs.”

What they really mean: “Let’s climb on a part of the wall where two planes of the wall come together to form a corner. There’s a way to get up the wall that has a couple super easy places to put your hands.”

What they say: “Try to get your legs up! You can smear your right foot and then stem your way up.”

What they really mean: “To climb higher on the wall, you’ll need to move your feet up the wall. You can put your entire foot directly on the wall for friction and then spread your legs into a wide V-shape to work your way up.”

What they say: “Take!” “Got you.” “Ready to lower.” “Lowering.”

What they really mean: “I’m at the top, can you get rid of any slack in the rope?” “I took the slack out, I’m holding on tight.” “I’m ready to come down.” “Bringing you down.”

Now that I’m not a student and lost a lot of the freebies that come with being in undergrad, I hope to spend some time at Rock Mill and Cleveland Rock Gym. Stay tuned for more posts to come this summer about climbing and other adventures! Until then, enjoy this super adorable photo of my friend Kait and I at the rock wall.