One of my favorite phrases in the world is words mean things. And as such, some words in the climbing and training world are confusing. This was apparent when someone downloaded my climbing e-book and told me they thought they liked what I had to say, but didn’t understand what the heck I was talking about sometimes.


That does not a good read make.

There’s yet another something wrong with climbing terms: most of us don’t know all of them or their meaning. So then we tend to make up our own meanings or mix and match the definitions with the different words. Somebody’s red point is my flash. pink point could also be a send? I don’t know. There’s so many ‘points’ that I don’t know or care.

So, just so that we’re all on the same page when reading this website or the e-book, we’ll all know what I’m talking about, mkay?

Barn Door

In climbing, when your body position forces your weight shifted all to one side and reaching for your next hold (hand or foot) causes an uncontrollable swing to the opposite side. Basically, you swing open like someone shoving a barn door. (Flagging a hand or foot can sometimes prevent this.)

Beginner’s Gains

When someone just starts (or re-starts) a training program, they experience beginner’s gains. This is the rapid progression you see within the first 4 weeks. When going from a completely untrained state to a ‘doing something’ state, your body adapts very quickly. Once the training becomes repetitive and the skills have been mastered, the body becomes very efficient at performing those movements and the measurable gains slow down.


When you know your bodyweight is out of position and reaching for the next hold may cause you to barn door, it is sometimes possible to extend a hand or foot onto the wall in the direction you’re going to swing. This can only be done if the free appendage to that side is non-loading bearing. That is, if you know you’re going to swing to the right as soon as you let go with your right hand, you may stick your right foot out to the right to prevent this. This can only be done if you’re right foot is not essential to staying on the wall (perhaps it’s your only foot on the wall and your left foot is just dangling).


Grades are the scales and systems we use to determine how difficult a climb is.

For rope climbing in America, we follow the Yosemite Decimal System. It starts at 5.0 and currently goes up to 5.15, 5.0 being the easiest and 5.15 being impossible for mortals. From 5.0 to 5.9, routes can be subdivided by difficulty at each number by a + or – sign, 5.9+ is harder than a straight up 5.9. Above that, 5.10-5.15, difficulty is subdivided by attaching a letter (a-d) to the end of it. A 5.10a is easier than a 5.10d. To make things a little more confusing, some people have decided to start dropping the a-d designation and just using + or – all the way up to the 5.11s (from what I’ve seen). Got it? Good. Don’t worry, it takes about a week in a climbing gym to figure this all out. It’s really not that complicated.

For bouldering in America, we primarily use the Hueco Scale. These routes start with the letter V and are followed by a number, V0-V16. Once again, there may be a + or – attached to it, but at least there’s no additional letters.


Line could mean two different things, but the context surrounding its use makes it really easy to differentiate.

Line is sometimes interchanged with rope. Climbing rope/climbing line. Toss the rope/toss the line. Get it?

Line, more frequently, means the route you’re going to climb. The two words are synonymous.


Cracks that are larger than a balled up fist but smaller than a chimney (in which you can fit your whole body into and use your legs and feet to press your back against the opposite wall). It’s also the most brutal type of climbing. I’m not sure it’s actually climbing. It’s more like pushing. Or something.


This is your path up the rock (or mountain). Someone else before you climbed the very face in front of you and determined that’s how to get to the top. You can find route descriptions (so you know where to go and how to protect yourself) in guidebooks and online. (Remember, route and line mean the same thing.)


Long distance between bolts or protection placements. In my world, any distance more than 6ft. between protection is considered run out. Some are scarier than others.


Starting at the bottom of your pitch and climbing all the way to the end of your pitch without a fall or a ‘take’ (rest) from your belayer. You can take a break under your own strength, but you can’t hang on the rope. (This is the David Sandel definition. The term flash may also mean the same thing.)


Plastering your hand or foot (usually a foot) against a flat, smooth, vertical wall and relying on friction to make it stick as you stand up and put weight on it.



Now, that’s a good start, but that’s nowhere near all of the. What other major terms am I forgetting? What’s a climbing term you always hear but you don’t know what it means? Let me know down in the comments or send me an email privately.

Don’t Miss Your Chance

I was stuck in Corporate America for 9 years. I was miserable.

Then I took control.

You can too, and it starts right here.