*Climbing slang and terminology explained:

Bigwall: (noun) A climb that is large enough that it typically requires multiple days for most people to climb. In the case of El Capitan, approximately 3000' of elevation are gained. Many of the climbs on El Capitan have seen single day ascents

Cragging: (verb) A non-climbing friend once asked me, "do climbers ever just like, climb for fun? Or do they always try and continue to push their own personal limits." I guess to me cragging fills this area of "just climbing for fun." Typically though, a climber is still usually looking to push their limits, when they crag. That can be in the form of finding something at their difficulty grade limit, or maybe a mentally challenging route etc. Cragging is usually shorter climbs at a cliff where many of these shorter climbs can be completed in a single day. It is a fun thing to do with groups of friends.

Free Climb: (noun) Free climbing is simply (or often not so simply) climbing with only your hands and feet to make upward progress on a climb. This differentiates from Aid Climbing in which climbing equipment is used to support a climber's body weight and aid in upward progress. Not to be confused with Free Soloing, in which no ropes are used for protection. Free Climbing implies that a rope is used to protect the climber from falling.

Aid Climbing: (verb)  A style of climbing in which climbing equipment is used to support a climber's body weight and aid in upward progress. See Aid Grades Explained.

Pitch: (noun) I would define this as a distance of technical climbing approximately the length of the rope being used. This distance connects one belay station to another. Typically however it will be shorter than the actual length of the rope for various reasons, most of which are probably more complicated to explain than is requisite for this definition. Pitches typically vary between lengths of 50' to 200'. 

Beta: (noun) Information about a route.

Jug: (verb)  When in used in a Bigwall context, this typically means ascending a fixed rope. Fixed means the rope is attached to an anchor above the climber. How the rope reached that point can be attained by various means. In the case of this article, it will usually mean that I climbed the pitch, and then came back down to remove my gear from the climb and detach my haul bag, and then Jugged back up the rope to my new high point. I use Petal Jumars to ascend the rope, but the Black Diamond ones seem to be almost exactly the same.


Bivy: (noun) Climbing slang for a make shift camp. On Bigwall applications this is hopefully a decent sized ledge, which makes organizing gear and general camp activities more comfortable.

Anchor: (noun) A safe stopping point at the top of a pitch. It is usually a place with a few well placed bolts, or a crack that it is easy to get climbing equipment in that are able to support a lot of weight, so that it is safe to stop here and prepare for the next pitch. Also known as a "Belay Station."

Lower Out: (verb) A slightly advanced climbing technique necessary for Bigwall climbing. When doing a traversing or overhanging pitch, the Haul bags will not be directly below the hauling point above. To avoid damaging the bags by simply releasing them and letting them take a wild pendulum swing, a person must slowly "lower" the bags out on a separate rope. It is good to use a smaller rope for this application. 

Portaledge: (noun) A piece of equipment used by climbers to sleep on a wall. It is similar to a cot, that can hang from a single point by use of webbing that all joins together. They come in two different sizes, a single for one person, or a double for two people. On this wall I was using the Black Diamond Cliff Cabana Double.  I have also used a Metolius Portaledge, but not enough to give an honest comparison. The Black Diamond Ledge is really good. Really easy to set up ... ONCE YOU FIGURE IT OUT AND PRACTICE A LOT!!.... hahAha. See the Day 2 video tutorial for tips.

Piton: (noun) A piece of climbing equipment. They come in various shapes and sizes, but they all pretty much follow the same principle; Smash a piece of metal into the crack with a hammer and pray that it holds your weight.

Nailing: (verb) Slang for when pitons and a hammer are used while climbing a pitch.

Cam: (noun) Climbing equipment. Short for Spring Loaded Camming Device. A more recently developed piece of equipment, they take advantage of some fancy math and stuff to hold a climber's weight. One of the most commonly used pieces of climbing protection. I recommend Black Diamond for most sizes, such as this link

Bird Beak: (noun) Climbing equipment. A type of piton that is very useful in small cracks. I assume It's name is derived from the birdlike features that it resembles. Also known as a "beak" for short. These can be placed without the use of a hammer, by hand, to help get the "clean" rating on many climbs. This technique can feel surprisingly secure sometimes, but then again, not nearly as secure as smashing the little guy into the crack with your hammer.

Wires: (noun) Climbing equipment. Also known as "brassies" or "micro nuts." These are small tapered pieces of metal, sometimes brass, or aluminum, that a climber will fit into a crack by getting it stuck in a constriction. Very useful when the crack gets too small for Cams.

Splitter: (adjective) Slang for a very nice crack to climb. The niceness is derived from it being mostly parallel for a significant length, and more or less the same size. The degree of this dictates how splitter the crack is. Example: " aw chyeah that crack is like totally splitter Brah!! "

Squeeze Chimney: (noun) The worst... The only time I have ever really wanted to cry, quit climbing, and go home  to pick up  a different hobby like knitting, was at the top of "The Harding Slot" which might be one of Yosemite's most infamous squeeze chimney's. But they all sort of make me feel like that so ya.... Anyway the basic concept is that the rock comes together in some way as to form a large parallel or mostly parallel crack approximately the size of a human body in width. To get to the top the climber must "squeeze" their body into this crack, and figure out some way to worm up it. Usually using a combination of grunting, shouting, and equally useless flexing of different body parts, the climber eventually makes it to the top without any concept of how they actually did it.

Top Step: (verb) An aid climbing technique in which you stand as high as you can in your aid ladders and reach as far as possible to place a piece of gear. It is very difficult, especially as the angle of the climb becomes steeper, and can require a surprising amount of balance and core strength.