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Do you speak “Climber”? Take this quiz and find out.

I can’t quite remember when I first noticed just how many technical and slang terms there were in our sport, but it surely happened early on, like during the Introduction to Rock Climbing course I took when I was 15 from the New Mexico Mountain Club. There were the basics—figure 8, harness, Sticht plate, prusik knot, gold line, toprope—and then there were the more advanced, nuanced words. Things like dyno, crank, sloper, crimper, layback, and so on. As with any new language, it took awhile to learn and incorporate all these terms into my vocabulary, but soon enough I was fluent in “Climber.”

This was the mid-1980s, and from then forward to the 1990s were the early days of sport climbing. We were making it up as we went—which bolts to use (whatever shit the hardware store had in stock, usually), which drills to use (you’d borrow your buddy’s, because almost no one had drills back then), which shoes to use on which angles or rock (still trying to figure that out), and, of course, how to name and describe things. Sport climbing marked a radical departure from the sport’s ground-up, traditional roots, and diehard sport climbers sought to put as much distance between themselves and the long hair, headband, painter’s pants, and big-bearded hippie era of 1970s free climbing as possible. Usually, this meant sporting a punk-rock/post-punk look of torn T-shirts or tank tops, lycra tights, earrings, and spiked or died hair. You had to lug a boombox around too. Another big part of that bifurcation was the lingo: a hermetic, clubby slang specific only to sport climbing and bouldering that even had its own regional variations. Either you were in or you were out, which could be gleaned from the way you spoke.

Some of the terms from that era have survived, things like drop-knee and deadpoint and redpoint and beta and take. Some have faded or died out entirely: jingus, clacker/clackerballs, crank, honed. I mean, I really can’t think of the last time I said, “I need to get more honed so I can crank on this jingus crimper, or I’ll go clackerballs with my belayer if I fall at the first bolt.” In 1988, it would have sounded cool; in 2021, not so much….

Our slang is ever-evolving, which is cool. I do what I can to stay abreast of climbing terms (I documented them and their origins in a book, the Climbing Dictionary), but I’m now almost two generations removed from the cutting edge of the sport—and its lingo. It makes about as much sense to me to say “Let’s go” to a friend I’m belaying on a limit send as it would to say “Can we talk about your car’s extended warranty?” It just ain’t my jam.

Yet I’d like to think I can still speak “Climber.” And if you’re reading this, you probably do, too—or you want to. So I came up with this helpful quiz, using terms and phrases from the dinosaur days back when I began climbing up to the present, to gauge how well you speak the language. The answers and a self-evaluation scale appear at the end of the story so you can see just how honed your vocab is.

 

1. Jingus is to jing as Betamax is to ________:

a) splingus

b) Max

c) beta

d) bling

 

2. When we say Let’s go, who exactly is the us in Let’s?

a) The royal we, meaning, me, myself, and I

b) Everyone in the entire world

c) That guy over there in the corner with the skinny jeans, neck tattoos, skull-and-crossbones chalk pot, and Go Pro who can’t stop talking about “epic condies” and “double digits”

d) The climber you’re currently spotting or belaying

 

3. Epic condies refers to:

a) Perfect atmospheric conditions

b) Team USA climber Kyra Condie

c) Kyra Condie’s extended family

d) All of the above

 

4. What is backstepping?

a) Using the outside edge of your shoe—the pinky-toe side—to bring your hip into the wall and make a cross-body reach

b) Getting the rope behind your leg at the rock gym during your lead test, then failing the test in front of everyone while they laugh and point, you sad, sorry loser

c) Some sort of country western, Billy Ray Cyrus line-dancing crap

d) None of the above

 

5. If you’ve sent the gnar, what, precisely, have you done?

a) Contracted a venereal disease

b) Mailed anthrax in small, unmarked envelopes to all of your frenemies, muah-hah-hah…

c) Succeeded on a very difficult and/or committing climbing objective

d) All of the above

 

6. If you deadpoint but still fail to redpoint, do you still get to enjoy a post-send beer?

a) “Let’s fucking go!”

b) No.

c) Yes.

d) Jingus.

 

7. What is a bidoigt?

a) A French climber missing two fingers on each hand after an unfortunate pouf accident at Fontainebleau

b) A two-finger pocket

c) A three-finger pocket

d) A drilled two-finger pocket that started life as a monodoigt but kept tweaking people’s fingers, so now he’s a bidoigt, but really he was just comfortized, so it’s not really chipping, ya feel me?

 

8. When you piss or shit on the proj, what exactly have you done?

a) Fucking hiked that shit, son…

b) Literally relieved yourself upon the rock climb you were trying, because no better option was available

c) Forgot your Wag Bag back in the car; oh man, you shouldn’t have eaten that entire Chipotle burrito last night…

d) All of the above

 

9. What is Take! shorthand for?

a) Tension

b) Take in the rope, for I’ve burned out my grip due to overexertion and can no longer grasp the holds

c) Take! I said take, bro! Da fuq?! You got cotton balls in your ears or something?

d) All of the above

 

10. What is wide pony?

a) A fat little horse

b) A little fat horse

c) An offwidth roof-crack technique in which you frog your legs out and stack your hands in the crack between them, as if riding a pony upside-down

d) None of the above

 

 Answer key:

  1. The answer is C. Just like jing is short for jingus (heinous, mingus, splingus, or flingus), beta is short for Betamax, an old videotape format that birthed the term coined by the Gunks climber Jack Mileski to describe the “instant replay” on a crux sequence, hence the beta.
  2. Hell, I don’t know. Probably all of the answers are correct one way or another—go ask that guy in the corner with the neck tattoos.
  3. The answer is A, perfect conditions.
  4. The correct answer is A, but if you work at a rock gym and like pedantically over-splaining things, albeit incorrectly, to climbers during their belay test, the answer is  B.
  5. The answer is C, but if you’re some sort of psycho, it could also be D.
  6. Your call on this one.
  7. The correct answers are both B and D.
  8. The correct answer is D, all of the above.
  9. The correct answers are A and B, but if you’re having a really crappy day, then it’s C.
  10. The correct answer is C.

 

Results:

Perfect score: Way honed and gnarly!

1–2 wrong: Pretty damn honed.

3–4 wrong: Kinda honed.

5–6 wrong: Not so honed.

7–8 wrong: This quiz was pretty easy. You really missed that many?

9–10 wrong: Trad climber.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Samet is the editor of Climbing. He has been climbing since the 1980s and living in the Boulder, Colorado, area since 1991.