Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In



10 Dumb Climbing Terms We Need To Retire For 2022

Our climbing lexicon is chock-a-block with obfuscations that hide central truths and inflate egos. Let's examine.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

2021 was one long-ass year. Remember when we all thought the pandemic was ending and we could go back to normal, mask-less, traveling-freely-about-the-world life again? Yippee-skipee! Or at least get in a gym session without feeling like we were suffocating through a stupid mask? Yeah, well, that didn’t really happen. So we (by “we,” I mean “me”) climbed close to home or holed up inside watching YouTube videos of other climbers doing cool routes in faraway places we couldn’t easily get to. Hope you’re having fun in Oliana, you carefree, sponsored, no-responsibility-having motherf–kers, was probably one of the more charitable thoughts that crossed my mind.

This gave me way too much time both to watch climbing videos and to think—the former activity, I recommend; the latter, not so much. The end result was that I also had plenty of time to pick up on the latest lingo—and to get annoyed, which in my dotage perhaps comes way too easily, unlike most rock climbs I get on.

So, without further ado, here are the Top 10 Climbing Terms to Retire Now. Some, to beat a “dead horse,” are old chestnuts that needed to be put out to pasture years ago, while others are neologisms that never should have left the barn. Anyway, let’s kill them now so we can start 2022 proper.

1.) Top: This term probably emerged from competition climbing, in which you “top” a boulder problem by securing the finishing hold and demonstrating control, versus controlling the lower “zone” holds en route to the top. But, as “top” spread through the climbing world, it quickly diluted into meaninglessness. Now, to “top” something just means to get up it by whatever means—including actually free-climbing it, sure, but not expressly so. You might also pull on draws, have your spotter take off weight, and so on. I mean, with a long-enough stick-clip, I could “top” Silence (5.15d), the world’s hardest rock climb, in half an hour. But that doesn’t mean I actually did the thing.

2) Day flash: As far as I can tell, this means to do a route on the first try of the day upon returning to it, having climbed it earlier in whatever style. So, even though you worked a climb for, like, 100 days prior and redpointed it, if you return a month later and do it on the first go of the day, that’s a “day flash.” That’s also dumb AF, and obfuscates the truth of how much effort a climb took. There is no shame in taking a long time to do a route that’s hard for you, but terms like this, with all their ego-baggage and reality-obscuring connotations, would seem to imply otherwise.

3) First try: This literally used to mean either onsighting a route—doing it first try with no prior information. Or flashing it—doing it first try with beta. Now it basically means anything (see “day flash” and “top”), but the most common usage seems to be doing a route on your first redpoint go—so, not factoring any dogging burns or time on toprope into the equation. So again, I could TR the unholy hell out of To Bolt or Not to Be (5.14a) at Smith Rock, Oregon, but as long as I don’t fall on my first lead/redpoint attempt, I’ve done To Bolt “first try”—which, of course, makes zero sense. Even if you’ve only put in one dogging burn, you’d still be doing the route “second try,” which admittedly sounds less sexy. But is true.

4) Backstep: Here’s what backstepping is: Using the outside edge of your rock shoe, with your hip turned into the wall on that leg, to extend your reach on overhanging terrain. Here’s what backstepping isn’t: Getting the rope behind your leg while lead climbing. So while “backstep” seems to have acquired this new meaning in the purgatorial, up-is-down world of rock-gym belay tests, it’s actually a bastardization of its original denotation. Maybe “getting the rope behind your leg” was too cumbersome a phrase and had to be shortened somehow, so why not go a step further and just call it “BS”: “You failed your lead test due to BS”—hmm, now that actually seems accurate.

5) Crush: This one—meaning to climb well, sending climbs left and right—has been around way too long, and was tired and stale from the outset. “Did you hear, Davey McBiceps is crushing it at Joe’s Valley? Check out his epic bangers on YouTube!” Crushing what, exactly? Small, furry, defenseless animals under a pair of high heels? Because those are the only results I seem to get when I type “crush videos” into Google.

6) What?!/No way!: This one’s straight-up bouldering/gym-climbing gibberish, said either by the climber or the spotter (or filmer) upon sticking a sequence or completing a problem, as if to express surprise at what’s just happened. You know who else says “No way” way too much? Bill and Ted of Excellent Adventure fame. And you know what happened to them? They both got lifetime bans from every rock gym everywhere. And they don’t have much to do with climbing.

7) Full send: According to Urban Dictionary, a “full send” is any action in which the consequences are not thought through. Climbers seem to have embraced this term both for our sport and in the context of partying: “I went full send on the sangria last night but still managed to day-flash my 8c project at Oliana.” Really, the only “full send” worth watching is footage of some new, hard route—not that jump-cut crap that makes you wonder, “Did this person really climb this thing?” Like, the full feckin’ send—uncut footie or it didn’t happen, bruh.

8) You’ve got this!/Relax!: Personally, I hate hearing this. It means lookers-on have noticed how pumped I look or how poorly I’m climbing, and feel an urgent need to encourage me before I fall. This notion then creeps into my psyche, which makes me climb even worse—and then fall. Or I get hung up on trying to meet their (or my own) expectations, since, after all, I’ve “got this,” and I lose focus. Better just to say “I’m with you” or the like, which implies active support on the part of your belayer or spotter but puts zero demands on the climber.

9) Calling out the beta while the climber is already doing it: This isn’t actually a single term, but instead an odious practice. You know: “Get your leg up” while you are in fact already bringing your leg up. I’m not sure why we do this to each other, but it’s silly and distracting and needs to stop. Please don’t tell me to do the thing that I’m already doing—you’re messing up my full-send first-try day-flash top.

10) Let’s go!: Back in the 1980s, there was this annoying trend in which American climbers, copying the Brits, who climbed 10,000 times harder, would say things like “Watch us” instead of “Watch me,” pluralizing the singular. But it didn’t make “us” climb any harder; it just made “us” sound like pretentious bell-ends. I realize the pluralized “Let’s go” is not exactly that, but it’s equally annoying. The first time I heard some shirtless baboon shouting it atop a six-foot-tall turd of a boulder on YouTube, I thought he was kidding. Now it’s everywhere. When I hear it, all I can think is, “Yes, let’s go—home. Away from this rock where a bunch of TCH-addled bozos are shouting ‘Let’s fucking go!’ at each other” and scaring all the wildlife away.

Matt Samet is the Editor of Climbing. He has been living since 1991 in the Boulder, Colorado, area, where he remains an active first ascentionist and climber.

Film: How Matt Cornell Free Soloed One of America’s Classic Hard Mixed Routes

"The Nutcracker" explores the mental challenges of solo climbing and the tactics Cornell used to help him send the route.