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5 essential bouldering terms for beginners

When you first walk inside of a bouldering gym, let’s be real, it’s intimidating. Bodies are flying up OR down the wall, slamming into pads and to top it off, most of the people in the gym probably don’t look like you.

This is usually when the Homer Simpson effect kicks in and you slowly retreat back to the door thinking, we don’t do this. But trust me, we do. And you can.

I recently hosted my first in-person Black Girls Boulder club session at Method climbing gym in Newark, New Jersey. Regardless of how popular climbing has become, getting Black women into a climbing gym is a serious feat.

Nearly all of those 7 women were new or beginner climbers. During that session, I found myself using five terms that I soon realized they may or may not understand. This post is all about the five climbing words or terms I think every beginner climber should know.

#1 Beta: Advice on how to complete a climb.

When working with new climbers, I like to avoid instant coaching because let's face it, I'm not a coach. When you first get started, it’s nice to struggle a bit and try to figure it out. The puzzle aspect of climbing and it’s inherently distracting nature is why I stuck with it (cause let’s be honest again, I didn’t love bouldering in the beginning). But there comes a point when a new climber gets frustrated and wants some advice. So whether you’re a new climber or not, always ask the climber if they want beta or help before yelling out instructions. And don’t assume they know what the word “beta” means.

#2 Bump: Moving the same hand quickly from one hold to another nearby hold while keeping the alternate hand secure on another hold.

I remember the first time someone yelled out to me to “bump.” I was struggling on a climb and had no clue what he wanted me to do. This is a common climbing technique and one that’s not too advanced for new climbers. Most new climbers climb the wall like it's a ladder, alternating feet and hand position.

This move can feel awkward and untrustworthy but sometimes is the safest move to make. Imagine climbing that ladder but instead of alternating, you move the left hand up back to back. Now this wouldn’t feel natural on a ladder, but depending on the climbing route, it may be the best move to make. It may take some time to get comfortable with this technique so I challenge you to try it when you have two hand holds close together on the same side of the wall.

#3 Match (hands/feet): Placing both hands or feet on the same hold.

This is another common beginner climbing technique and falls in line with the ladder example. If you were climbing the ladder and instead of alternating rungs, you put both hands and/or feet on the same rung. This technique breaks up that flowy movement and exhausts more energy. While this is not always the most efficient method of climbing, sometimes it’s absolutely necessary to get your body into the right position to make the next move. And sometimes it’s the only way for new climbers to feel safe and secure on the wall.

#4 Flash: climbing the route successfully on the first attempt.

This is probably my favorite climbing term. It has superhero vibes and when you do it, you literally feel like a superhero. Here is how you would use this word in a sentence: Tiffany flashed that crazy hard climb.

#5 Send/Sent: Successfully completing a boulder problem..not necessarily on the first try.

This was the word that was hard for me to use in the beginning, even after knowing what it meant. I felt like I was trying to be the cool climber I’m not. It's probably the word you will hear the most. Eventually you'll hear it so much, you'll naturally start saying it.

Black Girls Boulder has local climbing clubs in the New York and New Jersey area. Even if you don't live in the NY/NJ area and want to learn more about bouldering, join the club.

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