The Offwidth A to Z of Climbing: ‘A’

Climbing can be a pretty jargon heavy activity and even the most experienced climber will sometimes come across a term they haven’t heard before. Fortunately we decided to produce an accurate and informative dictionary of definitions for the confused climber; unfortunately The Offwidth beat us to it. Here’s their take, starting with ‘A’.


Abalakov Thread – A type of anchor used in ice climbing. More secure than most ice climbing anchors. (In the same way that sellotape is stronger than blue tac.)

Abalakov Threader – The tool used to construct an Abalakov Thread (along with an ice screw). Not to be confused with ‘Abolokov’, the latter being the injury one sustains from sitting on an Abalakov Threader.


Abseil– The climbing equivalent of the walk of shame. A technique used to extract oneself from an awkward situation, usually after making a big mistake. Also used in sea cliff climbing to get oneself into an awkward situation in the hope that getting back out of it will be enjoyable.


Adze– The business end of an ice axe. Used to climb ice and persuade climbing partners to lead certain pitches. Also used to scare off yetis.


Aid Climbing– The stair lift of rock climbing. Often shortened to Stannah climbing i.e.…

Climber 1: “Bloody hell that next pitch looks difficult! Do you fancy trying it?”

Climber 2: “Nah it looks way too hard. We’ll have to Stannah it.”


Alpine Climbing– A form of climbing involving fear, cold, hunger and waking up in the middle of the night. To simulate the experience wait until the next time you wake up from a nightmare then stumble into your kitchen and sit in an empty fridge. Strangely addictive.


Anchor– The collective term for the gear being used to hold a climber to the rock to form a belay. Depending on the route this can be anything from two solid bolts backed up with a bomber sling to a wobbly RP backed up with an appeal to any/all relevant deities.


Approach-Literally translates as “moan walk”, later developed into Michael Jackson’s “moon walk”. The period of whingeing before going climbing, often accompanied by a short walk. Symptoms are particularly common in sport climbers.


Arête– A ridge of rock sticking out of a crag. Famous for high levels of exposure. Depending on the climber this leads to them being conquered in a series of exhilarating and airy moves or survived via a combination of rock hugging and whimpering.




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