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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Tri-Cams :The Hidden Menace

For decades British trad crags have maintained some of the world’s strictest climbing ethics. We refrain from using fixed gear to keep the spirit of adventure and avoid altering the natural beauty of the landscapes that play host to our climbing exploits. The Offwidth feels that now is the time to talk about the one form of fixed gear that has so far slipped under the radar. Tri Cams.

The Offwidth secured an interview with one disgruntled second Tom Hayes to discuss the issues around tri cam use. “It’s not on is it?” says Tom. “It’s all fine for the leader who places the tri cam, but has she thought about her poor second who has to get the bloody thing out? No of course she hasn’t.”

“A bolt will rust in a couple of decades and the hole it leaves will have eroded in a few million years. You call that fixed gear? That’s nothing compared to how long I’ve spent trying to remove tri cams from limestone pockets.”

“I don’t see what all the fuss is.” says Tom’s leader and tri cam fan Sarah Green. “You just give them a prod, then a quick flick and out they come.”

We read this quote to Tom who promptly turned a funny shade or red and started frothing at the mouth. “A prod and a flick?! That’s just a myth leaders like to repeat to ease their guilty conscience, don’t listen to a word of it. Us seconds know the truth. The only way to remove a tri cam is to howl and swear at it whilst stabbing at it with a nice sharp nut key. Eventually your bloody knuckles and tears of frustration will work up enough lubrication to slide the bastard out sideways.”

It’s not just seconds who are at risk from tri cams. Research from The Offwidth Institute suggests that as many as 78% of leaders who use tri cams have formed an unhealthy attachment to one or more tri cam. This figure rises to a staggering 98% when ‘users’ are asked to choose a favourite between their ‘Pink 0.5’ and their spouse.

We showed Tom these figures and asked if it’s something he’s noticed. “Oh yes definitely” he replied. “Only last weekend I picked up Sarah’s 0.5 without asking and she hissed at me and screamed “My Precious” with a fiery look in her eyes.”

“There’s nothing unusual about how often I place tri cams” maintains Sarah. “I can stop whenever I want…”


The Offwidth recommends that tri cams are phased out of use with immediate effect. We also call on the BMC to provide support for traumatised seconds and heavy tri cam users.



If you enjoy any of the content on ClimbOn! we’d be really grateful if you’d consider donating to CAC. To donate hit “Donate” in the menu. Thanks.