25+ Canyoneering Terms

Canyoneering is a sport that requires an immense amount of skill and knowledge. These skills can be gained through experience, but it helps to understand the words used in this adventure sport before you embark on your journey. Below are 10 terms every adventurous person must know for their next canyoneering excursion!

25+ Common Canyoneering Terms

  • Anchor: An anchor is the point of attachment to a hanging rope.
  • Approach: The approach refers to an individual’s way down into, up from, or around the technical section of a canyon in which they are canyoneering.
  • Belay: A belay is when one person stops climbing and takes on responsibility for assisting another climber.
  • Bouldering: Bouldering is a form of climbing in which one or more climbers ascend short heights without the use of ropes.
  • Bridging: Bridging is when you must bridge between two ledges to continue with your descent down the canyon.
  • Chimney: Chimneys are narrow gaps that can be climbed up the vertical walls on either side, requiring an unusual combination of technical skills and strength.
  • Crux: The crux refers to the most challenging section within a large route-whether it’s navigating through advanced maneuvers over high cliffs or taking care not to fall during rappel descents! Cruxes test our mental as well as physical strengths and require careful planning for success (or survival!). A crux is also the last section of a climb.
  • Downclimbing: Downclimbing (or down climbing) is when one descends from higher ground to lower terrain in order to bypass an obstacle, avoid making noise or simply because you’re tired and your muscles are worn out!
  • Drag: This is when ropes have multiple points where they go around the protection, causing friction. Drag disrupts balance for canyoneers.
  • Edging: Edging, otherwise known as smearing, is when climbers use their toes against small sloping holds on the rock in order to ascend.
  • Face: A face is a cliff or steep slope that’s inclined at an angle, like a house roof. Faces can be climbed by using both hands and feet (known as “face climbing”) or just hands alone (“soloing”). Climbers may also encounter small pockets of stability, called features, such as handholds or footholds, to make their ascent easier.
  • Gripped: When a canyoneer is paralyzed by fear and unable to move.
  • Gully: A gully is a deep, narrow ravine cut into the earth by flowing water or other erosive forces. Gullies can be great obstacles in a canyon and require technical skills to cross successfully!
  • Hang dog: Hangdogging refers to an activity when one hangs off of their feet from these fixed ropes as they descend down the cliffside on them-typically during rappels. One would hangdog because it requires less energy than climbing back up (or staying put) while waiting for help to arrive.
  • Jamming: Jamming is where you use your hands, fingers, toes and/or body weight against small pockets of stability within rock features that are too shallow for handholds.
  • Lead: “To lead” is to go first on a route, and often means the person who has done that particular climb before or was trained in climbing technique by an experienced climber.
  • Multi-pitch: A multi-pitch climb refers to routes where climbers must switch from one rope length to another for rappelling purposes as they descend down many levels of terrain. These types of climbs may also take more than one day to complete!
  • On sight: Onsighting (or ‘onsight’) is when beginners are able to see their potential method of descent ahead of time without even looking at any previous information about it beforehand; also known as “seeing redpoint.” When you’re not onsighted, you might be “on the ground” or “out of sight.”
  • Poaching: Poaching is when a climber illegally enters someone else’s route and doesn’t ask permission. They might not even know it was someone else’s climb if they just happened upon it in their travels! It can happen to climbing routes that are bolted for ascending and descending, as well as bouldering problems-anywhere where an unauthorized person may ‘try on’ another climber’s gear without asking first!
  • Pumped: Pumped refers to the feeling one gets after doing intense physical activity such as lifting weights, sprinting, rock climbing or running up hills. Climbers will often say they’re pumped when they have difficulty gripping with fingers due to increased blood flow in the hands.
  • Rack: A “rack” is a set of climbing gear that includes everything you need to climb-ropes, harness and other protection devices as well as cams, quickdraws and carabiners! The term rack originated from UK climbers who would keep their equipment on hooks or racks near them before they began climbing.
  • Rappel: A rappel is a controlled descent down the canyon wall from one point to another using rope and friction for control.
  • Scree: Scree refers to loose rock debris like small rocks that have broken off larger ones over time due to weathering effects. These can make for difficult terrain when traversing through it while hiking up (or down) mountainsides! It’s usually okay if you’re wearing shoes but not so much if you’re barefoot!
  • Solo: Soloing is where a climber has no other person to belay them, who is there to provide protection and spot the climber’s safety.
  • Whipper: A whipper (or ‘whip’) is when a climber falls from an ascent at least several meters into air distance before they reach the ground; also known as “falling off” or being ‘popped’. These types of accidents are often the result of a mistake on the part of the climber.
  • Zip Line: A zip line is when climbers descend down long distances by sliding along ropes that are fastened to an anchor in one end and dangling over unstable terrain below-typically at high speeds!

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