the Antonio Burns series of crime novels takes place
in the vertical world, which might be unfamiliar to some,
Clinton has provided a few definitions and
snapshots to make reading more enjoyable.
At the top of each pitch, you set 2 or 3 pieces of pro set close
together and equalize them with a long cord. Then you tie yourself
into it, call down "Off Belay!" to your belayer, put her on, and
then it's her turn to climb.
Where the second holds the rope through a locking device attached
to her harness in case the leader falls. She pays out the rope
as the leader climbs, always watching for a fall.
Slave: Someone (usually a spouse or significant other)
who is not as fond of climbing as you are, and whom you drag
along against his/her will.
and Bolted Route: A climb that's protected by pre-placed
bolts rather than protection you place yourself. You clip the
rope to the bolts as you climb past them.
Super-tight slippers that are soled with sticky rubber. If they
aren't smaller than your feet, they're too big.
Training by climbing short, hard "problems"
without a rope. A spotter or something soft to land on may be
the only protection.
Type of protection. It's a mechanical device that you slide into
a crack while pulling a trigger, thus retracting the cams. When
the trigger is released, it fits snuggly into the crack.
A palm-sized aluminum loop with a gate that opens and shuts. These
are the most basic climbing devices, used for connecting the rope
to the various pieces of protection you place.
vertical crack you can fit your whole body into. In a wide chimney,
you scoot up with your feet on one wall and your butt on the other.
In a squeeze chimney, you just kind of wriggle upwards
and inhale if you start to slip.
Chute skiing: Steep, off-piste
skiing in a rock-lined couloir. You have to hike or climb to the
top. Usually steeper than 40 º - far steeper than a double-black
diamond at a ski area.
Aided climbing - Climbing where you directly use the rope
and gear to make upwards progress. It's considered cheating if
your intention is to climb free-but it's sometimes the only way
to climb a rock with few natural features (like cracks or edges)
to pull on.
Chimneying - Climbing a fissure using back and foot techniques
against opposite walls.
Free climbing - Climbing just using your mind and body
and the natural features of the rock. The rope and gear are only
used to back you up in case of a fall. Sport climbing is done
on routes where bolts have been pre-placed to provide protection.
Traditional climbing is where you place your own pro in cracks.
Free soloing - Climbing without a rope and not using any
protection at all. A fall when free soloing will be fatal. People
like Dean Potter will solo all the way up the 3,000' vertical-to-overhanging
face of El Capitan.
Ice climbing - Climbing on alpine or waterfall ice. You
wear crampons on your boots, and carry ice tools in your hands.
Protection for the rope is done by screwing 3" to 5" ice screws
into the ice.
Leading: Climbing first on the rope, placing the protection
and then setting an anchor at the top of the pitch. The leader
then belays the second up.
climbing - Where you climb a mix of rock and ice. You have
to scratch your way up the rock sections with your crampons and
Rope soloing - Climbing alone, but with a rope to back
you up if you fall. You sort of belay yourself with either a soloing
device or knots. It's time-consuming because you have to climb
each pitch twice, rappelling to collect the gear (protection)
you placed on the way up, then re-ascend the rope, then lead the
What you do in a very large chimney. It's a little like doing
above 20' or so off the deck, where an unroped fall stands a good
chance of being fatal.
Steep, snow-choked chute on a mountainside.
fissure in the rock that you jam your limbs into and where protection
can be placed.
Sharp metal spikes you attach to heavy mountain boots.
The front-points are used to climb vertical ice, the bottom spikes
are used on steep snow.
Crevasse: Huge split in a
glacier, often hidden by snow cover.
Cwm: Steep hollow up against
the side of a mountain.
to the Belay: What you do mid-way up a pitch when you're
too gripped by panic to bother placing protection. Involves heavy
breathing, sewing machine leg (see Sewing Machine Leg) and much
frantic prayer. The lead becomes a desperate solo to the next
Feeding the Rat: Feeding the
need for an adrenaline rush through climbing. Can become addictive.
Fall: When you fall all the way to the deck, pulling
out all your protection as you go. What follows is called a dirt
Someone who either falls or just rests, hanging on the rope which
the belayer has locked off. Too much of this will result in first
insults, and then penalty slack. See Penalty Slack.
A large piece of passive protection that's shaped like a hexagon
and tied to a short piece of cord.
screw: A 3" to 5" screw with teeth that bite into ice.
This is what you use for protection on ice.
Crack climbing, where you stick whatever parts of your body you
can into the crack, flex them, and hope the expanded muscles will
lock said body parts in. It's amazingly secure once you get the
hang of it.
Body jam - Fitting your whole body into a chimney or a
Finger jam - Stuffing your fingers, thumbs-down, into a
tight crack and then torquing your wrist so as to lock them in
Fist jam - Inserting your fist and flexing it until its
Foot jam - Fitting your whole foot into a crack and twisting
Hand jam - Slipping in your open hand then expanding the meaty
muscles around your palm by folding your thumb across your palm.
Helmet jam - In a squeeze chimney, sometimes your helmet
can provide a little lift.
jam - Flexing your knee in a crack. Painful.
Off-width jam - Stuffing your bent elbow into a crack too
wide for hands, fists, or even stacked hands.
Stacked hands jam - Two fists jammed together, or a fist
and an open hand.
Toe jam - Torqueing your toes into a thin crack.
Nut: A passive chock to clip as protection. Some are
as thin as a dime, larger nuts are an inch thick.
Cracks wider than a fist, yet narrower than body width. You climb
them sideways by stuffing in a flexed elbow and knee.
Slack: An intentionally loose (sometimes very loose)
belay. What the belayer gives the leader a penalty for hangdogging,
abject cowardice, or not having done the dishes the previous night.
Section of rock, snow or ice which is climbed between major belay
points. Often pitch stops at suitable stance or anchor point.
blade with a loop on one end to clip to the rope. You bash the
blade into a seam in the rock with a hammer or ice axe for protection.
Pro / Protection:
Nuts and cams (both alone and placed) you stick in the rock and
then connect to the rope to catch a potential fall.
A short link of cord with a carabiner on each end. You clip one
end to the pro you've placed, and the other to the rope. Hopefully
the slack provided by a quickdraw will keep the rope from pulling
out the pro as you climb higher.
Descend a rope safely in a controlled fashion, the speed being
controlled by friction of rope around the body.
Down the Windows: When falling, you find yourself involuntarily
and frantically waving or flapping your arms in a circular motion.
A big fall. Often pulling out several pieces of pro (Ping! Ping!
Ping!) as you fly by them. Maybe (Please God!) the next one will
a Course: Picking out a line or a crack to climb.
Machine Leg: Generally the first outward sign of fear.
Your calves start pumping up and down like an old Singer.
Same as Boots.
When bouldering on low rocks without a rope, or making low, unprotected
moves, the one who stands beneath you with upraised arms to catch
your head and shoulders if you fall.
Chimney: Fissure in the rock that's wide enough to
fit your body into. A squeeze chimney is climbed by wriggling
in an upright manner.
Up: Wrapping your hands (or other body parts) in athletic
tape to keep them from getting torn up by jamming on rough rock.
Clinton to explain other terms?
E-mail your questions, and he'll modify the glossary.
of Antonio Burns' Adventures
of Justice ....Point of Law....Trial
by Ice and Fire. ..Crossing the Line
Big Horn Mountains ....
Hole ..................... Baja California
. . . . . ... El Trono Blanco Mtns