Different Mountaineering Terms And What Do They Mean

Mountaineering terms are important to know when one decides to go for a high altitude trek. The climber should be familiar with the ice and rock terrain around him/her. Knowing some basic terms helps in an easy flow of communication and efficiency while in emergency.

Acclimatization - Acclimatization is a process in which you prepare your body, according to the environment of a high altitude. This is very important as without acclimatization, a person can face problems like AMS, HAPO, HACO, etc. High altitude starts from 9000ft.

Anchor – Anchor is a device/method that helps climber to attach itself to the climbing surface like a rock, Ice or any other wall. This ensures the safety of the climber as it arrests him/her at the time of a fall.

Arete - Arete is a sharp ridge of a mountain top.

Avalanche – When abundance of snow slides down on a sloping surface, it is called avalanche. It also brings down rock, trees, etc., along with it. Avalanche is highly dangerous and life threatening.

11 Great Himalayan Treks To Experience First Snow

There are 3 types of Avalanche –

  1. Loose snow Avalanche (Dry, Wet)
  1. Packed snow avalanche
  1. Combination of both

Belay - Belay is a technique is which a person called belayer safeguards a climbers fall. In case the climber falls, the belayer can arrest/freeze him/her with the help of belay rope and device.

Bergshrund - A bergschrund is a crack/crevasse that divides the glacier. It is a serious obstacle for mountaineers.

Bivouac - Bivouac is a place where mountaineers can make a temporary shelter and rest for some time. It could be a natural shelter or improvised shelter.

Buttress - Buttress is a cliff which is attached to the main mountain.

Cairn – If you have gone for a Himalayan trek, many a times you might have noticed a group of stones built one above the other. It is big at the bottom and small and the top, making it a triangular shape. Such a group of stones is called Cairn. They are used to make directions or landmark.

Cap Stone - The stone that shelters above the crack is called a cap stone.

Chimney - A chimney is a space on a rock wall/mountain which is wider than crack. A man can easily fit in the chimney. To climb such a structure, the climber, often jams his/her body to apply opposite pressure on the vertical walls.

Choke Stone - A stone that is stuck between the chimney or crack is called a choke stone.

COL -   The space / saddle between 2 mountains is called COL.

Couloir – A term used for bigger gully. It is a steep gorge filled & blocked with snow, ice, stones and pebbles.

Pass - The way that goes through COL is called Pass.

GAP - A space between 2 mountains or ridge is called GAP.

Saddle - A saddle is a flat space or a pass between 2 mountains. It is usually at a height and it is larger than COL.

Snow Bridge - The ice bridge that forms naturally on the crevasse or cracks is called a snow bridge. It is typically formed by snow drift, which first creates a cornice and then gradually grow to reach the other side of the opening.

Snow Line – Snow line is an imaginary line above which snow is always found throughout the year.

Snout – Snout is the base/end of the glacier from where water flows. Since glacier is constantly moving, the snout also keeps moving.

Stance - The climber positions itself with belay while standing/ sitting on the ledge. It is called stance.

Slab – A slab is a slope which is significantly less than a vertical section of rock. Usually it is a 30 to 70 degree slope.

Slack - A slack is a loose rope between 2 climbers. It is preferably minimized during belay.

Tarn - A Tarn is a mountain lake formed due to the atmospheric condition around. Roopkund, Satopanth tal, Bringu lake are some of the examples of tarn.

Timber Line - Timber line is an imaginary line above which trees are not found. It is usually a point where there isn’t enough air, heat, or water to keep trees alive.

Cornice - Cornice is an ice overhang which is formed due to the winds on the ridge line.

Cravasse - The crack which forms in the glacier are called cravasse. There are usually 3 types of cravasses – Diagonal, Longitudinal and Transversal.

CWM – Cwm is a cliff-lined semi-circular basin hanging on the upper part of the main valley glacier. One of the most famous cwms is the Western Cwm on the Khumbu Glacier below Mount Everest in Nepal.

Free Climbing – A climber that climbs without any mountaineering equipments is called free climbing.

Artificial Climbing - A climber that climbs with any mountaineering equipments is called artificial climbing.

Fixed Rope - The rope which is fixed to the rock face/ mountain wall with the help of pitons is called fixed rope.

Gendarme - Gendarme is a tower looking rock face or a pinnacle on the ridge of a mountain. It is frequently encountered along a ridge.

Glacier Streams - Due to high temperature, the glacier melts and flows down in a form of stream.

Glissade – Glissade is usually a voluntary act of sliding down on a steep slope of snow. It can be either in sitting or standing position. Ice axe is very important to have so as to arrest the fall.

Glacis - 30 degree slope which can be climbed easily

Gully - A cut between the mountain from where water can flow or a man can walk.

Hanging glacier - The small glaciers which are separated from the main glacier on the mountain slopes

Ledge - The small platform on the slopes of a mountain on which a climber can stand is called a Ledge.

Moraine - The dirt and pebble brought by the glacier is called Moraine. Types – Lateral, Medial, Terminal

Pitch - a pitch is the portion of a climb between 2 belay points on the difficult ice wall/ mountain.

Rib - Rib is a segment that is separated from the main rock face

Scree - Small, loose, broken rocks, often at the base of a cliff. They are separated from the main mountain.

Serac - Serac are the ice cliffs on the ice wall. These Ice towers are dangerous and should be avoided.

Gunjan Shah
After completing my graduation, I decided never to open my books again. Now there are only 3 things in my mind – Travel, Travel and travel!



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