In NEB’s early days, we had many great contributors. Barney Waters was a Boston-based climber with a wicked pissah sense of humor. Here’s his take on defining the language of bouldering from our old Bouldering School section.
English As a Second Language
by Barney Waters
"I have no idea what you're saying to me right now", my girlfriend looks at me like I'm speaking Norwegian with a mouthful of marbles. I have been trying to explain exactly what it is I do every weekend when I disappear into the woods with a spongy mat and a toothbrush.
As she walks away and shakes her head in a cocktail of disgust, despair and open mockery I realize that the root of the problem is simple...... my girlfriend doesn't speak Boulder. As a result I have attempted to define some of the basic words in every boulderers vocabulary and hope that any of you who are in need of a English/Bouldering dictionary can make use of it for yourselves and those non climbers around you. I would leave you only with the disclaimer that my definitions are not exactly 'official', and as far as dictionaries go this one's about as legitimate as a sighting of Elvis playing chess with the Loch Ness Monster.
Boulderers climb problems not routes, implying that the boulderers task requires more thinking, consideration and solving than simple route climbing. This might even be true if you exclude chalk, tick marks and climb V14. There are more interesting alternatives offered in a thesaurus, such as 'Conundrum', 'Dilemma' and even 'Can Of Worms' which I now use exclusively.
A grade in regular terms is a mark indicating a level of accomplishment, an accepted standard, and a degree or stage in a process. Many people think bouldering grades are life or death but we know they are way more important than that. Bouldering grades can be used to measure your progress, impress your friends or inflate/deflate your ego. Once you have climbed the hardest grade you are free to disown the whole grading process and take a spirituality angle.
The current grading scale used by most of the developed world. The 'V' comes from the safety conscious originator of the grading scale, John 'Volvo' Sherman [ed. note: the 'V' in the V-scale comes from John Sherman nickname of 'Vermin'].
A successful ascent. Apparently the term 'to send' is a slang descendent of the word 'ascend'.
Mango Tango might be orange and crimpy, but then so is Carrot Top's hair. Crimp not only describes a thin fingertip hold but also a method of creating wavy hair.
Successful ascent of a can of worms after multiple tries. Alternatively the result of unprotected sex.
The moment when your body stops rising upward and before it starts to fall back downward, and the optimum time to latch a hold that requires dynamic movement to reach it. Alternatively a condition of sexual dysfunction that affects some older men.
Often used to gain the top of a boulder, a mantel requires the boulderer to push down with their hands to allow a foot to gain the same hold as the hands when no other higher handholds are available. Out of respect for Mickey Mantle who hit 536 career home runs, I prefer to call this move a 'Mickey', and suggest you do the same.
The father of modern bouldering, John Gill was maybe the first climber to focus on bouldering exclusively and to introduce dynamic movements into his ascents. Gill's ascent of The Thimble is thought to have helped legitimize bouldering in the eyes of the climbing establishment of the time and pave the way for bouldering's popularity today. While John Gill's climbing style has set the tone for thousands, the same cannot be said for his 'John Stockton' style shorts.
Having both hands or both feet on the same hold. If you thought matching was about having your shoes and chalk bag in the same color then you may be in the wrong place.
A boulder problem that is high enough to inflict injury upon you should you happen to blow the Mickey. Also a cocktail served in a tall glass. Also a common sport climbing injury caused when taking a long fall in a tight harness.
A face or boulder that is less than 90 degrees. Requires technique and strength to even get off the ground.
Beer poisoning. Requires technique and strength to even get off the ground.