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Jugs, Crimps, and Slopers: A Glossary of Climbing Holds
To simulate the diverse topography of a natural rockface, climbing gyms use a host of distinct climbing holds, each of which offers its own challenges and advantages. Find out more with Groupon’s study of climbing holds.
The colorful holds that ascend the walls in climbing gyms emulate the various rock encountered in nature, though they are also designed to train and challenge specific skills. Knowing the terms used for these holds and the techniques each one requires can help you get the most out of your climbing experience.
Jugs: Named for their similar appearance to the handle of a milk jug, these are large, vertical protuberances that climbers can grab onto with their entire hand and support their weight with ease. The most user-friendly of all climbing holds, jugs are a staple on beginner routes, but they can also serve as vital lifelines and resting spots on more advanced tracks.
Incuts: Incuts are holds with a deep groove in the top that offers a lip for climbers to grasp with their fingers. Also referred to as “mini-jugs,” these don’t offer as much surface area to cling to as their larger counterparts, but they are still among the easiest holds to use.
Slopers: Slopers are holds that lack a lip or edge for climbers to grasp. Instead, they’re protruding hemispheres embedded in the wall, much like the Grand Canyon’s fossilized basketballs. Climbers use them by placing their hand across the rounded surface to generate as much friction as possible.
Pockets: Strong digits are crucial when confronted with a pocket hold, which is like a donut that allows climbers to stick up to four fingers in the hole. Deeper, wider pockets offer more user-friendly holds, but climbers should always be judicious about which fingers to use. The middle and index fingers are usually your most formidable, and you may consider cramming as many fingers as possible into a smaller pocket, even at the expense of comfort.
Pinches: These narrow, vertically aligned holds draw their name from the way in which climbers use them: by pinching them between their fingers and thumb. Their top edge typically does not offer enough surface area to grasp, so climbers must rely on strong hands to generate a firm enough squeeze to hang on.
Crimps and chips: Small holds that mostly operate as footholds, crimps and chips demand tremendous finger strength to use as handholds. They aren’t large enough to palm like a sloper or pinch, and they offer just enough of a top edge to fit, at the most, the space from a climber’s top knuckle to their fingertip. To grip them, climbers press down on the pads of their fingers (a technique called “crimping”), effectively bending their top knuckle backward—a position that puts stress on an area not used to bearing much weight.
Edges: Like crimps, but wider and with a less-defined edge, edges emulate horizontal cracks in a rockface. They can be grasped like crimps or smaller jugs, and they usually allow climbers to distribute their weight over all four fingers or, in some cases, the fingers on both hands.
Side Pulls, Gastons, and Underclings: These terms are not associated with a particular shape of a hold, but instead describe certain ways that climbers adapt holds to gain extra leverage in particular situations. A side pull is when a climber grasps the far side of a hold to pull themselves in a lateral direction. A gaston is just the opposite—pushing outward on the inside of a hold. An undercling, meanwhile, is when a climber grips the bottom of a hold near their torso in order to pull their body in toward the wall, granting the opportunity to fully extend their claw grabber toward a hard-to-reach hold above.