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24 words every outdoor enthusiast should know

Looking to brush up on your outdoor terminology? Sick of not understanding your climbing or running pals and their confusing abbreviated terms? Expand your vocabulary this season with the help of this handy guide to outdoor life…

The outdoor community is an amalgamation of cultures, each with its own passions, personalities and eccentricities. With this comes their own unique terminology, slang, and in-jokes.  Whilst ours is a predominantly welcoming fraternity, we know for those new to the outdoor world, it can sometimes feel like an alien world. That’s why we’ve pulled together some of the phrases your more likely to come across when navigating activities in the outdoor world. 

From climbing to running we’ve covered some of the things we’ve heard more often than not whilst out and about at the crag and on the trail. We want everyone to feel like they can get involved and understand what’s going on! That’s why we’ve created an official Montane Glossary - featuring a whole host of words you’re likely to come across on our website, from DWR to organic cotton.

So whether you’re just getting started on your journey in the great outdoors, or you’re a seasoned adventurer looking for a laugh, keep reading to discover even more terms your likely to encounter...

See the official Montane glossary


General Outdoor

Bagging

Summiting peaks/points of interest to tick them off a list. Good clean fun. Most popular bagging activities include Munroe (in Scotland) or Wainwright (Britain) bagging.  It’s a great way to get into the outdoors, as well as oblige you to get off the beaten track and into some more wild places in search of the more inaccessible peaks.

Bivvy

Camping without a tent. Sometimes a risk (especially in the UK), the rewards can be totally worth it; decreased pack weight, nights under firmament in glorious simplicity; you, a sleeping mat and bag, and a bottle of something to keep the cold out. Perfection.

Bothy

Europe have the ‘Refuge’ or Hutte, we have the Bothy.  Whilst a bothies euro counterparts can often be quite glamorous affairs, with mod-cons and even a reliable degree of comfort, the humble bothy is often a more rugged affair; a small shack, shed or old cottage with the absolute bare essentials; a fire, and somewhere (hopefully) dry to sleep.  In true outdoorsman tradition, they are typically open to any who need it, which can often lead to wonderful evenings spent with complete strangers as the weather rages outside.  Their invitingness is often directly proportional to how bad the UK weather can get.

Bothy | Montane Glossary

Cairn

Man-made piles of stones typically used to mark specific geographical features. Typically found at the peaks of hills or mountains, they are also used as waypoints.  They can also form organically from people moving stones about, so not to be 100% relied on for navigation!

Dirtbag

A person who organises their life entirely around the outdoors, sacrificing the trappings of ‘civilization’ to be closer to their passion. Traditionally found predominantly amongst climbers, these people’s appearance, choices, and hygiene belies a dedication and focus that most of us can only dream of.

Fastpacking

A means of maximising distance and time outdoors via an emphasis on packing light and moving fast. So much more than how much kit you pack, it has become a philosophical framework for engaging with – and moving through - the outdoors.  Packing light doesn’t just mean you carry less and can therefore go further easier.  It emphasizes simplicity, meaning you move free of distraction, allowing an outdoor experience that is all the purer for it.

Fastpacking

Full send 

To ‘go full-send’ is to commit to something regardless of the potential consequences. The ability to completely apply every ounce of effort and focus you have to something is a spectacularly useful tool to have.  It needs to be used strategically for either hi-reward scenarios or if the outcome is going to be REALLY funny for your buddies.

LNT - Leave No Trace.

 A number of guidelines to minimise your impact to the places you visit, covering obvious stuff like taking your litter home and don’t trash the place. If this isn’t your overriding ethics of being in the outdoors, you don’t deserve to enjoy these spaces.

Technical

Terrain that is difficult to move across. Covering everything from grade 1 scrambles to the gnarliest of mixed pitches, it can be easy to think this term is vastly overused.  For most, the technical nature of terrain will mean how much effort it takes to move across, with the more gnarly end of the grades requiring an increasing amount of technical expertise and experience as well as fitness.  Do not fall into the trap of thinking the technical grade is a guarantee of the quality of a route or trail.

Type 2 fun

Retrospective fun. Usually occurring at the conclusion of doing something hard, scary, or otherwise unpleasant. NEWS FLASH: there are 3 types of fun: 

  • Type 1: fun that you are aware of in the moment, usually caused by something pleasant or satisfying.  This is boring fun.
  • Type 2: Fun that is only discovered after something that was at the time absolutely not.  Can be easily mistaken for relief.  This type of fun is good.
  • Type 3: fun that is neither experienced whilst doing OR after an activity has concluded.  By all accounts type 3 is the spice which is sprinkled onto everything - in isolation it is unpleasant, but a bit makes all the others seem better.

Vanlife

Having a campervan. A more aesthetic-driven version of being a Dirtbag. Its additional comfort means less sacrifices have to be made to pursue your passions.  The dream for many, prohibitively expensive for most.

Van Life

Running

DNF - Did not Finish. 

Something that happens to the best of us, whether it be due to conditions, injury, poor race management, a gamble of effort that didn’t pay off, hangovers, or just bad luck.

FKT - Fastest Known Time. 

Exactly what it sounds like.  The fastest time it takes to cover a specific route.  Must be at least 5 miles long or have 500ft of climbing.

DNS - Did Not Start

Similar to DNF in occurrence, with additional potential causes of calendar mismanagement, or general ‘life’ getting in the way.  Usually accompanied by an apologetic call with the race organisers.

Ultra/ Ultra Marathon

The distance of heroes. Any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.19km (26 miles). In practice, this usually means anything longer than 50km.  

Ultra-races

Bonk

A sudden bout of fatigue mid-run. Often the result of going ‘Full Send’, but can also be caused by poor nutrition.  Caused when the body depletes its glycogen stores and begins burning fat.  Not a guaranteed DNF, as can be countered by nutrition and effort management, as well as additional bravery.

Crew/ Support Crew

Beautiful angels who should be prized beyond measure.  Often seen on longer races or FKT’s, they are the ones who refill your water bottles, change your socks, shovel food down you, and put up with your exhausted babblings at aid stations.  The good ones can anticipate your needs, and the best can make the difficult calls for you – whether that be to keep going on or to DNF.

Cheat sticks/ Poles

Sometimes contentious in both ethics and effect.  Usually a godsend on longer or particularly hilly ultras, if you turn up to a park-run with them you’ll get some funny looks.  They need a bit of practice to enjoy the benefits.

Cheat sticks/poles

Climbing/Mountaineering

Crag rat

A particularly enthusiastic climber. Similar to a dirtbag, but more about their enthusiasm for being at the crag than the extent of their life choices.

Crux

The hardest move/series of moves on a climb, or the hardest pitch in a multi-pitch route.

The difficulty of a route’s crux denotes the entire route's grade, and can happen at any point on the route; if its at the bottom, then you’re knackered for the rest and will fall off something easy, if later; you’ll breeze up the route only to whip off immediately from a dizzying height.  Good times.  

Psyche

The strategic application of a peculiar blend of ambition and enthusiasm towards a goal or adventure. A resource that can be fickle and fleeting, yet utterly vital to the success of any expedition, project, or day out.  Enough psyche can manifest in many ways and result in overcoming massive obstacles.  It can also totally evaporate at the slightest convenience, plunging your endeavours into chaos.  

Bomber

A positive way to describe the conditions of a particularly solid piece of protection placed while climbing. Can also be used to describe anything good, robust, or generally dependable.  However, it can also be used by a lead to instil confidence in sketchy protection when during protractedly exposed/dangerous climbing for their second.  Up to you whether you decide to trust its use, but blind faith can go a long way (until it doesn’t).

Bomber

Disco knees

Uncontrollable shaking of one or both legs when climbing. Typically as entertaining to watch happen to someone as it is scary to experience first-hand.  Usually indicates an imminent retreat via abseil or gravity.

Scottish Winter

The greatest conditions to climb in the world. If you want perfect conditions and pristine routes then Scottish Winter isn’t for you.  If you like alpine starts, long approaches, horizontal sleet, frozen peat, and low visibility then you will love it.  Success is hard-worn but tastes sweeter for it.  Blue-sky days are few and far between but made all the more glorious by the numerous days of misery preceding them.  Read any expedition report into the greater ranges and every time the weather closes in and all looks lost it will be likened to ‘Scottish Winter’. Honest, raw, and visceral.  Everything the outdoors should be. 

 

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