Names of Basic Rock Climbing Holds and How to Use Different Types

Phil True
October 23, 2015

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The rock climbing tower at Refreshing Mountain offers a physical challenge with the reward of spectacular views at the top. While rock climbing, you will use handholds and footholds to push and pull your body to the top. Our visitors are beginners just getting introduced to the sport… so to help them get started, here is a list of some of the basic rock climbing holds to try out on our Climbing Tower!


When you reach up and find an edge to grip, your hand naturally goes into a crimp position, with the fingertips on the edge, and fingers arched above. This position gives you a secure grip, allowing you to pull yourself up to the next position. You should be careful to not crimp your fingers too, too hard… or might feel some cramping along the way!


Vertical edges are called sidepulls, and are used with a grip similar to the crimp. Rather than pulling upwards, sidepulls help you pull sideways, to extend your body to a new position and reach other foot and handholds.This is a useful hold in rock climbing for getting to hard to reach handholds or around obstacles.


Pinches are holds of various sizes that you can grip with your hand, pinching it between your thumb and fingers. Beginner climbers should aim for wider pinches, which are easier to grasp and hold; while more advanced climbers can test their strength on narrower pinch handholds.


Sometimes in rock climbing, there will be small holes in the surface, wide enough to fit one or more fingers. These are called pockets, and are used by placing the fingers inside and pulling up against them. It’s always best to choose your strongest fingers – often the middle and ring fingers – and add in other fingers as they fit. This tactic helps support your fingers while doing a pocket hold.


Underclings are holds that you grab from underneath, with your fingers on the underside and your thumb on top (similar to a pinch). This handhold is usually around mid-body, and can be difficult to master due to the muscle strength needed to successfully climb from this position. However, it can be a valuable position for moving around obstacles.


A rock climbing handhold that is smooth and sloped… is referred to as a sloper. It is used by spreading your open hand along the handhold, and relying on the friction of your hand to hold you up while you pull yourself further up the climbing tower.

Palming or Open Hand Grips

Sometimes there is no available surface to grip with your hand. When this happens, you need to rely on your open hand in a position called palming, or open-hand grip. To do this, you spread your hand against the rock surface, using friction to hold you steady. This is a preferred grip on sloped or slab portions, as it allows you to use the full strength of your arms to pull you upwards, rather than the strength in your fingers and hands.

While these are all helpful “holds” while climbing… remember that rock climbing is often an intuitive activity, with your body naturally grasping, pulling, and pushing as necessary. The professionals at Refreshing Mountain will make sure you are fully equipped with safety gear to make your climb safe and enjoyable.

It may be helpful to print this list of grips to refer to as you prepare to make your first climb. With a little practice and determination, you’ll soon find yourself at the top of the climbing tower filled with a sense of accomplishment and pride.

To learn more about the great sport of Rock Climbing, check out these sites! Then bring your family so everyone can be introduced to the sport and tackle the Climbing Tower at Refreshing Mountain!

Click here to see a list of articles designed for Rock Climbing beginners or this comprehensive beginners guide.

If you are a bit more of an enthusiast, here are some sites for you.

See You Soon!