Blog post

Urban exploration: a glossary!

26 September 2014

Urban exploration: a glossary!

It is assumed that every inch of the world has been explored and charted; that there is nowhere new to go. But perhaps it is the everyday places around us—the cities we live in—that need to be rediscovered. In Explore Everything, Bradley Garrett and the London Consolidation Crew (an urban exploration collective) place-hack the city, recasting it as a place for endless adventure. In doing so they have created their own language, including terms like ruin porn, hero shot, chimping and noob. Here we present that glossary in full. So get your crowbar out and set out to explore your city!

abseiling – Also called rappelling, a controlled descent down a vertical drop using a rope.

access/access details – The means by which one gains entry to a location. Access details are shared carefully.

admin – The administration building of a derelict hospital or asylum.

anorak – Someone obsessed with a niche interest, such as train stock variations.

ARTS – Abandoned Rapid Transit Stations/Systems.

asylum seeker – An explorer who primarily explores abandoned asylums.

backcabbing – Riding in the back cab of a train.

backlighting – A photographic technique in which something (usually a person) blocks light in front of a camera to create a photo that ‘pops’ in the dark. In drains, this is sometimes called a ‘Otter shot’, after, an elusive and prolific explorer.

bait – Acting in a way that is provocative or exposes one’s position, therefore baiting police or security (e.g., ‘She just kicked that door open – that’s so bait’).

BASE jumping – Using a packed parachute to jump from fi xed objects, often illegally. The acronym stands for the four categories of objects from which one can jump: buildings, antennae, spans and earth.

blagging – Talking one’s way into a place/out or a bust (see Bust).

bricked up – An opening that has been blocked or cemented, often with bricks or breezeblocks (see Sealed).

BTP – The British Transport Police, national police force for the railways, which includes the London Underground (Tube).

buildering – Using rock-climbing techniques to scale a building; a play on ‘bouldering’.

bust(ed) – 1. Getting caught. 2. Doing something (i.e. we busted that location).

carded – Sliding a credit card in between a door handle latch plate and frame over a lock to pop it open.

catacombs (of Paris) – 280km of disused quarries under Paris that are colloquially known as the Paris catacombs or catas.

cataphiles – People who spend a great deal of time in the Paris catacombs. Though they are ‘urban explorers’ in a broad sense, many would eschew that label.

chimney climbing – Scaling a building by wedging yourself between two walls and inching up using opposing pressures with your hands, knees, feet and back.

chimping – Looking through digital photos just taken, an activity often punctuated by ‘chimp’ sounds, e.g. Ooh-ooh!

City – The police force with the square mile of the City of London, run by the City of London Corporation.

cracking (a location) – Opening and entering a place that no explorer (and likely few other people) have ever seen.

crash bar – The bar on the backside of a door that unlocks it. These must be installed for health and safety reasons, though sometimes opening them triggers an alarm.

cubed location – A place where one exploration connects to another and then another (e.g., a tunnel goes into the basement of a building, where you can then climb to the roof [see Squared location]).

derp – 1. A derelict place, non-infrastructural. 2. Somewhere a bit dull/stripped out.

dirty shot – A photograph taken with the lens wide open and the electronic gain (ISO) bumped up, which captures action in low light but looks grainy and raw.

drains – A generic terms used for sewers, stormdrains and combined systems.

drainer/drainor – An explorer who is primarily interested in sewers and stormdrains.

DSLR – A Digital Single Lens Refl ex camera, the preferred photographic equipment for most urban explorers.

edgework – Undertaking a life-threatening risk for no reason other than to feel ‘the edge’.

epic(s) – An exploration of a very high calibre and/or a never-before-seen site (see holy grail).

fail – 1. A failure or failed exploration. 2. The failure of the secca or cop to catch you (see Secca).

first service – The first trains to run in the morning.

the fresh – Poo. Also used to describe the feeling of being in the sewer or ‘in the fresh’.

Golden Age – The years of urban exploration in London between 2008 and 2012. Other cities (such as Minneapolis, New York and Manchester) have different Golden Ages.

group shot – A photograph of everyone participating in an exploration.

HDR – High Dynamic Range, a photographic technique that layers three or more shots to create a surreal or fantasy visual aesthetic. Most explorers have a strong opinion either for or against the use of HDR.

Heras – The name of a fence manufacturer, usually used in reference to a type of loose fence that, though easy to disassemble, is noisy to climb.

hero shot – A highly stylised photo of an urban explorer looking smug about an accomplishment in a location.

high-vis – A high-visibility vest, often worn by construction and rail workers (see Over-camouflage).

hoarding – Wooden boards placed around a site as a temporary wall to secure it.

holy grail – An exploration that requires deep research, effort and often teamwork, with a commensurate high reward at the end.

hot (location) – A location that has been written about online or that explorers were recently caught in. It’s best to stay out of a hot location until it cools down.

infiltration – A trespass on a live site (one that is not derelict or that has workers in it).

J. Bizzle – Joseph Bazalgette, architect of the London sewer system.

key – A found/borrowed/copied key, drain key or triangle key (for lifts); also (flippantly) a crowbar.

Layup – Where trains are parked.

lift surfing – Standing on the roof of a lift box while it is moving.

light painting – Illuminating a dark place during a long-exposure photograph.

mask up – Putting on or pulling up facemasks, usually to run by a camera or security personnel.

meet/meet-up/pissup – A mass meeting of urban explorers.

Met – The Metropolitan Police, responsible for law enforcement in greater London, excluding the ‘square mile’ of the City of London [see City].

ninja/ninjors – An explorer skilled at climbing, often sent in solo to open doors from the inside.

no man’s land – The area between the outer security fence and a building, usually where security patrols walk (see Secca).

noob – A new/inexperienced explorer.

overt camouflage – Using transparency as opposed to stealth, often utilising a costume, to look as if you belong in a place/doing a certain activity (see High-vis).

people shot/action shot – A photograph focussed on people exploring, rather than the place being explored.

picked – A place explorers have used lockpicks to gain entry into.

PIR – Passive InfraRed sensor alarm, set off by motion through its beam.

the point – The farthest point of excavation in a tunnel, where a collapse is most likely. Explorers do edgework by ‘working the point’ (see edgework).

portal – Where an infrastructural system (i.e., the Metro) goes from underground to aboveground.

prohobo/probo/urban camping – Sleeping in abandoned places with expensive kit.

recce – Reconnaissance/scouting/scoping out the way inside a place before exploring it and/or clocking security patrols.

rinsed – A location or place (perhaps as large as a city) perhaps thought to have been thoroughly explored.

rooftopping – Gaining access to the roof of a building for the view.

rope in/drop in/rope access – An abseil entry using ropes and harnesses (see abseiling).

ruin porn – A fetish for the exploration and photography of dereliction.

secca – Security guard.

sealed – Somewhere that is, or has become, inaccessible (see bricked up).

snipping – Cutting through a fence/lock.

squared location – A location which connects to another (e.g., entering a tunnel which then connects to a drain) (see cubed location).

SRT (kit) – Single Rope Technique is a set of methods and equipment used to descend and ascend a rope.

stoop – A small sewer pipe that is fi lthy and painful to traverse. Also the name of a well-known London drain explorer.

swag – Material artefacts removed from a site.

tankcatting – Smashing/breaking into a site through a door or lock.

the third – The third rail that provides power to electric trains (for instance in the London Tube and Paris Metro).

TOADS – Temporary, Obsolete, Abandoned and Derelict Spaces.

top(ped) out – When a skyscraper reaches its highest point.

trackies – Rail line workers.

Trojan horse exploit – When an explorer enters a building through the front door, possibly in office attire, and then finds a way to let everyone else in (see


trolling – Purposefully antagonizing other people online to provoke outrage, for instance by posting ‘secret’ access details (see acess details).

tweeker – A methamphetamine user. Copper thieves and security guards in derelict buildings are sometimes tweekers.

urban exploration/UrbEx/UE – Recreational urban trespass.

usufruct – A legal concept that affords people the right to use and enjoy property owned by someone else, provided it is not changed or damaged in any way.

walk-in – A site that requires little or no effort to access.

wonky – Off-kilter, usually referring to a badly framed photo.

Xmas – A period of time when security is almost non-existent, when epic sites get cracked and busted (see epic, cracked, busted).

Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City by Bradley Garrett publishes in paperback this month.

COMPETITION: on Monday 29th and Tuesday 30th of September, we're giving away copies of Explore Everything PLUS a Verso bag filled with our best urban reading. See here for more details!

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