What is the ultimate slab route?


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Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo CA
Apr 29, 2017 - 11:06pm PT
Greasy But Groovy on the Arches Apron has a bit of a reputation. Some other, nearby routes are also notorious.

Ironically, the Great Slab Route on the Column doesn't even qualify for this topic.

The El Capitan Apron between the Dihedral and Aquarian Walls might just be the Ultimate Slab. Wings of Steel looked, to me, like it might go free. The steep slabby sections on New Dawn that Leo Houlding free climbed looked harder than what I saw on the first two or three pitches of Wings of Steel.


Trad climber
Central Sierra
Apr 29, 2017 - 11:18pm PT
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Boulder climber
Apr 29, 2017 - 11:40pm PT
I would say that the ultimate slab route has yet to be done and lies on the East Face of Mt. Watkins to the west of "Escape from Freedom"
Not much hope that ground up will survive there - everything will now be dropped into/ equipped on rappel I suspect.
Vitaliy M. has added some legit lines recently, but those are still not addressing the main wall farther West (which Bruce was probably referring to) and I still wouldn't call it a slab per-se. I'd call it a face I guess.

Balcarce, Argentina
Apr 30, 2017 - 06:08am PT
For a single pitch slab climb? less than 90 degrees, preferably with the fewest features possible, so knob climbs may be out

The hardest single pitch slab climb is most probably Territorio Comanche (proposed rating is 8c+) in La Pedriza (which already has established slab climbs at 8b+). The climber who sent the route, Ignacio Mulero describes the difficulties this way: the first three bolts consists of a V6 or V7 boulder of pure slab, almost without hands, followed by a 30 meter long, very continuous section with sustained movement like the hardest moves on the existing 8b+ slabs.


Trad climber
Apr 30, 2017 - 06:18am PT
Didn't see Dome Rock mentioned.....here are some jems

Saucer full-o-secrets
Skid Row

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Apr 30, 2017 - 07:05am PT
By today's definition the Dawn Wall is the ultimate slab route.

Social climber
carmel, ca
Apr 30, 2017 - 11:26am PT
By today's definition the Dawn Wall is the ultimate slab route.

Impossible to argue with Jim here if we accept the common definition of "ultimate".

Modern climbers consider anything that is at, under or just over vertical a "slab" and the Dawn fits the bill.

For friction slab Hall of Mirrors by far, imo, under the "ultimate" definition.

For pure beauty and fun, Crest Jewel is not surpassed.

For a single pitch of quality I always thought Hogwash in the Meadows was as good as any. Bruce himself should chime in with what he considers his best pitch. That one would be worthy without question.

Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo CA
Apr 30, 2017 - 11:53am PT
I was up there, on the Dawn Wall, last October, and saw Adam Ondra free a 5.14c pitch from about thirty feet away from him.

It was not exactly slab climbing. But, it was not exactly crack climbing, either. The crux was a corner with a knifeblade seam, with the ubiquitous scars that would not quite take a pinky finger. He performed a series of varied moves to get past an otherwise A3 section. He did quite a bit of oppositional friction face maneuvers on the vertical corner.

What he did was magic.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 30, 2017 - 12:47pm PT
I think its preposterous to consider the Dawn Wall a slab climb in that only the bottom pitches can be seen as less than vertical.

Slab has historically, and has no logical reason otherwise to change, been where the majority of the climb is under or just under vertical aka 90 degrees.

To take an overhang and call it slabby is to remove all coherent meaning of the word when talking about the majority of the climb's style. Whether you want to define a 'vertical' climb as tending to slabby because 49 percent of it is less than vertical is arguable, but not the majority.

The 'ultimate' aspect of an ultimate slab climb is one where the aesthetic of the style is necessary to make progress in the most continuous series of moves without resort to alternative style of movements that are not in the slab category.

While difficulty is possibly a factor in pushing a climb toward ultimate status since it removes other styles from helping upward progress, a moderate line with more continuity of the exemplary type of moves of a slab would be more deserving in a stack ranked list.

Now which line do you think is the ultimate slab?

Runout, gear vs. bolt, should not be dispositive.

Glacier Point climbs?
Stone Mountain!
Joshua Tree climbs?

Trad climber
the middle of CA
Apr 30, 2017 - 01:18pm PT
Another criteria: it's not really a slab route unless there are so few holds that you're just trying to step on colors and shadows. And hands are just extra weight

Social climber
The Past
Apr 30, 2017 - 01:51pm PT
There is no such thing as "the" ultimate slab route, IMO. And I'm reasonably serious, although I'm not going to try and convince anybody to buy into that line of reasoning.

Perhaps the definition of ultimate allows many routes to qualify as long as they meet some listed criteria (as seems to be the case)? Ultimate seems to imply singularity, and there is simply to much rock out there with too many superb lines to single anything out as an ultimate.

Personal taste also further muddies the waters.

I agree that deciding which routes are of the highest quality involves, or should involve, more than rating.

From what I've seen over the years just on ST alone, we'll never agree on the definitions of slab vs face, much less on what constitutes an ultimate.

In the past few years my main partner and I have done slab routes (anything < vertical, the traditional definition mentioned by Munge) that we felt were the best routes we had done at their respective grades - ever. But that doesn't make them our own, much less anyone else's, "ultimate".

Trying to find and climb an ultimate does/could make for a fun quest though.

Edit: Hey Munge, aren't you supposed to be doing slab routes somewhere today instead of posting here?

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 30, 2017 - 02:46pm PT
I *should* be.

I would be doing the ultimate slab route for sure. :)

Work has jammed me up lately.

Spring is here. Time to charge, sharpen, and stance!
Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
Apr 30, 2017 - 05:09pm PT
The guidebooks of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club, which was founded in 1906, offer the following: "The angle of a glacis is such that it can be walked up; a slab is steeper; whilst a wall is nearly vertical and may overhang. The slopes are approximately: below 30 degrees, between 30 and 75 degrees, above 75 degrees."

The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines wall as "a vertical rock face, such as one that lies exposed on the steep side of a mountain" and glacis as "a gently sloping bank".

Enough of the nonsense about a "slab" being anything even slightly less than vertical.

Trad climber
Fresno, CA
Apr 30, 2017 - 05:54pm PT
This forum is so California-centric. There are plenty of granite slabs in places other than Yosemite. Places that are not crowded.

How about Nomash Slab on Greyback Peak--Vancouver island? 14 pitches - sport bolted, 5.10b. Amazing climbing in a isolated wilderness, temperate rainforest.

Credit: Nanobody

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 30, 2017 - 06:21pm PT
Nice one Nano!

MightyHiker, seems legit. 1906, is cool!

Social climber
carmel, ca
Apr 30, 2017 - 06:52pm PT
Sorry, but a 1906 definition really means nothing. Definitions change with the time, language is not static, it is either "living" (changing continually) or dying (ancient usages are static). Whatever the current definition among aficionados is the definition. Of course, a word can mean different things to different people, or different groups around the world. That is the beauty of living language.

A Slab is anything less or slightly overhanging to the top free climbers ie To Bolt or Not to Be (5.14a) is a slab at dead vertical to slightly overhanging.

Dawn Wall is a slab, albeit with a lot of hard laybacking pitches too. They have to be near dead vertical to be 5.14d....

To me (FWIW) the "friction slab" type of route are the low angle granite slabs. Not the same thing at all though some of them are brilliant, imo.

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Apr 30, 2017 - 06:58pm PT
...is a slab at dead vertical to slightly overhanging.

I can't define slab, but I know it when I see it. Vert to slightly overhanging ain't it.
Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
Apr 30, 2017 - 07:04pm PT
The Oxford English Dictionary, online, provides the following subsidiary definition of the noun "slab". It is the definitive and a current source as to the origin and use of words in English.

Mountaineering. A large, smooth body of rock lying at a (usu. sharp) angle to the horizontal.

You'll note that it doesn't say "nearly vertical", or any such thing - the reference is to the horizontal. And yes, they quote a variety of sources for the usage, some quite modern.

Using "slab" to describe something that's vertical is typical climber-jargon, and so quite sloppy.

(I was pleased to discover that the public library provides free online access to the OED.)

Social climber
carmel, ca
Apr 30, 2017 - 08:18pm PT
Sorry guy!

They don't update every single word every year by polling Ondra and Tommy et al. And the meaning is what the climbers say it is, not a dictionary that is outdated the second it is published. The editors themselves will tell you that.

And with all due respect to ksolem, the guys at the leading edge of free climbing call routes like the Dawn a slab and TBoNTB a slab...don't shoot the messenger (me). Anytime the holds are super tiny and you are standing on your feet is a slab to them.

Pretty sure Donini ain't making it up either....

Trad climber
the middle of CA
Apr 30, 2017 - 08:28pm PT
Bull honkey! Vertical is thin face climbing, not slab.

Common knowledge.

Just about any courtright route is a contender
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