Slab Climbing

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Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 23, 2011 - 11:30am PT
When I climb cracks I understand that good technique and not weighting a ton is helpful. On slab however at times I see some big people doing hard climbs. So is it all about technique on slab, till it gets into 5.9-5.10?

Toulumne run outs are pretty scary. And there is a route I want to do some day with runout 5.10 slab (in high sierra). Is there a good place to practice slab climbing during winter (around Valley or Tahoe area) to improve?

any tips aside from 'yer gonna die'?
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Nov 23, 2011 - 11:40am PT
I really don't get off on slabs that much so I tend to avoid them. My take is that doing well depends on developing the mind/body connection that lets you know precisely what the quality of your foothold is. Knowing what will work (regarding your feet) and the angle to weight your foot is crucial. Correct body posistion, and confidence can only come thru application.
If I haven't climbed slabs for awhile (often the case) It takes me a few days to get the feeling back.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Social climber
Retired to Appalachia
Nov 23, 2011 - 11:41am PT
You can get some good winter slab climbing on Glacier Point Apron on really nice warm winter day. But I would head over the base of the Royal Arches since it faces south. You can putz around and do some slab bouldering at the base of Shakey Flakes, etc.

Tuolomne has a ton of slab bouldering - short, steep stuff where you can play around and hone the slab technique. Always tons of fun. Of course, it's only accessible during the summer unless you like to ski.

Tahoe is so high that I think it would be too cold for any winter slab climbing.

God, I loved the Tuolomne runouts.

Take my advice - experienced gleaned frm first-hand experience - NEVER take a long ripper when slab climbing...
Dos XX

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Nov 23, 2011 - 11:45am PT
Glacier Point Apron is slab heaven, though it's north-ish facing so could be wet and/or icy in spots at this time of year. The Grack Marginal is entry-level 5.9 slab and some find it's on the threshold of being run-out.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 23, 2011 - 11:54am PT
in the winter go over to Royal Arches Apron and slab climb there, in the sun it is pleasant, the cold rock is good on friction, and it is usually empty.

there are a lot of good face/slab climbs over there, and the new bolting has tamed a lot of the monsters...

the routes are plenty long...

also check out the Cookie Sheet... which is a moderate face/slab...

otherwise, go to Toll House and play around there in the winter sun, great place if you don't mind people shooting above you
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Nov 23, 2011 - 11:56am PT
Fat is where it's at on the slabs..

Branscomb

Trad climber
Lander, WY
Nov 23, 2011 - 12:11pm PT
Being really aware of where you are over your feet, move smoothly and keeping a cool head. It's still my favorite kind of rock climbing. You have to display some grace, esp when it gets harder. Having a low strength to weight ratio, I've always found it easier to excel on slabs than many other sorts of climbing.

I like to warm up on something easier before I step onto anything 5.9 or above and mainly it involves warming up my mind. A lot of it is about being very smooth in movement and if you're rough in your mind, your movements will be correspondingly hesitant and jerky. Pop right off when that starts going.

I've taken some very good, like 5.12, sport climbers around here slab climbing, smearing friction/small hold face in the 5.10 range, and they been kinda blown away by it. They don't want to touch it in the lead. It's a real different pursuit.
phylp

Trad climber
Millbrae, CA
Nov 23, 2011 - 12:34pm PT
In the Bay area, you can practice slab - on a toprope ! - on certain climbs at both Mt. Diablo and Castle Rock. Isn't Jim Thornburg putting out a new guidebook soon? That will direct you to them - or find someone who has an old guidebook for the areas.
After you climb slab on that sandy round-edged rock, granite feels so much better!
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Nov 23, 2011 - 12:51pm PT
I love that feeling of smearing hands and feet on pure slab with perhaps a few faint micro holds know that if you stop moving your are going to grease right off.

It gives me that awesome mind-over-matter feeling.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 23, 2011 - 12:52pm PT
Thank you guys for useful responses. Although I focus more on alpine climbing, there are some slab routes in toulumne, and some slabby 5.10 cruxes with runouts on high Sierra peaks that I'd like to do some day. Slab is not one of my priorities, but something I'd like to improve though.


Sierra Ledge Rat
God, I loved the Tuolomne runouts

YEAH! I saw that picture of you soloing some 5.8 many times!


Ed, none of your Bay Area friends have slab simulators in wood shops?!?! : ) My friend went to one of those OW meetings, seemed like he had a lot of fun.


guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Nov 23, 2011 - 01:05pm PT
Good reference on past Topic posted by Breedlove: 1970s-Bolt protected ................

http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/287643/1970s-Bolt-protected-run-out-slab-climbing
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Nov 23, 2011 - 01:11pm PT
Donini's analysis is correct as far as it goes, up to about 5.11 or so depending on the individual.

Really hard slab climbing (Ron Carson and Tony Yaniro's routes on Dome Rock at The Needles come to mind, and a few things up at Courtright,) require an entirely different technique.

No longer can you improve your footwork or science out your shoes. Crimping the thinnest of edges will, by itself get you nowhere either.

Essentially your entire body becomes like a hand. You develope an ability to attain contact strength through a tension between hands and feet so that your body as a whole grips the stone. When you go to move one point of contact, the others maintain that grip or you fall.

Similarly to the way you adapt your grip to different handhholds, jams, etc., on the hardest power slabs you must adapt the way in which your body holds onto the rock.

True masters of this technique are able to climb this way while using their full range of motion, in other words having the power and flexibility at once.

klk

Trad climber
cali
Nov 23, 2011 - 01:19pm PT
Really hard slab climbing (Ron Carson and Tony Yaniro's routes on Dome Rock at The Needles come to mind, and a few things up at Courtright,) require an entirely different technique.

No longer can you improve your footwork or science out your shoes. Crimping the thinnest of edges will, by itself get you nowhere either.

Essentially your entire body becomes like a hand. You develope an ability to attain contact strength through a tension between hands and feet so that your body as a whole grips the stone. When you go to move one point of contact, the others maintain that grip or you fall.

yeah, my favorite slab climbing involves as much body tension work as a compression roof.

i had a couple projects this fall where i'd wake up the next day and my lats and abs would be sore.

that kind of slab climbing isnt usually that easy to find-- you have to search it out. unless yr at fontainbleau, and then you've got miles of it.
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Nov 23, 2011 - 01:36pm PT
Camp4, the glass pyramid. V0, V1, V4. polished slabby sickness.
jewedlaw

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Nov 23, 2011 - 01:38pm PT
FACE DOWN ASS UP!
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Nov 23, 2011 - 01:41pm PT
OK, so after I become one with the slab, what happens next?
henny

Social climber
The Past
Nov 23, 2011 - 01:42pm PT
So is it all about technique on slab, till it gets into 5.9-5.10?

It's even more about technique the harder it gets, IMO. One might be able to get up something easier with poor technique. But when it starts getting into the upper range, breakdowns in technique usually mean "outta there".

A lot of reps on easier, well protected routes, can be a good thing. Then when doing the runouts and you come across the dicey move, you'll know that if you execute properly there's no reason you'll fall. If it was well protected you wouldn't (experience on well protected has shown you that), so why would you just because it was run out? Simply focus on solid technical execution, and it's a done deal. The trick is usually flushing all the non-sense from your head when runout, so that the focus can be on committed technical execution.

Edit: maybe I read something into that quote that wasn't intended. Maybe it meant, after 5.9/5.10-, technique is still required but it takes something more? Perhaps so.
murcy

Gym climber
sanfrancisco
Nov 23, 2011 - 01:49pm PT
Ed Sez:

otherwise, go to Toll House and play around there in the winter sun

Yes.
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Nov 23, 2011 - 01:54pm PT
"Slide and glide and save your hide."
HighTraverse

Trad climber
Bay Area
Nov 23, 2011 - 01:59pm PT
Plenty of good winter slab climbing in the Valley. Mentioned previously.
Arches Terrace is a good intermediate. Grack Marginal is excellent on a warm winter day but DON'T FALL on the 5.9 crux. Great short topropes on the face just to the right of Pine Line. Bouldering at Swan Slab. Jump For Joy at Manure Pile.
Tricks: practice, practice, practice. Even more than liebacks you have to really feel what your body is doing. It's hard for me to describe but you learn to think with your fingertips and balls of your feet. Only by practice will you learn what your feet can do with shallow edges, "divots" and "rugosities". Amazing how well small protruding crystals work.
Balance: something else you have to learn by doing. Don't lean too far into the rock, you lose your feet. Don't lean too far back, you lose your fingertips. The proper balance is always changing depending on the angle and the size/shape/placement of holds. Like conventional face climbing but much more delicate.
Keep your heels low! Usually lower than your toes. This keeps maximum shoe surface on the rock.
Move slowly. No "dynos". Relax
Think out a few moves in advance, once moving keep going. Sometimes holds look different as you climb up to them, don't be afraid to adjust.
Don't Get Lost!!! Read the topo carefully. Take particular note of where it varies from a straight or "obvious" line. If a bolt or anchor seems to be in a weird place, there's likely a good reason.
Flexibility. practice the "left knee in right ear" kind of moves.
Fingertips. If you can see whites in your fingernails, they're too long.
It's a lot like conventional "face" climbing with less emphasis on strength, more on control, flexibility and balance.
Practice, practice, practice. My gym (Pacific Edge) always has good slab routes.

I just re-read Ksolem's post. Excellent and he REALLY knows his stuff.
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