Slopers Climbing: From Foe to Friend

Slopers are one of the most controversial climbing holds among many climbers. Maybe it’s because they can put a lot of strain on your wrist, maybe it’s because the hold doesn’t always feel 100% secure, or maybe it’s because they seem scary so climbers avoid them!

New climbers always get confused by slopers, when I take my friends out for their first time, it’s one of the biggest holds they’ll see but they often don’t really understand what it is. A sloper is a round hold, with no edges or pockets, and it looks like a hill or ski slope and is one of the only featureless holds. We can hold on to it by slapping our palm onto the slope and praying to the Friction Gods that our hand doesn’t slide off.

Now that we know what a sloper is, let’s take a look at how to best use it, how we can train for slopers, and everything else in the known universe. Most slopers can be climbed the same way, but some slopers give clues that tell us how to climb it.

Table of Contents

Slopers

There is such a wide array of grips for a sloper. Your best bet is to pray for friction!

Slopers require a bit more thought and planning when we’re climbing. Since the hold has no positive identifiable features or real edges, it can be difficult to know where exactly to hold the rock. We need to use more finesse when dealing with slopers because a tiny shift in our body position could mean us coming off the rock. Take a look at the above photo, nearly the entire hand is being used to maintain contact with the hold. When you have more surface area contacting the sloper, you’re going to have a better chance of maintaining your grip.

Since slopers are so different from our usual quiver of climbing holds, many climbers find themselves shying away from them. Don’t shy away. Practice these holds (and other holds you find challenging), you’ll need to improve eventually. So start right now!

Body Position

We’ve hammered home that slopers don’t have any features we can hold onto. That means we’re relying on friction and gravity. Think through the hold and the moves that are required into and out of the hold. If we’re climbing on an overhang, take a look at how hanging on the sloper will change your center of gravity. If we were to hang on a line straight (a plumb line) to the ground from the sloper, we’d be putting our entire weight on a tough hold.

Sometimes in climbing, we’ll rely on our brute strength to get past a tricky part. We can’t always do that on a sloper. So think about where your hips are, and how your palm and fingers are holding on to the sloper. A micro adjustment can be the difference between comfort and falling off the route. Think about your body tension and if you can adjust your hips to improve your grip. The same sloper can feel like night and day based on your position.

My feet are positioned well, but a dynamic move causes me to fall.

Movement

I can never pull confidently on slopers like I can on jugs or crimps. Not having a positive edge to hold on to makes me feel like I can slip at any time. I try to avoid making a dynamic move into slopers because of how precise my body needs to be when holding on. But if I focus and move in a controlled manner, I have a better chance of maintaining my body and preventing myself from falling off. Remember to keep your core tight and look for ways to utilize heel and toe hooks, these are great techniques that keep your body from making huge swings.

Sloper Grip

I tend to grab slopers in two different ways, one is straight on like in the above photo. My hand will come into the wall perpendicularly. I will also keep my hand parallel with the wall and rest my hand and wrist on the hold. This second method is excellent because you can stack both of your hands, wrists, and arms on top of each other for additional strength.

Keep both of these options in mind as you’re climbing. You need to read the route and think about which grip to use. There is no best way, so keep trying and do what feels best.

Some slopers can actually be used as a pinch. In the above photo, this mini sloper hold is small enough that I am able to get my thumb on the other side of the hold and squeeze with my hand. My body position allows me to squeeze tight while my left hand is using the other sloper as a gaston. As I stand up, I can either continue to pinch the hold or readjust my hand to a traditional sloper grip.

Rounded slopers put a lot of stress on my fingers. I found that improving my finger strength helped me climb slopers better. Listen to your body and give your fingers a break when they feel tired.

Look at the shape of the sloper and see if grabbing at a certain angle will give you a better grip. Always be on the lookout for clues!

My feet are positioned well, but a dynamic move causes me to fall.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are slopers in climbing?

A sloper is a round hold, with no edges or pockets, and it looks like a hill or ski slope and is one of the only featureless holds. It’s common to find a boulder problem that is entirely slopers up the entire route.

How can I train slopers?

You can train slopers on a hangboard like the Beastmaker 1000.Hang boards, which can be mounted on a pull up bar, comes with your usual crimps and pockets. But it also includes a 35 degree and 20 degree sloper. Hanging on these slopers will train your wrists as well as get you mentally comfortable on these holds. Consider incorporating sloper hangs into your training plans.

What wrist exercises are best for slopers?

Building strength and stability in the wrist is crucial for slopers. I remember hearing cracks and pops every time I put my full body weight on a sloper. I began to focus on working out my wrists. I did farmer’s walks and wrist curls with dumbells. And I also got a rice bucket and made concentric circles with closed fists. Overhand grip deadlifts will also build wrist strength while also improving your core strength. Consulting a physical therapist is also worth trying if you are concerned about your wrists.

Why do my wrists hurt when I climb on slopers?

The wrist is a complicated part of our body. Within our wrist, there are six core muscles, eight bones, and four ligaments. I had to consult a physical therapist due to wrist pain while climbing on slopers and she recommended that I improve the strength and stability of my wrists. I did wrist curls, rice bucket exercises, and used a wrist ball exerciser. I also began focusing on the position of my wrist and tried to prevent my wrist from being over-extended while climbing on slopers. Think about your body tension to position yourself while climbing, this can help reduce pain on your wrist. All of these things began to reduce the pain I felt on slopers.