Why Do Climbers Hate Slab Climbing? Is Slab Climbing Easy?

It’s not often you find a climber say “Oh look, a slab! My favorite type of climb!” But I am definitely one of them. Although it might not be obvious, I love a good slab climb. I find that most climbers aren’t really fond of slab climbing compared to your average overhang. I’ve heard so often from so many other climbers that they can’t stand slab climbs, and they usually follow it up with the same or similar reasons and, to be fair, I can understand why. Slab climbing and overhang climbing are completely different types of climbs.

So, why do climbers hate slab climbing and is it easy? Climbers don’t like the thought of falling when slab climbing because you have more chance of hitting your face on the wall. Slab climbing is also a different type of climbing compared to overhang and vertical climbing, so some climbers find it harder. There are other climbers who don’t mind slab climbing, and prefer it to overhangs and vertical routes because slab climbing offers routes that require more balance than your average overhang.

Read on if you’d like to know more about how you should fall on a slab to reduce the chance of facial injury, and how you can get better at slab climbing.

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Why Do Climbers Hate Slab Climbing?

There’s a few reasons why climbers hate slab climbing but the most common is the increased risk of falling into the wall with your face. Slab climbing can be very dangerous for that very reason, and because of this you should really learn how to fall correctly when climbing. I’ve actually explained how to fall in an article I’ve written which you can find here.

Another reason why climbers hate slab climbing is related to the fact that slab climbing is completely different to overhang climbing. You’re engaging different muscles and using different techniques which ultimately can put off a climber who finds overhang climbing fun. If a climber who’s good at overhang climbing starts slab climbing for the first time in a while, they may not be able to complete as many climbs on the same grade. This is because slab climbing can often require more balance based transitions, and as said before engagement of other muscle groups more often.

That said, many climbers actually prefer slab climbing to overhang climbing, myself included. The reason for this is because, as previously stated, slab climbing and overhang climbing use different muscle groups and techniques. I actually enjoy the balance-based slab climbs, and I also find that your core and forearms are used in a different way so you don’t get burnt out as often.

Is Slab Climbing Easier Than Overhang Climbing?

Slab climbing can be easier than overhang climbing for certain climbers, however other climbers would think the opposite. This is usually a personal choice question. As a lover of slab climbing, I believe slabs are easier for me, however I know many other climbers that say they try to avoid slab climbing as they aren’t very good at it and don’t like it.

If you’re wondering whether you’d be good at slab climbing, my advice is to give a lower grade slab a try, and see how you feel. Then work your way up the grades.

How Do You Fall on a Slab?

Knowing how to fall on a slab can be crucial for your safety. There have been many injuries occured when falling while climbing any wall, however slab climbing is different altogether because of the danger to your face. As stated before, I’ve explained how to fall in an article I’ve written which you can find here and these steps shouldn’t be ignored. If you don’t want to venture away from this article to that one, then I’ll give you a brief explanation on how to fall on a slab. When you realize you’ve lost your footing on a slab climb you should:

  • Immediately push yourself away from the wall to avoid hitting your face into the wall
  • Look down, just in case you’re going to land on anything and you can try to avoid it
  • Engage your neck muscles so you don’t receive whiplash
  • Bend your knees and roll back to absorb the impact on your legs

How to Get Better at Slab Climbing

Many slab climbs can be based on balance, and if you’re used to climbing on overhangs you might not be too used to this. Sometimes the nature of these climbs mean that your whole body-weight and even your face has to be so close to the wall to keep control of your center of gravity. This, in turn, can also be quite scary. Therefore, the best way to get better at slab climbing is to simply climb more slab climbs that require more balance. If you’re not as good at slab climbing as you are overhangs, as stated earlier, try lower grades. You need to become accustomed to the different situations slab climbs put you in compared to overhangs and vertical climbs. And if you’re scared, you also need to face your fear.

Slab Climbing Indoor vs Outdoor

Climbing outdoors in general usually means you’ll come away with more cuts and bruises, that’s just the nature of climbing outside. Slab climbing outdoors can bring out a lot more anxiety, especially if the slab angle is very pronounced. This is because, as stated earlier, you might slab your face into the wall if you fall.

From personal experience, I can say slab climbing outdoors is much more scary than slab climbing indoors, due to the hard rock face in front of you that you could potentially slab your head or other body parts into. That said, I find that the climbs are usually easier because there’s more areas to place your face and grab with your hands.

Slab Bouldering vs Slab Top Rope Climbing

Bouldering and top rope climbing are very different – not only the height of the wall, or the fact that one uses ropes and the other doesn’t, but also because top rope climbing usually requires more stamina and muscle endurance.

The good thing about slab climbing is that, generally, it doesn’t require as much stamina or muscle endurance than overhangs. Usually there are more places to rest. Slab bouldering can require more powerful moves than top rope climbing, for the reason that it’s obviously a smaller height and the same grade will require more work for a shorter distance.


I'm the owner of Rock Climbing Central and I fell in love with climbing about 5 years ago as soon as my feet touched the wall. Since then all I've pretty much done is research about climbing and climb whenever possible.

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