Slab Climbing

Also referred to as friction climbing, slab climbing (fig. 9-24) requires liberal use of smearing moves. Balance and footwork are the keys to success, and smearing with the feet is the primary technique.

Remember to flex the ankle (lowering the heel) and keep weight directly over the ball of the foot for maximum friction between rock and sole. Avoid leaning into the slope with your body, which pushes your feet away from the rock. Instead, keep weight over the feet, bending at the waist to allow your hands to touch the rock, and pushing hips and buttocks away.

Take short steps to maintain balance with weight over the feet. Look for the small edges, rough spots, or changes in angle that provide the best foot placements. On the toughest slabs, footholds may be so subtle you'll have to feel with your hand or foot to find the roughest surface.

Don't forget that other techniques can be useful on slabs. Face holds may be intermittently available, as well as cracks. You can use downpressure on small edges or irregularities, with the finger tips, thumb, or heel of your hand. A lieback with one hand might be possible using tiny edges. Look for an opportunity for stemming, which could mean a chance to rest.

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