Slopers are some of the most difficult climbing holds to use effectively. A sloper is a climbing hold with curved edges. ‘Edges’ may be a bit misleading, however, because slopers are notorious for having no slots, deep in-cuts, or sharp edges to grab onto. While the degree of the curve and shape can vary, the typical sloper is round-ish or oval-ish.

Horrendous, right? Inevitably, we must tackle boulder problems and sports routes with varying quantities of slopey holds. While we may never come to love ’em, there are ways to make climbing on slopers easier and enjoyable. It all comes down to understanding how to use one properly.

Tips on How to Effectively Use Slopers

  1. Straight Arms

The higher you pull up on the sloper, the worse your traction and grip. You cannot rely on strong fingers and muscles to keep you on the wall when hanging on slopers. Instead, center your body underneath the sloper as much as possible by maintaining straight arms. The only time it is beneficial to pull your body away from the wall and from directly under the sloper is when you are gearing up to make a dynamic movement. Dynamic movement creates an excess swinging movement that could cause a loss of control and grip, so only create extra movement on a sloper when getting ready to move to the next hold.

  1. Utilize the largest amount of surface area you can grab.

The more of your fingers, hand, and even wrist/forearm skin that can make contact with a sloper, the better it may feel. Remember, slopers are all about friction! More surface area = more friction. Depending on the size and shape of a sloper, you can experiment with different hand placements but always aim to use all pads of your fingers and some, if not all, of your palm.

  1. Use your thumbs!

When determining the correct hand position on a sloper, think about actively engaging your thumbs. Many climbers, even advanced climbers, forget they have thumbs for climbing. Pressing your thumb into a sloper increases the surface area for friction and strength of your grip.  

  1. Protract your wrists!

For this tip, we will keep building off the lessons in tips two and three. Another common phrase used in the gym is ‘meathook.’ When someone tells you to ‘meathook’ a hold, they mean to protract your hands and wrists. What is protract? Try this: Hold your hands up so your palms are facing away from you as if you will give someone double high-fives. Then turn your wrists inward so that your palms face each other as if you were going to give yourself a high-five. Finally, bend your wrists so your palms are facing the floor. That’s protracting your wrists.

A meathook forces the entire hand onto the sloper and part of the wrist and form, which aid your overall purchase on the hold.

  1. If all else fails, see if you can crimp it.

Our crimp-loving, small-hold-pulling readers will like this one – crimp it! Sometimes, the slope has a dip or crevice or is textured. These features may allow a climber who is more comfortable crimping to crimp on the sloper. Don’t bank on this being your solution every time you’re face to face with a sloper, but if you can crimp – do it!  

Practice makes perfect. Try to purposefully pick climbs with slopers and then practice maneuvering your body with straight arms, spreading your fingers, and simply getting comfortable on the hold. It might take a few tries to figure out the best method(s) for you, but with more you practice, the easier it’ll become.

We hope you found some tips helpful and applicable to your climbing. Let us know if you have struggled with holding onto slopey holds and what you have found most beneficial for success. Or, if you give these tips a try, let us know in the comments below which one helps you the most.