Climbing Technique Toolbox: How to Climb Slopers

Many climbers fear these rounded holds, but practicing your sloper technique is essential.
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“Sloper” is a term that rock climbers use to refer to rounded holds. In contrast to a crimp, an edge, or a jug, a sloper doesn’t usually have a specific spot to grab. They tend to be large holds; think big blobs or rounded corners of rock.

Many climbers are wary of slopers, and they can definitely be intimidating. Without proper sloper technique, succeeding on these holds can feel impossible! But once you know a few key techniques, you’ll find that slopers are often not as bad as they first appear.

This article will set you on the right path for great sloper technique and how to train for this hold type.

Note: This article is part of a wider series on climbing technique. For further reading check out:

Sloper Technique

competition climbers on sloper holds on artificial wall

When you watch someone climb boulder problems consisting of big rounded holds, it might look like they’re using brute strength to power up the climb. However, slopers are actually a highly technical form of rock climbing.

One thing to keep in mind is that climbing on slopers is pumpy! Hanging onto a sloping hold uses a lot of power and effort, so try to minimize the time spent climbing. Move quickly and efficiently, and avoid dynamic movement when possible. Slopers are hard, and you’ll need to try hard to climb them well.

Techniques For Grabbing Slopers

rock climbing sloper hold

It can be counterintuitive to hold to slopers! Her are some tips for how to successfully grab these holds:

  • Gripping the holds: When you’re climbing slopers, hand placements are paramount. Sloper holds are typically grabbed with an open handed grip, meaning the strength of your fingers isn’t as important here as in many other types of climbing. But your overall hand strength is: you’ll need to squeeze hard with your hands!
  • Hand placement: To increase friction, you’ll want to maximize the surface area of your hand that’s in contact with the rock: you can often have your entire hand on a sloper. When you’re placing your hand, look for slight indentations or depressions in the rock that you can grip, as these can help increase stability.
  • Using you thumbs: Sometimes, you can also use your thumbs to increase your contact strength. Depending on the shape of the hold, you may be able to pinch with your thumb, which will give you extra traction. Just like with the hand, look for indentations in which to place the thumb to get the most powerful pinch.
  • Meat hooks: Play around with the way your hand and wrists are positioned. Small adjustments, like moving your wrists sightly to the sides can give you a better grip on the hold. Sometimes, you may want to grab a sloper with the “meat hook” technique: grabbing the hold with not just your hand, but also your arm.
  • Palm presses: As you move past slopers, you may be able to use your palms by pressing on the hold. As you move to the next hold, rotate your wrist so your fingers are pointing outwards and your palm is in contact with the rock. You can then press down to move up.

Body Position

Body position is extremely important for succeeding on slopers! Once you’ve figured out where your hand will go, think about positioning yourself to support this. If your hand is on top of the hold, you’ll want your body to be below the hold– think of a straight line pointing downwards. Stay close to the wall, as having your weight out will pull you off the sloper.

If you’re grabbing a sloping sidepull, again picture a line in the direction of pull of your hand. This time, the line will be sideways, so you’ll want to position yourself to the side of the hold so you can lean into the sloper. Again, remember to stay close to the wall.

When you’re hanging on slopers, it’s important to keep body tension. These holds are easy to slip off of, but tensing your muscles will help you stay on. It’s especially important to engage your core, but you should also maintain tension in your upper and lower body. Slopers are not the time to relax and shake out; relaxing your muscles even a little bit can lead to a fall. This is why climbing slopers is physically demanding!


A common climbing technique when there are sloping holds is compression: squeezing between two relatively poor holds or edges. In this scenario, you probably wouldn’t be able to hold onto either of the holds by themselves, but by squeezing both of them, you can find a stable position.

Remember to look for opportunities to use compression when you see sloping holds or edges. This technique requires a lot of strength, but it will get easier as you practice it!

Feet Position

competition climber using heel hook

When you’re climbing on slopers, the terrain often consists of other large holds or features. This means that you can often find heel or toe hooks, which can help you maintain your position. Sometimes, you can even heel hook the same sloper your hands are on (picture a sloping rail of rock).

If you can’t find any good heel or toe hooks, look for other footholds that will provide a stable body position, and remember to consider the direction of pull on the hold and line your body up with this.

Common Mistakes

lead climber falling

If you’re new to slopers, it’s easy to make mistakes. Here are a few things that many rock climbers do when they’re first exploring this hold type.

  1. Too much pulling: Slopers are more about squeezing than they are about pulling. If you grab a sloper and try to pull hard like you would a crimp, you’re likely to fall off. Instead, try to keep tension by engaging bigger muscle groups, like your core, shoulders, and biceps.
  2. Locking off: Sometimes a climber on a sloper will bend their arms with the hope that this will help them exert more force. However, locking off like this is not a good strategy, because it prevents your body from being under the hold and close to the wall. Typically, you want to keep your arms straight.
  3. Not committing: Slopers require confidence! Whether you are bouldering or in the middle of a long sport route, thinking that you won’t stick a sloper is a sure sign that you won’t. Instead, imagine yourself succeeding, and you’ll have a much better chance of doing so.
  4. Not considering conditions: To perform the best on slopers, conditions are important. Cold temperatures will help increase friction, as will dry weather. Slopers can feel impossible when it’s hot and humid!

Training for Slopers

If you want to develop your sloper ability, you’ll need to practice! Many people avoid boulder problems or routes with especially sloping holds, but without practice your confidence will never increase.

Instead of avoiding slopers, seek them out! In the gym, look for climbs with large holds or rounded pinches. If you’re looking for slopers outdoors, try Squamish, Joshua Tree, or Fontainebleau— the bouldering in those locations have lots of these holds.

Off the Wall Exercises

Besides practice, there are non-climbing things you can do to effectively increase your sloper performance.

  1. Core exercises: Having a strong core is highly relevant to sloper climbing. Adding some supplemental core to your training routine can help you maintain body tension. Some good exercises to do include planks, V-sits, Supermans, and leg lifts.
  2. Pull-ups: Slopers rely not just on forearms and fingers, but on your biceps, back, and chest. Add some pull-ups into your training routine to boost your overall strength and power. You can also try doing pull-ups on slopers: many hang boards have two rounded balls that you can hang on. This will further strengthen your open handed grip and help you get used to grabbing sloper holds.
  3. Sloper campusing: This is not a beginner exercise, but if you have used a campus board before and have some experience climbing slopers, you may want to give it a try. Many campus boards have columns of slopers on the sides (typically half spheres), so you can campus on these in addition to the traditional rungs.

Preventing Injury

woman with injured wrist

If you haven’t climbed many slopers before, it’s probably not the best idea to start suddenly climbing only on these types of holds. This could lead to injury, something every climber of course wants to avoid. Specifically, climbing on too many sloping holds can lead to wrist pain.

In addition to building your sloper volume gradually, you can add in wrist warm ups and strengthening exercise if slopers are causing you wrist pain. Check out this comprehensive article for a guide on how to do so.

Practice Slopers!

The rounded shape of slopers can be intimidating, but if you practice you’ll soon be able to grab these holds with ease.

Don’t forget to find a grip position that maximizes the surface area of your hand on the rock, and aim for the best possible part of the hold. Make small adjustments, like using your thumbs to pinch or adjusting your hand for better friction. Soon, you’ll realize that a sloper is not something to fear!

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