Can indoor climbers do slabs?

There’s a common stereotype that climbers who spend a lot of their time indoors lack the finesse of climbers who spend more time outdoors, but is it true?! Let’s have a look at the data!

First off, what data do we have? Well before we assess or train anyone we ask them to fill in some background information about themselves. The 2 questions that are relevant here are ‘What proportion of your climbing is indoor vs. outdoor?’ (scale from 1 = all indoor to 5 = all outdoor) and ‘What are your preferred styles of climbing?’ (slab, vert, gently overhanging, steep and roof). It’s worth bearing in mind that this data is all self reported so there is probably some inconsistency between respondents. We’re also making the assumption that people prefer styles of climbing that they’re good at (in our experience this is generally a pretty good assumption!)

Interestingly ‘Gently Overhanging’ comes out as the clear winner in terms of preferred styles across all climbers, with 83% of respondents choosing this as a preferred style. Following in a distant second and third is ‘Steep’ and ‘Vertical’ with 56% of respondents choosing these as preferred styles. ‘Slab’ and ‘Roof’ are following up the rear with 25% and 24% respectively. Looking at this data it seems people tend to prefer the ‘mid range’ sort of angles, with preference trailing off as the angle eases or steepens significantly.

When we break it down by indoor vs. outdoor climbers we need to be a bit careful, because the number of respondents at the extremes are pretty small. This is why the ‘100% of “all outdoor” climbers like slabs!’ is misleading as in actual fact there’s only 6 respondents who said they only climb outdoors. Fortunately the number of respondents in the mid range is more useful!

Looking at the graph above there isn’t a clear correlation between steepness and indoor vs outdoor climbing, so using our current data it looks like the stereotype of indoor climbers being rubbish at slabs is just that, a stereotype!

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