Intro to Roof Climbing: 4 Skills All Climbers Need


If you have ever seen a picture of my climbing, chances are I’m on a roof. When people ask what type of climbing I do, I typically respond with “I’m a roof climber” which usually elicits puzzled looks.

What is roof climbing? It’s when the climbable rock is parallel to a flat ground. That means your back is parallel to the ground as you climb. It’s opposite is vertical climbing where your back is perpendicular to the ground as you ascend.

Why do I prefer to roof climb? Short answer is that I’ve had a lower back/hip condition since I was 13 that makes it painful to land straight on my feet from any distance. However, landing directly on my back doesn’t aggravate my issues at all. I also prefer lowball roofs so that I can climb by myself safely!

Many people who are new to climbing are intimidated by the extreme angle of roof climbing. But with the proper tools, anyone can become a successful roof climber!

Here are four skills that will have you roof climbing in no time!


The Toe Hook

This is my ABSOLUTE go-to move on any angle! I’ve even used it on a slab problem. This is a great move for short people because it lengthens you. Often when my taller friends use a heel hook, I use a toe hook to give me those few essential extra inches.

How to: Place the top of your foot behind a hold and pull away from that hold by flexing your shin. If possible, use more than just your toe. Use as much surface area as you possibly can. Its ideal if your shoes have rubber on the sole.


The Heel Hook

For the longest time, I used bad technique to heel hook. This resulted in bad knee pain and many unnecessary trips to the doctor. A couple of amazing climbing trainers looked at my heel hook and identified that I was not using my butt or hamstring to pull.

How to: First place the back of your shoe (your heel) on a hold. Usually, you don’t place your heel straight down on the hold, but angle it to the side. This way you can really pull with it. Point your toe down to lock the heel. Make sure to engage your hamstring AND butt. Don’t rely just on your knee to carry all your weight.



As much as footwork is important, sometimes you just need to campus and that’s alright. Back when I was new to climbing, there was this roof problem called Humpy at Coopers Rock in West Virginia. I could do all the moves except one. I spent months trying all sorts of feet, including feet first, but to no avail. One day while working it, a friend yelled CAMPUS and it worked! Ever since then, I always put campusing on my list of beta to try. It is definitely a skill to master.

How to: Move from hold to hold without using your legs on the wall. Try doing crosses, using pinches and slopers. Make sure to keep your shoulders engaged!

The Bicycle

Absolutely love the bicycle. It makes me feel very stable. This is an advanced move that incorporates the toe hook. To try the move simply place one foot on the front of a hold and your second foot on the back of the hold and SQUEEZE!

How to: Place one foot on a hold and place your second foot behind that hold (or another hold that’s behind the first hold.) There is no correct order for your placement.

I hope these tips are useful. If you have any questions, feel free to message me!! Stay tuned for more advanced roof climbing tips!