Drop the guidebook, pick up your phone
Sloper recently released for iOS and Android-enabled smartphones in collaboration with its printed guidebook authors. The online version offers in-depth information on outdoor routes around the Bow Valley area in addition to a huge concentration of North American climbing gyms — and the developers are just getting started. Sloper contains topos of individual climbing areas, overviews of specific routes, and due to its digital nature, is capable of updating climbs years ahead of a printed guidebook.
Additionally, Sloper allows for the input of outsourced data — from you and other climbers. Users are encouraged to add their grade consensus, climbing style, and the types of features encountered on routes. Other interactive features allow climbers to tick off climbs, record the date and type of a climb, then share this information with their friends. This capacity not only serves as a stepping stone for an enhanced social experience but also allows climbers to analyze individual climbing days and note their personal improvements.
“We want to make this the best app out there for climbers.”
Sloper’s initial application version features climbs from all over Western Canada and spotlights authors Chris Perry, Kevin McLane, Evan Hau, Marcus Norman, and John Martin, among others. Developed by Canadian climber Jeff Moore, and climber and software developer Steve Golley, Sloper is the epic cumulation of their climbing and digital experience. Digital Trends sat down for an interview with Jeff and Steve to learn why the app may hold the keys to the future of climbing.
“It’s fairly simple to produce one guidebook electronically but it’s a different order of difficulty to produce a guidebook platform that authors can type their stuff into and publish good-looking electronic documents,” Steve told Digital Trends, outlining the original idea behind Sloper. “That was the real drive behind the idea — getting all this new, updatable information into an electronic format.”
Sloper wants to dominate the world
Jeff and Steve agreed it would be easy to collaborate across North America and quickly joined forces to get the project off the ground. While Jeff serves as the visionary, Steve works as the technical guru, writing the original code and developer tools. They decided to take on North America and launch in Canada, reaching out to authors across these areas to help build out a much-desired market.
“Our goal is world domination. What we want to do is start with Western Canada and the areas Steve has published in the UK before approaching authors worldwide,” Jeff explained. “It’s definitely an app with lots of functionality and usability. This is just the beginning for us. We want to make this the best app out there for climbers.”
The map topos in the application are extremely detailed and clear, offering a distinct overview of natural features both on and surrounding individual climbing routes. To do this, Jeff and Steve turned to the use of drones to gain a different kind of perspective — something they acknowledge wasn’t always accessible to other authors.
Guidebooks won’t go the way of the dodo
While the digital age may be striving to make many printed resources obsolete, that is not Sloper’s goal. Instead, the application is intended to be used as a digital supplement to printed materials. Sloper’s primary intent even says to, “review your guidebook at home and carry your phone to the crag.”
Sloper is capable of delivering both trip-saving and life-saving information.
“Our mission is to create a great platform for these guys to be able to upload what they already know, and so they know of route development as it happens. They are the conduit for that information. We didn’t want to reinvent guidebooks — we would like to be a compliment to the guidebook they’ve already produced.”
Whether you’ve forgotten your guidebook, dropped your printed topo a few pitches up on a climb, or need topo on routes you hadn’t planned on climbing, Sloper is capable of delivering both trip-saving and life-saving information. The digital nature of the application allows for immediate updates of route changes, such as if an important rock feature breaks off a climb, making that easy 5.10 now a difficult 5.11.
“If we can keep that person safer in the mountains, that’s huge for us. We’ve partnered with an association called Tabvar (The Association of Bow Valley Rock Climbers) — the ones behind maintaining all the bolts out there,” Jeff continued. “But, whether or not we have a partner with these associations, we will always be able to alert the climber if there is a maintenance issue. When a person logs their ascent they can also log safety issues, whether that be a loose rock, loose bolt, or dangerous anchors — and that information is automatically sent to other climbers on the ground.”
A good start but the future looks brighter
The only thing the app seems to be missing is detailed approach information — but it is still a work in progress.
“We’re trying to get authors to map the approaches using the phone itself so we’ve got real GPS coordinates going in,” Steve added. “We’ve got some development server code working to give us parking locations and the actual trail, so the thing will give you directions to the parking lot and then give you an ascent profile for the walk-in. And if people have a different approach, they can upload that to the system as well.”
The team plans on having most of Western Canada published by next spring before focusing next summer on moving down to the states and different areas such as Eastern Canada. In addition to the outdoor application, Sloper offers versions of the app for many different climbing gyms throughout Canada and North America, including Movement in Colorado, Stone Age in New Mexico, and The Crag in Nashville, Tennessee.
“A huge population of climbers are satisfied with gym climbing,” Jeff pointed out. “The same gamification features we offer in the outdoor app, the indoor clientele are reaping the benefits from. Ranking, points, personal bests — these gym owners love the app because it engages their members to come into the gym and climb more.”
In addition, the gym applications are getting a feedback loop providing information on what their members think about their routes, how often each gets climbed, as well as grade considerations. They’ve yet to have this kind of detailed information to offer to users and it figures to have a significant impact on the gym climbing world.
As far as costs go, there will be a basic version that will remain free which specifically includes safety concerns. There will be subscription based models for individual crags, then another tier for larger climbing areas, with different price points for each.