Is it just me, or does it seem crazy that slabs—the routes that feel least secure to climb, where you might grease off at any moment, and where it's nearly guaranteed that you won't fall cleanly into empty space—are almost always protected with widely spaced bolts? Why aren't slabs better protected?
Of course there are historical reasons for this. In the old days, climbs were established on the lead, and the leader could only stop moving and hand-drill a bolt if he could find a ledge or a minuscule foothold to stand on. No wonder the bolts were far apart. Today, almost every bolted climb is established on rappel, and the only limit to the number of bolts the first ascensionist places is stinginess. Or is it? There's also a weird foreshortening effect that somehow makes bolts look closer together (from the ground) on low-angle terrain than they do on overhangs, and this works against adequate bolting on slabs. A line of bolts that would look perfectly natural on a steep limestone sport climb might look obscene on a granite slab. And it's a kinesthetic too: You tend to cover ground much quicker on slabs (once you stop quaking and start moving), and so you come up on the bolts quicker.
Still, grade for grade, most climbers are much more likely to fall from a slab climb than a vertical climb, and for historic, aesthetic, and kinesthetic reasons, they're going to fall a lot farther. It just doesn't seem right.
[Photo: Jason Kaplan/MountainProject.com]