Burden of Dreams

DISCIPLINE: Bouldering
LOCATION: Lappnor, Finland
SUGGESTED GRADE: 9A/V17
MOVES:  8
HEIGHT: 4 meters
FIRST ASCENT: Nalle Hukkataival

Burden of Dreams is a 4-meter, 8-move boulder problem located in Lappnor, Finland. The problem was along term project for Nalle Hukkataival, with the Finn dedicating three years, six climbing seasons, and over 4000+ attempts before eventually sending the problem on the 23rd of October 2016. Hukkataival awarded Burden of Dreams the elusive grade of 9A, making it the first boulder problem to achieve this grade and, despite being unconfirmed, it is still considered the hardest boulder in the world, currently only matched by Daniel Woods’ Return of the Sleepwalker. 

Image by Nalle Hukkataival

Burden of Dreams Bio

Discovering The Project

Burden of Dreams, originally known as the Lappnor project, had been on Nalle’s radar since the summer of 2013. After returning home from a climbing trip in Australia, a friend introduced Nalle to a problem they had found and, although the imposing boulder presented too much of a challenge for them, they thought it might be the perfect 8C project for Nalle.

The boulder instantly caught Hukkataival’s attention. A problem like this was a rare find for the Finn, not only would the Lappnor Project push the limits of the sport, but the pure and natural style of the climb is scarcely found in modern boulder ascents. There are no heel or toe hooks, knee bars, or long traverses that blur the lines between bouldering and sport climbing disciplines. Instead, the slick granite face of the Lappnor Project sits at a perfect 45°angle and is populated with just enough barely-there crimps and micro-crystals need to claim an ascent of the imposing boulder.

Almost immediately it became obvious that the problem represented a higher level of difficulty than anything Hukkataival had ever encountered previously. Generally, when it comes to boulder problems with a high degree of difficulty, Nalle is able to dial in all the individual moves within a session or two. However, after three sessions on this boulder, Hukkataival was yet to dial in a single move. After a further 10 sessions on the boulder, it became clear an early ascent was almost impossible, with Hukkataival still unable to stick most of the individual moves in isolation. 

The Moves

Despite the boulder problem only consisting of 8 moves, the sequence required to complete the line is an immense combination of physical and technical ability. It is so hard, in fact, that Nalle claimed that the starting move of the Burden of Dreams boulder is the hardest starting move he has ever attempted. 

The route begins with two opposing sharp crimps, with the climber required to pull on using compression. The foothold offers little support, with the left foot starting on a little chip and the right foot fully extended to a slick edge. From there, the right hand goes to a “D-shaped” crimp, that must be hit extremely precisely so that it sticks, all while keeping tension on the poor right foothold and maintaining compression with the left starting hold. The left foot then flags under the right, and the left hand goes to a barrel-there intermediary crimp, then quickly moves to a gaston, with the right hand matching on the same hold rail with a pinch directly beside the left. 

After this, the penultimate move of the route awaits; a dynamic sequence to the sloper directly under the lip. After testing a dyno to the sloper with both hands, Nalle found the only way he could stick the move was with the left-hand dyno and cutting loose with both feet. The mantle top out is one of the more manageable sections on the 8-move boulder, although still requires plenty of concentration to finish the problem. 

Projecting & Training

Being a seasoned bouldering specialist, Nalle has a tried and tested approach when it comes to projecting any difficult boulder, a strategy he applied when working on the Burden of Dreams boulder problem. 

His approach to projecting hard climbs is a methodical and logical one. It begins with working on each move of the problem in isolation in order to build an understanding of the beta and sequences required. After that, he then begins linking individual moves together. Once a few links had been established, he would then move on to attempting to link the boulder from the start. Once the opening moves have been dialed in, he repeats the process with the top section until he had the route beta in two sections. Finally, once all that is done, all that is left is to link both sections together and send the boulder. 

Despite having a tried and tested approach to projecting difficult boulders, his Burden of Dreams boulder still presented a serious challenge. So much so, in fact, that a single stage of Nalle’s projecting process could take an entire season to complete.

It wasn’t until the Fall of 2014, the third climbing season Nalle had dedicated to his project, that he began to see some progress. It came after deciding to take a break from working the extremely difficult start moves and instead shift his focus on the middle and top section. A breakthrough came after Nalle managed to top out the boulder from the small intermediary crimp, the first real link-up the Finn had accomplished since starting work on the problem over a year ago. 

Knowing that the middle and end section was now possible, Nalle turned his attention back to the opening moves of the problem. Despite having stuck the first move in early 2014, his success rate attempting the move was low, only being able to stick the move once in every twenty attempts. 

Hukkataival spent the off-season building the dynamic power required to dial in the powerful start move, reconstructing the problem at the gym, and relentlessly rehearsing the start sequence.

His hard work paid off and after working on the reconstructed problem in the gym, Nalle returned to his project in 2015 with a clear improvement on the start sequence. Now, instead of scarcely sticking the move, he was able to do it up to three times in a single session. 

For the first time since starting the project, Nalle believed he had everything he needed to climb the boulder.

The Send

By mid-2015, Nalle had all the beta and physical ability to send the project. However, with a notoriously difficult project like this, there was a magnitude of factors outwith his control that needed to align in order for him to claim the long-awaited ascent. The rock and air temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind chill, and skin condition all had to be perfect in order to complete a problem that was already on the limits of what is possible.

In the Fall of 2015, Nalle knew the project was within his grasp. After successfully completing a project in Australia, the Finn was in the best shape of his life – both physically and mentally – and after a few burns on the project, Nalle reconized that he felt more confident about the problem than he had on any of his previous seasons.

That October, Nalle had one of his best attempts, topping out the boulder whilst staring on the second move, a clear sign the elusive first ascent was within his grasp. Unfortunately, the weather window abruptly ended the season and any hopes of an ascent that year were dashed by the harsh Scandinavian winter. 

In the Spring season of 2016, Nalle returned to his long-standing project with a vengeance. This time he brought some back-up, supported by some of the best climbers in the world including Jimmy Webb, Daniel Woods and Dave Graham.

Not only did having some of the world’s best climbers offer a huge motivational boost for Nalle, but it also gave credence to the idea that the project represented the next level in bouldering difficulty. And although early summer temperatures dashed hopes of an ascent, having the opportunity to work on the project with some of the world’s best helped Nalle make the final tweaks to his beta. 

On the 23rd of October 2016, Nalle returned to his project alone. He hasn’t intended to do much climbing that day. In fact, it was meant to be a rest day. Nevertheless, Nalle turned up to the boulder late that evening and completed his long-term project in a near effortless fashion, heralding a new era of modern bouldering. 

To this day, Nalle Nukkataival is the only perfect to make an ascent of the Burden of Dreams boulder problem.

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