V17: The Hardest ‘Problem’ In Rock Climbing

Two days ago, Nalle Hukkataival climbed a project 3 1/2 years in the making, a bouldering problem titled Burden of Dreams. He suggests a V17 grade (9a), the world’s first.

V17 Hardest problem in rock climbing

Nalle, who has sent boulders graded V16 and V15, has never devoted this much work to a single project before and proposes the boulder worthy of a step up in current difficulty.

This, of course, raises doubt, as no other climbers have sent a boulder problem of this magnitude.

Hardest Moves In Climbing?

Climbing this kind of route takes Olympic-level fitness, perfect balance, optimal conditions for grip, and possibly some luck. Nalle worked on it for almost four years, laboring on the overhanging sheet of nearly featureless stone.

The boulder is located in Hukkataival’s homeland of Finland.

Other world-class climbers, Daniel Woods and Jimmy Webb, have attempted the project with less success than Nalle and aren’t ruling out V17 as a potential grade. The difficulty with deciding a new hardest grade in climbing is no other person can relate to successfully climbing the project.

Time will tell if Burden of Dreams will see a second ascent. Congratulations to Nalle for setting a new level of what’s possible in the world of bouldering.

In his own words, he tells his experience on Facebook:

Yesterday I had another session on the Lappnor project. The routine that goes into it after all this time isn’t all that exciting; the same warm up, driving an hour on the same road, brushing the all too familiar holds, re-warming up, systematically trying the same sequences in the same order. Some days you feel strong and confident and get totally shut down. Other days you’re not feeling a 100 percent and it could be the best session you’ve had. All logic seems to have gone out the window a long time ago.

Many sessions I wish I could forget. Can’t do a move I’ve done countless of times before. Last highpoint was a year ago. Weeks and months turned into years of uncertainty and self-doubt. Trying to keep that little spark of hope in the back of your mind alive.

Walking up to the boulder with all the positivity I can muster, I still can’t ignore what the boulder has become to represent; failure of varying degrees.

Sitting under the boulder I can feel the weight of it. Pulling on always feels like a déjà vu, like the thousands of times before. It always starts the same way and ends the same way. Except this time. This time was different.

Snap to reality, I’m hanging on the lip of the boulder, disoriented, heart racing. Contain the panic. I’m on top of the boulder trying to grasp how I got there. Lots of feelings coinciding; surprise, relief, happiness, confusion. As reality hits that quickly turns into ecstatic happiness with a dash of disbelief.

Waking up today I can’t help but look at the world with different eyes. Having achieved the first ascent of Burden of Dreams marks a new level in my climbing. With a handful of existing 8C+ boulders in the world, proposing 9A is the logical step.

Huge thanks to my friend Marko Siivinen for showing me the line! What a journey it’s been!

Stay tuned for a film of the whole story with the boulder. It will be something extraordinary!

Nate Mitka

Midwest born, Nate Mitka is based in the GearJunkie Denver office. He is an advocate of all outdoor activities and has developed some habits, like running without headphones, eating raw vegetables, and fixing the chain on his ratty old bike.