Last october Nalle Hukkataival finished his Lappnor project and graded it 9A, marking a historic moment for bouldering. The brand new documentary film The Lappnor Project shows Hukkataival’s journey to this legendary ascent.
At the risk of getting entangled in a grade-related-discussion, we have to admit we felt fairly relieved that Burden of Dreams is a short and pure boulder problem. It would appear tempting to try ever higher and longer lines in the hunt for higher grades, but Hukkataival chose a different path.
He opted for an aesthetically pleasing 45 degree overhanging block in the inlands of Finland and found an unprecedentedly hard line. The number of moves that comprise this line can be counted on one hand. This fact confronted the producers of this film with a dilemma: how to make a line this short look spectacular?
This film focusses on the long and frustrating process of working on the boulder problem. From the first season on the project to the final send, the Fin’s hard work is shown, year after year.
Hukkataival, who left the comp circuit some years ago to focus on outdoor climbing, had to settle for extremely marginal progress time after time again. After linking the final two moves and the topout for the first time he shows more exhilaration than many climbers do when ticking their whole project.
One of the most frustrating parts of this particular project for Nalle was coping with the seasons. Each year only granted him about three months he could spend on the project, before the weather got too wet or warm again. Getting ever so close to making big progress and then being shut down by the weather for nine months proved to be one of the many challenges Hukkataival had to face.
An interesting angle discussed at length in the film is whether or not the project is possible. This boulder appeared to be at the very edge of what’s physically doable.
Once Hukkataival became more and more convinced of his own physical capabilities, he hit another barrier. Every single possible variable had to be optimal in order for a send to be even remotely possible. Factors like ambient temperature, air humidity, temperature of the rock and condition of Hukkataival’s skin all had to be just right. The film poses the metaphor of throwing a set of six dice and getting only sixes.
Lovers of thorough technical descriptions rejoice: this film is chock full of close up shots of terrible holds and discussions of beta. One could argue that this was a necessity in order for viewers to appreciate how insanely hard the moves in this line are.
We’re treated to excellent close up shots of all holds in the boulder problem, seeing Hukkataival’s fingers and feet interact with the granite is a true feast to watch. Move by move, we’re guided through the project, while the Fin contemplates how he determined and subsequently tweaked the beta.
In order to further refine his beta, Hukkataival called some of his American big-bicep-wielding-friends. Dave Graham, Jimmy Webb and Daniel Woods all made the pilgrimage to the Finnish inlands to see the next level project with their own two eyes. The film shows the very moment Webb suggests Hukkataival to use a foothold previously deemed way out of reach. This ends up being the crucial last piece of the puzzle.
One man band
One aspect we particularly liked about the movie was its narrator: none other than Nalle Hukkataival himself. It was an excellent choice not to do any set up interviews or use a dedicated narrator. Hukkataival’s narration in his excellent English with a pleasant hint of a Finnish accent makes the film feel like a very personal and sincere account of climbing history.
Blue Kangoo Films should be applauded for following Hukkataival’s progress over many years, which this particular boulder problem deserved. Some of the scenes in the film were shot by Hukkataival himself though, since the crew couldn’t make it to every single one of his many sessions on the project.
The final ascent came as a bit of a surprise as well, with Hukkataival not having intended to give it a serious go but getting in his car anyway. Luckily for us, Hukkataival was a real trooper and hauled video lights and his camera anyway, allowing us to enjoy his reaction when making it to the top of his iconic project.
Some of our favourite moments from the film include when Hukkataival, all on his own, takes a hard fall from the project. He then mumbles some poetic sentences and collapses into a minor existential crisis. At one point, Hukkataival can’t help but release his inner Ondra.
Whether or not the next person to climb Burden of Dreams confirms the 9A grade or downgrades the problem, Nalle Hukkataival made history by sending his project. This film shows the process this down to earth Finnish climber went through to conquer the four meters that separated him from becoming a pioneer in climbing. It does so without the somewhat unwarranted spectacular style of filming and editing sometimes found in climbing movies, focusing instead on presenting a very personal and intimate account.
The Lappnor Project is available from this website for $9, buyers can both stream and download the film.
All images © Blue Kangoo Films