DPM Climbing Issue 24 : Page 24
Nalle Hukkataival PRO-files Interview by Mike Williams Photos by Cameron Maier Nalle Hukkataival is a citizen of the world. Though he calls Finland his home, he's spent the past few years chasing good bouldering conditions around the globe. Last year alone, he visited France, Poland, Spain, Australia, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, the U.S, Mexico, Italy, Austria and then ended up back in France! Everywhere Nalle goes he climbs the best, and sometimes the hardest, boulder prob-lems. Is it a stressful whirlwind of airports and 'showering' in public restrooms, or is Nalle living the dream? 24 Photo by Cameron Maier
Nalle Hukkataival is a citizen of the world. Though he calls Finland his home, he's spent the past few years chasing good bouldering conditions around the globe. Last year alone, he visited France, Poland, Spain, Australia, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, the U.S, Mexico, Italy, Austria and then ended up back in France! Everywhere Nalle goes he climbs the best, and sometimes the hardest, boulder problems. Is it a stressful whirlwind of airports and 'showering' in public restrooms, or is Nalle living the dream?
Do you love living the traveling life? How do you deal with the stresses of never having a home?
I really do love it! It can get pretty tough at times but luckily I have so many great friends around the world to travel and hang out with. When you travel enough your whole attitude towards it changes. You no longer think of it as going to somewhere foreign. I feel at home in most places in the world, but there are some really intense cultures that I'll probably never fully get used to.
When you visit an area, your goal seems to be to repeat the hardest problems and then establish your own hard problems. Talk about your goals and how they determine what you strive to send at each area.
It's good to get a general understanding of the style and grades of an area before you start opening new lines, but I never climb anything just for the grade. If I don't find a problem to be good, I'm not going to climb it. No matter how many "points" it would get me in some ranking. If you look at my tick list you'll see mostly the best problems of each area. That also means you will see less hard problems on my tick list than some other people's because often the hardest boulders are not the most inspiring ones.
What were some of your proudest repeats from this past year?
I recently climbed Duel, the famous slab in Fontainebleau! I've tried it for the past several years and finally I went there fresh and climbed it surprisingly easily! I was proud of that one! In Australia I flashed this amazing trad route called Mirage on the Taipan wall! Given the sandbagged Aussie grade of 27 (5.12d), Mirage is sustained insecure climbing for about 35 meters with big runouts between questionable gear leading up to a giant all-points-off dyno at the very top! That was something I won't forget. Also Bugeleisen in Austria was a boulder that I've wanted to climb for a very long time! I think it's one of the best hard boulders in the world!
People always expect you to list the biggest numbers you've climbed when asked about your proudest ascents, but that's rarely the case for me. While I think grades work well in sport climbing, bouldering grades become so incredibly subjective and style/size dependent at the highest level that they simply don't work. One man's V15 is another's V13, quite literally. I often find boulders with the highest grades very doable and straight-forward, where as sometimes boulders with a lesser grade can turn out to be much more of a challenge.
What were some of your most memorable first ascents?
Industry of Cool! It's this crazy triple-dyno in Rocklands! It was such a dream come true to find something like that on rock! Zugzwang and Corona sin Rey in Penoles both come to mind as well. Also Off The Wagon and Momentum in Val Bavona, Switzerland. I spent over a month alone in the valley, cleaning boulders, building landings, scouting new projects. It was so much work! Just cleaning and building the landing for Momentum alone took me six full days of hard work. I was so exhausted afterwards but it's always worth it in the end!
Oh, and definitely some of the new stuff in Australia like Never Say Never and Knowing is Half the Battle in Buandik! Knowing is a mega-highball on the biggest sandstone boulder I've seen in my life and the name comes from the fact that you better know how you're going to get back down before going for it!
For you personally, what do you think are some of the hardest established problems in the world? What about projects? Have you found some V16 or potentially V17 boulders?
It's really tricky to name the hardest boulders in the world, but there's a small bunch that are a testament of difficulty in their particular style making comparison between them impossible. Many of the top boulderers today are so specialized in one thing that they can climb very hard problems in their specific style, but put them on something that's their anti-style and see what happens...
There are lots of hard to impossible projects I can think of around the world, but the thing is, you can't really tell how hard they are before all the moves have been done at least. I'm working on my Sisu project back in Finland which is just ridiculously hard. And when I say that, people don't really understand what I mean. It's not just one but several grades harder than any boulder climbed so far if it's even possible. After trying it for over 4 years now, I've done 5 out of about 19 moves on it. For comparison, I can pretty much without exception do all the moves on a V15 boulder in a session and get some good links.
I don't think an 8C+/V16 boulder exists yet, not on the modern standard anyway. A few that might be close are either chipped or contrived traverses and drop-offs. If we were to consider these, we might as well include gym problems if creating boulders is accepted.
I have no doubts we're already capable of climbing 8C+, but finding a boulder of that exact difficulty is very hard on its own. At that level the gap between the problem being too easy and impossible is hair thin, so finding a project that falls perfectly in between those two is easier said than done. To make it even trickier, you can only find out which it is after investing a lot of time into a project. Also grading first ascents is a really difficult task, especially at the top level. What is much easier is saying what grade the problem is not. When some boulder is heralded as the hardest boulder in the world again in the media, you go repeat it and ask yourself a simple question: What makes this boulder a step harder than the others? So far the answer has usually been: nothing. There needs to be a noticeable step up first and then we can start building on that.
Tell me a little about your recent bouldering trip to Penoles, Mexico. Do you plan to return? Is it a destination area?
It's the Mexican Hueco Tanks! For someone like me the restrictions in Hueco are a huge turn-off so it's great to have something like Penoles where everything isn't as controlled. The climbing is like the Buttermilks and Hueco combined! BIG boulders like Bishop with small incut patina edges thrown in the mix. I hope to go back this coming winter but I'm not sure if it will ever become a big destination area, mainly because I think people are scared of going there; and perhaps they should be. We had no problems what-so-ever, but everyone should use their own judgment.
Which bouldering areas are your favorite and which have the most potential for difficult new lines?
Grampians is my favorite climbing area, simply because it has the best sport climbing and bouldering in the world. The rock quality is just phenomenal! The potential for new things seems also big and we've opened a lot of crazy cool new boulders! Finding the boulders there can be tricky. It's hard to see what's lurking in those thick bushes.. but it's there!
Are you feeling the urge to climb more on a rope?
My issue with sport climbing has always been that a lot of it is on bad rock, especially the popular stuff. This means a lot of glue needed to be used, which then means that routes become artificial, man made to a degree, and this is something that I cannot deal with. I love tying into a rope in the Grampians because not only is it 100% natural, it's simply the best sport climbing on the best rock in the world. I love it there!
I've got lots of bouldering projects there I want to climb also. There was recently a massive forest fire which burned down almost half the mountain. As bad as it is, it does make finding new bouldering areas a lot easier so, like the last two seasons, I'll be on the lookout for some new bouldering areas.
Read the full article at http://www.mydigitalpublication.com/article/Pro-Files/1421011/161897/article.html.