Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Kendal Mountain Festival - full(er) review

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Kendal Mountain Festival it is without doubt the world's biggest Mountain Festival, with 4 days of films, speakers, workshops, active events, literary events, music, partying, industry events and networking!

I have been a part of the main presenting team here for about 6 or 7 years and it is always a pleasure to be involved and see so many passionate outdoors people from all disciplines coming together.

Here are some of the highlights of sessions I was involved with:

Dream Line

It was a great privilege to be introducing Bjarne Salén and his (and Ptor Spricenieks') latest film "Dream Line" .

Ptor has a particular philosophy on life and in particular on how our dreams and real life can intersect at times and if we are open to this we can let this help to guide us through life. The film puts this across very well, without drifting too far into fluffy philosophising. It also features some great ski mountaineering, including archive footage from the first descent of Mt Robson, and a ski and snowboard descent of Artesonraju and culminates with an attempt to ski the Shina face of Gashot Peak in Pakistan, not without a mishap or two along the way. Well worth one hour of your time!

Snowsports night

What a night this was! Aside from the stress of hosting this (I took up an offer to work on the main presenting team at Kendal a few years ago specifically to challenge my fear of public speaking...!) the line-up and content was probably the best we have had in the 6/7 years I have been involved with this night. A first half packed full of British ski talent - Ross Hewitt, Tom Grant and Michelle Blaydon giving a short insight into their trip this spring to the ski mountaineering mecca of Baffin Island, Kenny Biggin following up with a great short film of a descent of Great Gully on Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe, Scotland and then Ben Briggs with a glimpse into the world of extreme skiing (and as a man who has skied the East Face of the Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey, Y couloir on the Aiguille Verte, Sentinelle Rouge on Mont Blanc and many many more he is as qualified as anyone to use the often mis-used term 'extreme skiing').

Multi-talented Swiss skier Sam Anthamatten picked up the baton for the second half - 8a+ rock climbing at age 14, 7 years on the ice Climbing World Cup circuit, ascents of Cerro Torre in Patagonia, Freerider on El Cap, Moonflower Buttress on Hunter as well as a new route on the North face of the Matterhorn, 2nd overall on the Freeride World Tour in 2011, filming with Xavier de le Rue and Andreas Fransson - Sam is representative of a new generation of talented all-rounders operating at a really high level in the mountains, and pushing the boundaries of skiing by bringing the speed and fluidity of freeride competitions into areas and onto serious faces previously tackled at much slower speeds...

The evening was capped off with a series of short films, and an emotional tribute from film-maker Bjarne Salén to his friend Andreas Fransson (guest speaker here at Snowsports night 2 years ago) who was killed in Chile this September along with JP Auclair while filming with Bjarne.

Other highlights from the festival:

Valley Uprising - one of the common complaints amongst presenters and festival goers is films which are too long... this film is the exception to that - 90 minutes long, and it leaves you wanting more! A fantastic trip through the history of climbing in the Yosemite valley - part documentary, part social commentary, part climbing film, and hilarious in places (as long as you aren't of too politically correct a mindset...)

Jeff Lowe's Metanoia was another gripping film, charting his battle with an incurable disease, as well as retelling the story of one of ice climbing's most important pioneers. A measure of the importance of the Kendal Mountain Festival is that Jeff took the time (and great personal effort) to travel over and present the UK premiere of this film (and if you watch the film you will understand how much effort that is).

And finally, Afterglow. There are probably very few people who have not seen this since it went viral on the internet a few weeks ago, but it truly comes into its own on a big screen with a high quality projector!

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