This year's Kendal Mountain Festival took place over the long weekend of the 17th to the 20th of November.
With a huge array of films on show and speakers including Lynn Hill, Andy Kirkpatrick, Kenton Cool, Nick Bullock and others, the festival was a sure fire hit.
Below is a report from two festival goers, with their experiences and opinions on the event.
Another year of meticulously avoiding all outdoor activity kept my status as an outsider intact. So I went to Kendal in that capacity again, to brave the avalanche of mountain-related output and the at times seriously hypoxic conditions in the bar. The things even non-climbers do to accommodate UKC.
What follows is a minuscule selection of what was on offer.
Paul Diffley must be rather fond of his mum, as he can regularly be heard saying that he makes films "my mother wants to see". Or perhaps this is Diffley's shorthand for the most stringent of quality control, in which case we all owe this woman for bringing him up the way she did. And it is paying off. Diffley pocketed this year's People's Choice prize for The Long Hope, just as he did in 2010 with The Pinnacle. The Long Hope has history, sad bits and surprise, humour, stunning pictures and good timing and pace. Backed by four veteran greats it features the return of the starring duo Dave Macleod and Andy Turner, on St John's Head on Hoy. The pair show climbing as an art form, with Dave even making his on-screen debut as a sculptor. Moreover, the juxtaposition of the terribly understated Macleod and the much more exuberant Turner is a cinematic winner in itself. In addition to Mrs Diffley, most mothers will want to see The Long Hope, as will everyone else.
John Horscroft presided over his "A question of climbing" on Friday night, skilfully assisted by the (not really very) lovely but ever nimble Andrea Perkins, who kept the British tradition of drag alive by strapping on a pair of breasts at least twenty years his junior and donning a wig. The title says it all. A series of well-gauged questions developed into a fest of favouritism and score cheating which resulted in the audience winning, and with the quick-witted Niall Grimes responsible for much of the hilarity. Do catch the next episode!
Early Saturday evening it was James Pearson's turn, in a Dojo packed to capacity. James is no old hand at the presentation game yet, but if he keeps trotting the globe at his recent pace, he soon will be. Ninety minutes of quite captivating entertainment, occasionally lacking in detail – exactly how did you get rid of those Chadian robbers? Whichever issues linger or have now been removed from his baggage, Mr Pearson has positioned himself as an accomplished and promising climber of proportion, and not by accident. His presentation was entitled "Progression", and it gave some insight into how he landed in the climbing doldrums, and how he got out. So far not so exceptional, but in the process James did something remarkable. He credited a woman with significant parts of the technical side of his comeback, without the slightest whiff of condescension or apology. Nothing, zero, nil. In the same manner he reported his genuine contentedness with playing second fiddle to a major one of her achievements. Now there's a man. Ok, the woman is Caroline Ciavaldini, but still. A gust of fresh air. Sois certaine il ne t'échappera pas, CC!
"Trail Scat" is the promising title of a short film by Steve Burgess, who lifts weights, practises kendo and much, much more, apparently all in order to hike and snowshoe in the Mt Rainier area. Filmed, edited, written, composed, arranged by and starring the same said Stephen. An original and potentially fun idea, presumably intended as a homage to his mountains. It yields a large number of pretty images, backed by a pleasant enough score, but it is let down by too much homage to an old guy hurrying across the screen. On balance a shortie which gives too little and demands too much.
A Life of Climbs: Little Chamonix is Simon D Gee's Kendal debut. Many points for the idea and the research. The film oozes the pleasure with which it was made, and the two gentlemen at the wall are aces. However, interviews, narrative organisation and sound rattle, while the last few comments of the re-enactment climber spoil some of the magic. Given that he is on a rope he had better not have too much to say anyway. Informative nevertheless. Worth watching, worth a sequel too.
Kendal Mountain Festival is enormous fun, also for those who do not climb or are otherwise engaged in outdoor pursuits. Perhaps especially so. It keeps axes and crampons sharp and clothes bone dry, effortlessly. It saves a fortune on travel and a chair is the perfect place to fully concentrate on that adrenaline rush. Recommended for all those strong enough to resist doing gruelling amounts of hard training. Difficult, I know, but well worth it!
With thanks to the UKC crew and our attentive host with his eclectic entourage, Paul C.
The festival kicked off for us with an all day film pass on the Friday. We opted for a 'Lucky Dip' start and there was only eight of us in the audience – a real shame - which Richard Wheldon, your typical Kendal volunteer hero, introduced with enthusiasm despite the empty hall. Ben was my favourite, a nicely-linked portrait of people at work and play on and around Ben Nevis. The most striking films were two rather bizarre dramas: 'Nancy, Sid & Sergio', basically about the Devil and God climbing with a woman they find on the cliff and 'Tchang', two Basque terrorists being rescued off a mountain and the effect this had on one of them....it wasn't my taste but they were well made and certainly original. 'Frontiers' is also worth a mention with some amazing extreme kayaking footage only marred by being a little overlong.
Next it was the two Climbing sessions, obviously missing 'The Long Hope' which was premiering later that day; the early finish allowed us to creep into the end of the Ski & Board programme, which was interesting enough.
Our favourite Climbing film was Vertical Sailing. I first saw this presentation at the Yosemite Facelift, but it didn't disappoint at all during a second viewing – this was a worthy winner of Best Mountain Adventure Film. Those Belgium lads certainly know how to keep their spirits up, despite calm seas when they wanted wind and rough seas when they wanted calm! Their musical performances on the boat, when storm fast on the wall and as background music to the climbing brought a different dimension to such films. Captain Reverend Bob Shepton running the yacht base camp was a star (and we were told, by a certain BMC office holder, a bold early ascensions at Portland). Of course, they are just as full of life when you meet them in the flesh.
'Towers of the Ennedi' was a sumptuous visual feast featuring Alex Honnold, James Pearson and Mark Synnott climbing stunning dessert towers and arches in a remote part of Chad; it was all over too soon and left us wanting more. 'Encordades', a portrait of female Catalan climbers, was interesting and worthy, but a tad overlong.
It was really great to see some locally produced films...'Islands: Traditional Tales of Lakeland Climbing' and 'A Life of Climbs: Little Chamonix' were especially good. In the latter, I had often heard the story of Little Chamonix being climbed in boxing gloves and roller skates, and even met the man who did it whilst on the climb, so it was great to see film of the event.
Finally we had Mountaineering 2. 'Panaroma' with the Pou brothers climbing the eponymouse super-route on Tre Cime was good, but the dire sub-titles distracted. 'Moonflower' with Jon Bracey and Matt Helliker on Mount Hunter was a nice exciting finish.
For me the longer films should have been broken up by shorter ones (at least two of the long films shouldn't have been there at all! – I even asked the organisers if there was a mechanism to vote for the festival's turkey).
Over the weekend we went to several presentations. We kicked off with Jerry Gore and his amazing ascents despite having to deal with being an insulin dependent diabetic and the extra challenges that brings. It was great to see James Pearson's talk of his recent impressive exploits after coming back from a pretty hard time. With his new found sport fitness he is set to do some pretty impressive stuff in the future.
The highlight of the weekend for me was Lynn Hill. Whilst a lot of the lecture was from climbing we had seen before but it was still inspirational. It was also great chatting to her at 2.30am alongside a little verbal sparring with Johnny Dawes. Talking of the man, the next day he gave the packed audience of the Dojo an insight into his upbringing and climbing, reading several passages from his recently published autobiography "Full of Myself". The question and answer session was hosted by Julie Summers – who gave good direction to the talk which, involving Johnny, sometimes threatened to shoot off at a tangent- this was really interesting stuff and made a likely Christmas read all the more keenly anticipated.
Nick Bullock's presentation "Must Get....Fitter, Stronger, Better" was the perfect end to the festival. Absolutely hilarious, great banter with the audience – the intimate new venue of 'The Box' helped with the atmosphere.
Some other good films at Kendal that we had already seen at the Yosemite Facelift were 'Race for the Nose' and 'Sketchy Andy'. We also heard plenty of good things about 'Crossing The Ditch' and 'Cold' that we didn't get time to see. 'The Long Hope' was watched on DVD as soon as we got home; the best of the UK films this year, seamlessly moving from the poetic to gripping crux action.
We could have seen more, but we felt as if we overdid it last year, and wanted to spend more time drinking coffee and talking with old and new friends. Never forget it's the people that make Kendal! All that wonderful stuff.....and Nick Colton still owes both of us a pint!
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