For many Llanberis is the cultural heart of British Mountaineering and has over many years been a forging ground of modern rock climbing. With such a wealth of different climbing in the area, it has been a place I have called home for many years now. One of the events of the local calendar, although originally it was bi-annual, has been the Llanberis Mountain Film Festival, or LLAMFF as it is more commonly known.
LLAMFF is potentially a great focal point for the area and is as much a celebration of the mountains and mountain people as it is about films. In the past LLAMFF has been awash with famous faces and the village has buzzed to the chatter of climbers, hillwalkers, kayakers, paragliders and mountaineers. This year unfortunately that didn't happen, which is a pity as, whilst the festival was great, it just didn't seem to have the numbers of people it needed to make it work.
What might have effected the turn-out at this year's festival? Firstly, in recent years it has seemed that every man and his dog who has a hill nearby has been hosting a Mountain Festival of some kind. Often these are now springing up in cities and the rural fringes of large urban areas, so people don't have to travel to festivals any more. Secondly, we are nearly two years into a recession and, whereas before people might have been willing to go to the expense of travelling over to Llanberis and staying two nights and paying £45 for a weekend pass, I think many of those people simply can't afford it anymore. The third and final of the tri-vector that knocked LLAMFF out (on the Saturday at least) was the amazing weather; so while I was stuck inside running some masterclasses for LLAMFF, most climbers were out enjoying the sun. If that wasn't enough then the BMC were running a coaching symposium at Plas y Brenin just to add to the competition.
LLAMFF might not have been as busy as it could be, but was it any good?
I personally think that the answer to that is a YES.
Why? Well there was a good variety of speakers for one, and I happen to think it is the speakers that make a good festival, as many of the films being shown are available on DVD, so most enthusiasts will have seen them already.
Big name speakers included Andy Turner, Ian Parnell, Steve McClure, Lucy Creamer and Alan Hinkes.
Plus there was local youth Calum Muskett, who gave a good talk on local climbing (not a bad effort for a teenager, I remember running for cover every time I had to give a presentation at his age!); local resident Stu MacAleese who gave a talk about his epic ascent of a remote big wall on Baffin Island; and there was also a non-local called Keith Partridge, whose talk was as good as you'd expected from someone who works as a cameraman for the BBC's Natural History Unit, knocking out programs like Planet Earth.
The very big and long party, held at the local pub The Fricsan, was another part of the festival that locals and visitors alike seemed to flock to. Who after all really needs an excuse to let their hair down and throw some shapes. Having seen Rab Carrington, I asked him if he was going to be busting up the dance floor later, to which he replied a unwavering 'no'. I think many of the party-goers were a bit worse for wear on the Sunday, myself included, and I got away early at 2.30am to at least get some sleep before I gave my talk on the Sunday.
Of the films, one of the better films I saw was Play Gravity 2, which had some outrageous footage of paragliding and snowboarding - a really well shot piece of frontier adventure. Several friends absolutely raved about a film on fishing around the Kamchatka Peninsular in Eastern Russia. One of the few local offerings was from film-maker John Whittles, and was about a man who sets out to break the record for being the quickest person to reach the Seven Summits - interesting and the film hinted towards hidden undertones that lay behind the scenes. Whilst Panorama, which features the Pou brothers on Alex Huber's massive free climb through a roof on Tre Cime di Laverado in the Dolomites, was every bit as breathtaking as you'd expect.
There were of course other films and speakers that were just as entertaining, and I felt the line up was as good as ever. It was just a shame that in these austere times, a sunny day came along and tempted people away from the festival and into the hills - but that's climbing!
Mark Reeves is a photographer, climbing instructor, writer and film-maker. He gave a presentation at LLAMFF 2011 and also found time to take a few snaps and give a report to UKC and UKH (thanks Mark!).
You can read more about Mark Reeves on his blog: Life in the Vertical
Mark also does climbing coaching and instruction. You can find out more on his other site: