Our Top Picks for Kendal Mountain Festival 2023

© Kendal Mountain Festival

The team at Kendal HQ have done an incredible job of curating a varied festival stacked full of adventure and excitement. With the 2023 festival kicking off in just over a week, and tickets selling fast, here are some of our top picks.

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Xa's Top Picks

The Future of Hard Bouldering with Will Bosi and special guests

As explored in more depth in my longer write-up, this session features three climbers who know what the top end of hard bouldering feels like. Whilst Shauna Coxsey and Jerry Moffatt have their own claims to bouldering excellence, for me, the big draw to this talk is an in-the-form-of-his-life Will Bosi.

He's fresh off the second ascent of Burden of Dreams, and now focusing on another of the world's hardest boulders - Adam Ondra's Terranova 8C+ - making this a rare chance to hear about what the future of hard bouldering might look like, from the person who may well go on to shape it. 

Hosts: Shauna Coxsey
Guests: Will Bosi and Jerry Moffatt
Time: Thursday 16th November, 7:30pm

hard bouldering  © Kendal Mountain Festival
hard bouldering
© Kendal Mountain Festival

Motherhood and Child-free Adventures with Majka Burhardt and Maria Coffey

Kendal has a number of sessions shining a spotlight on women, focusing on a variety of areas including female climbing and mountaineering achievements, getting women into mountain rescue, and even radical innovations in 19th century women's clothing!

This session adds yet another focus, namely motherhood. Majka Burhardt talks about maintaining a career as a climber after giving birth to twins, and how their birth galvanised her to do more, not less. Maria Coffey addresses past traumas and how they shaped her approach to adventure, as well as how her desire for freedom and fear of loss switched her off parenthood - only to fall in love with someone eager to have children and include them in their adventures.

In addition to talking about their own experiences, Majka and Maria will be addressing attitudes to women and 'risk' more broadly, as well as dissecting the challenges face by women who, one way or another, defy convention.

Speakers: Majka Burhardt and Maria Coffey
Time: Sunday 19th November, 1pm

motherhood  © Kendal Mountain Festival
© Kendal Mountain Festival

John Blashford-Snell - My life of exploration and adventure

Founder of the Scientific Exploration Society, Commander of the British Empire, member of more than one hundred scientific research expeditions, accidental inventor of white-water rafting, speaker at Kendal Mountain Festival - John Blashford-Snell is a busy man.

Featuring stories of skirmishes with outlaws, meetings with deadly animals, and negotiations of treacherous waters - both literal and figurative - John's talk is a rare chance to relive more than sixty years of true adventure, with one of the world's most acclaimed explorers at the helm.

Speakers: John Blashford-Snell
Time: Thursday 16th November, 7pm

John  © Kendal Mountain Festival
© Kendal Mountain Festival

Rob's Top Picks

TERREX Running Session and Inov-8 Endurance Session 

Kendal's offering for runners has increased significantly in recent years, so much so that there are now two sessions dedicated to it - the TERREX Running Session and the Inov-8 Endurance Session. Considering that they are, at least technically speaking, focused on the same activity they couldn't be more different if they tried, and as a result of this I've found it hard to choose between them. So let's include them both.

The TERREX Running Session features an eclectic mix of runners, the theme tying them together being "Why We Run". The book by this name is also celebrating its launch at the event. Written by Danielle Ledbury, this looks fantastic and poses a question I'm sure many have asked themselves. As always with these sessions, the interest lies within the blend of people being interviewed, and from previous experience it's often the ones you haven't heard of who surprise you the most.

Hosts: Sabrina Pace-Humphreys and Dan Duxbury
Guests: Steph Davies, Lesley Malarkey, Zukie Tandathu, Katie Kaars Sijpesteijn, Charlotte Lee, Marie Koehl
Time: 4pm, Saturday 18th November

When it comes to the Inov-8 Endurance Session I'm primairly going to see one person - James Gibson. James has continually blown my mind in recent years. It's felt like he's done absolutley every long distance running challenge there is, then proceeded to do it in both summer and winter, then add a load more of his own. What makes the achievements all the more impressive is the fact that they're done back-to-back, with little rest in between. That said, James is joined by a host of other impressive and inspiring individuals, so there'll be plenty more to talk about.

Hosts: Andy Berry and Renee McGregor
Guests: James Gibson, Sean Conway, Jamie Aarons, Nina Kuypers, Haroon Mota
Time: 12:30pm, Sunday 19th November

Nick's Top Picks

The North Face and Petzl Climb Session

Now that my illustrious colleague Rob Greenwood isn't hosting this session, I'm seriously considering getting a ticket. But in all seriousness, climbers and mountaineers are a diverse bunch and this session promises an assortment from many different disciplines, which will make for a fascinating and eclectic session.

It's hosted by Team GB's Molly Thompson-Smith and the founder of Colour Up Bristol, Carlos Casas, who will be joined by the likes of top sport climber Stefano Ghisolfi, British Alpinist Fay Manners, Mountaineering legend Mick Fowler, and Poppy Walters and Molly Salter from the UK Paraclimbing Collective, a charity set up to improve access to rock climbing.

So if you're hoping to hear about the smallest holds on sport routes, gnarly Alpine ascents, the wonders of the climbing community, and Mick Fowler pooing in a Nalgene bottle, then look no further.

Hosts: Molly Thompson-Smith and Carlos Casas

Guests: Stefano Ghisolfi, Fay Manners, Mick Fowler, Poppy Walters and Molly Salter

Time: Saturday 18th November, 9:30am

UPDATE: Kendal have just confirmed that Toby Roberts and Shauna Coxsey have just been added to the line-up, where they'll be talking about the Olympics and Paris 2024.

Tim's Top Picks

Climb With Your Heroes

There is no doubt that climbing with people better than you is the fastest way to learn, but getting advice and tips from some of the best climbers in the world is next-level invaluable! Trying to sum up what each of these six climbers can offer is almost impossible but here is our best attempt at it:

Louis's knowledge and enthusiasm is infectious; Max's climbing style is futuristic and gravity-defying; Molly's quiet execution and control is inspiring; James's physical and mental capacity is among the best around; Jim's warmth, enthusiasm and strength are a joy to be around; and Stefano has literally climbed some of the hardest moves ever done by a human!

I think we could all learn a thing or two from this group of climbing heroes.

Kendal Climbing Wall:

Louis Parkinson, Nov 17th 4pm

Max Milne, Nov 17th 6pm

Molly Thompson-Smith, Nov 18th 2pm

Stefano Ghisolfi, Nov 18th 4pm

James Pearson, Nov 19th 12pm

Jim Pope, Nov 19th 2pm

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