Aside from the great line up of speakers and films (Leo Houlding, Steph Davies, Catherine Destivelle & many more) there will of course be those visitors who don't actually watch any films or see any lectures. Those that are happy to surround themselves with fellow climbers, sup a few too many pints of real ale and trade stories of adventure and daring do. Are these festivals just a great excuse for an almighty piss-up?
Climbing is essentially a two person game, made up of the great bond between climber and belayer, the adventure of being out in a small team and the solitude of the mountains. But most people are social animals, and climbers like a good knees-up. So herding hundreds of climbers in to a single bar for a raucous weekend has got to be a great idea. It creates an opportunity to meet old friends, discuss coming expeditions (from Harrisons Rocks to the Himalyas) and generally have a good time, and long may it continue.
The Kendal Mountain Festival website describes the event as “a huge tribal gathering - the major social event for outdoor enthusiasts in the UK”. It is interesting that they focus in on this aspect of the event and not solely on the organised entertainment that is available. Perhaps this need for a social gathering is in part the reason for the explosion in popularity of bouldering and deep water soloing? Teams of climbers, having fun, socialising and hanging out – it's got to beat shivering on a ledge, alone, on Scafell, right?
On a different level, perhaps this social need can be catered for by internet climbing forums, explaining the popularity of the UKC forum pages?
But do we like talking about climbing more than we actually like climbing itself? A simple Google search for 'Mountain Festival' shows that more and more towns and cities around the world are hosting their own festivals. From Hobart, Tasmania to Dundee, Scotland, if you're in need of a social fix, then there is no doubt a 'Mountain Festival' near you.
As part of the 2008 Kendal Mountain Festival, UKClimbing.com are hosting a writing competition with £150 cash prize. For more information see this UKC Article.
For more info on the Kendal line-up see the Kendal Mountain Festival website.