I’m no stranger to Kendal Mountain Festival, I have been attending for the past 4 years and seen my fair share of talks, films, legends and sites. Once a year, the small Lakeland town of Kendal lays host to the biggest outdoor social of the year, attracting a global audience and pulling in the who’s who of outdoor pursuits in.
Endurance is a growing area within the festival as a whole. Epic big wall routes, polar traverses, ultra runs and open water swimming… look through the brochure and you’ll be hard pressed not to find something that appeals to your self punishing dark side. To top this all off, film makers and athletes alike have realised a minute by minute breakdown of events isn’t going to win an audience, let alone a prize. Comedy, interesting angles, those strange moments that “didn’t happen” and much more go into each session, entertaining the viewer whilst engaging with them over an epic.
So what are my 5 favourite moments from Kendal Mountain Festival?
The Dawn Wall. Tommy flew over for the weekend and gave a one off UK talk (sorry folks) documenting his life from the early days right through to when he topped out in Yosemite with the world watching. Humble, hilarious and heroic, Tommy’s talk was nothing short of incredible, from the time he was held hostage, to when he cut his index finger off…. each tale is epic in all proportions and exemplifies his attitude to life. When a helium balloon appeared on stage, the crowd united in Tommy’s attempts to capture the intruder. Spending 19 days climbing and in a portaledge takes immense physical and mental endurance. And balls. Big balls!
As I said, this was a one off UK appearance, however, luckily, Tommy recently did a TEDx talk which gives a flavor of one night in Kendal.
The fell queen, Nicky Spinks, was part of a special endurance session featuring herself, Sean Conway and part of the Spine Race film. After watching her record Bob Graham Round video (http://tv.thebmc.co.uk/videos/nicky-spinks-bob-graham-round/) we were treated to a talk and Q&A. To top things, off myself, partner and friend were introduced to Nicky in the interval by Lee Procter from Inov8, which had my partner singing her name for the next 48 hours. She was a little excited!! The most humble of sporting stars, it is always worth checking the start list of a Lakeland race, as you may if lucky, catch a glimpse, as she glides past you.
When I heard Sean was stuck on the M6 with Kenton Cool, part of me expected the combined skills of an endurance powerhouse and high altitude great to work out some crazy plan to make it on time. The other part worried. However, Sean made it! A slick session followed, following his Great Britain Triathlon – a World first. When Sean swam from Lands End to John O’groats, no one thought it was possible. Well it was, and possibly the least qualified endurance swimmer in history achieved a feat of endurance, the magnitude of which is really hard to measure. Now resembling part lion, with his flowing ginger locks and manliest of beards, you can’t miss him. I own one of Sean’s swimming caps from the swim, so was great to finally meet a hero!
We’re used to seeing Kilian Jornet on the big screen. Running with ease up the toughest of mountains, charging down the gnarliest of terrain, providing us inspiration and a grounding simultaneously. Well, you are about to see him in a new light. Out in Nepal for his Everest attempt, the Nepalise earthquake hit, causing mass destruction in a remote and economically poor country. Using his skills on challenging terrain, he and Jordi make their way to Langtang village, providing aid and their expertise where they can. It’s not easy viewing, but shows how we all have something to offer from our time spent in the mountains. I should also point out, this isn’t an athlete making a tradgic opportunity, into a marketing story. The proceeds of the film will go to help rebuild 116 houses in the Langtang Valley.
Run on the fellside surrounding the town, the windy route with 280m of climbing provided un-spoilt views of snow dusted mountain tops within the national park. I ran this with my partner and friend, who spend much less time finding things to run up. For this I spent my time running up and down taking photos, as well as offering support. A crisp and chilly day, it was a great run, and a thoroughly enjoyable route.
Best of all, I was running with friends. Spending a lot of time training and racing alone, taking the time to slow things down and socialise is imperative to keep life balanced. Plus I got some fun photos!
Kendal is always worth the trip and the effort. You may see something amazing, meet a hero, inspire yourself or all and more.