A Roundup of Kendal Mountain Festival 2017
It's Tuesday and we're still recovering from a weekend at Kendal Mountain Festival. Not only because of the few too many ciders we ended up drinking over the weekend, but mostly as a result of the sheer mental exhaustion of viewing so many inspirational films set in the most stunning of locations - those that have you holding your breath throughout, or that almost bring a tear to your eye at the finish - , from meeting incredible people within the outdoor-adventure scene, and from hearing aspirational speakers who have embarked on life-changing journeys or who are taking remarkable measures to campaign for the protection of the earth. Though our usual jaunts in the outdoors are much more tame - a simple ramble in the hills is all we need - the weekend in Kendal has us feeling inspired to spend more time outside; rambling, climbing, running, cycling, appreciating and protecting our landscapes in the UK and beyond.
If you're a lover of the mountains and the great outdoors but have never been to Kendal Mountain Festival, we urge you to make sure you attend next year! Find our preview to the festival here, then read on for our summary of the festival vibe, the winners of the film awards and personal highlights.
Basecamp is at the heart of Kendal Mountain Festival. Situated at the Brewery Art's Centre in the centre of Kendal, a marquee known as the Shackleton Tent is where all the main brands and sponsors base themselves for the weekend. Visiting the Shackleton Tent means making your way through a sea of colourful down jackets worn by all ages and all degrees of mountain-lovers, and swooning over products from brands like Columbia (the event's main sponsor), Alpkit, Hydroflask, RAB and Findra (a new women's specific wool brand we love!). Patagonia's stall was dedicated to their 'Worn Wear' campaign, which allowed you to bring any piece of damaged kit from whichever brand to be repaired; while Columbia were showcasing their new technical range to gear out our National Park rangers, inviting you to pull on a pair of waterproof trousers, shoes and a jacket and stand under a shower... There is also a stage featuring short films and speakers in the centre of the tent, while the stalls around are hosting little competitions as well as selling their products - so get yourself a Hydroflask, fill it with beer from the bar and take a look around. Definitely the best place to start your weekend in Kendal and get acquainted with the festival.
Though a Mountain Festival, Kendal is really a celebration of arts and culture within the outdoor industry, and one of the main components is the Film Festival. The winners of the Kendal Mountain Festival International Film Competition for 2017 were announced on Sunday after a weekend of previews and viewings, enjoyed by visitors of the festival. This year, over 300 films were submitted for inclusion and 93 made it through to pre-selection, screened across 10 venues throughout Kendal. Often referred to as the 'Oscars of Outdoor Filmmaking', the awards are prestigious and were presented this year by renowned British climber and author, Andy Kilpatrick. The winners of the 2017 awards were as follows:
Grand Prize – Blood Road | Nicholas Schrunk
Blood Road follows the journey of ultra endurance mountain bike athlete Rebecca Rusch and her Vietnamese riding partner, Huyen Nguyen, as they pedal 1,200 arduous miles along the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail through the dense jungles of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Their Goal: to reach the newly discovered crash site and final resting place of Rebecca’s father, a U.S. Air Force pilot shot down over Laos some 40 years earlier. Along the way, both women push their bodies to the limit while learning more about each other’s culture, the historic ‘Blood Road’ they’re pedaling, how the Vietnam War shaped each of their lives in different ways, and, ultimately, discovering more about themselves.
Judges Special Prize – The Hanging | Geoffrey Feinberg
Nineteen-year-old Kirill is fearless. He and his friends hang out on the rooftops of apartment buildings, where his brazen stunts have earned him the nickname “Russian Spiderman.” But it seems that his carefree existence as a leading figure in Moscow’s “roofing” culture will soon be over. Kirill has dropped out of Russia’s top engineering university, and the unintended consequences will confront him with the one thing he does fear. The Kirill we get to know, as we climb with him to rooftops and hear stories from his friends, sees roofing as a way to find himself. The photos of him posing nonchalantly on top of Moscow skyscrapers are breathtaking. As Kirill hangs in the void between youthful freedom and adult responsibility, he says he isn’t driven by emptiness, but by his own independent-minded ambition and desire for freedom.
Best Short Film – Imagination | Dave Mossop
Imagine a skier on the side of the road, your fingers commanding back flips and roof drops, improbable rail slides and huge airs. Well what if your imagination came to life?
Best Climbing Film – Stumped | Cedar Wright
“I don’t want to be known as just a one armed climber,” says Maureen Beck, “I just want to be a good climber.”
Maureen Beck may have been born missing her lower left arm, but that hasn’t stopped her from going hard. She takes whippers on 5.12 and crushes overhanging boulders, while shot-gunning beers. But she is not here to be your inspiration.
“People say, ‘Look, a one-armed climber, now I have no excuses.’ I’m like, dude, you never had any excuses in the first place.” Maureen is here to crush the gnar – with one bloody stump helping her get to the top.
Best Culture – Becoming Who I Was | Chang-yong Moon, Jin Jeon
The journey of a noble boy in search of his past life in Tibet, with the sacrifice of his aging godfather.
Best Mountaineering Film – Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Becky | Dave O’Leske
Hailed as one of the most influential climbers of all time, Fred Beckey is the original 'Dirtbag' – one who abandons societal norms and material comforts in pursuit of a nomadic mountaineering lifestyle.
Through the 1950s and 60s, Beckey’s accomplishments exceeded anyone in the sport. He shattered records with an unparalleled string of superhuman first ascents, bushwhacking trails and pioneering direct routes thought previously impassable. He burned bridges, eschewed fame and thrived as a loner so that his only obligation would remain conquering the next summit. An environmentalist before there was such a term, Beckey authored 13 seminal books that act as blueprints for new generations of climbers, and he was still defiantly climbing up to the age of 94!
Best Environment Film – The Curve of Time | Jordan Manley
Due to climate change, by 2050 ski seasons will be markedly shorter. Lower elevations will receive significantly less snowfall. Two veteran professional skiers contemplate the impact their love for adventure has on the very environment that sustains and fulfills them. As they peer into the future, they realize there is a more sustainable path ahead, but it won't be easy.
Best Adventure Sport – Weightless | Jean-Baptiste Chandelier
Take to the skies with Jean-Baptiste Chandelier as he brings us along for the ride on a breathtaking journey from the French Alps to the coast of South Africa, from the Azores islands to the beaches of Brasil, in his latest video short, WEIGHTLESS. Experience the thrills of paragliding first hand with a birds-eye view of some incredible locations. Feel the wind in your face and see the world beneath your feet, gliding between church steeples, skimming along coastlines and looping the loop over volcanic craters in this spectacular illustration of precision flying.
Best Adventure & Exploration Film – Into Twin Galaxies | Jochen Schmoll
Three National Geographic 'Adventurers of the Year' embark on an insane kayaking mission in Greenland. With kite skis they tow their white water kayaks over 1000 km of the Greenland Ice Cap to reach the most northern river ever paddled.
Best Sound – Song for the Nomad | Ben Sturgulewski
Kyrgyzstan's capital city, Bishkek, is a modern whirlwind of sight and sound. But in a concert hall in the heart of the city, the keys of a lone piano carry out of the chaos and into the timeless Celestial Mountains beyond. Into a world of horsemen and shamans, and young souls brought to life in the heart of nature. A tale of two worlds, together they play the song of the nomad-- a requiem for a time gone by.
Best Visual – The Last Honey Hunter | Ben Knight
Maule Dhan Rai is the last man in the remote Nepal village of Saadi who's been visited in a dream by a wrathful forest spirit called Rongkemi. If no one else in the village has the dream, a generations-old tradition may die.
When you look at the schedule for the Mountain Festival, it can be pretty difficult to decipher what to actually attend. While we specifically chose certain events and screenings we knew we wanted to see, others were simply stumbled upon and often ended up being some of the best from the weekend. A particular highlight was the UK Premiere of Magnetic Mountains, an exploration of the psychology of risk after a life-changing ice-climbing accident by director, Steve Wakeford. An incredibly interesting film that had us questioning our own level of risk and left us almost in tears by the moving ending.
Another event we greatly enjoyed was the Lowe Alpine session with speakers, Jenny Tough and Ben Page. While Jenny had just finished a solo journey running across the Atlas Mountains in Egypt, Ben had not long since returned home after a three year bicycle tour around the world, having made an exceptional film from his time riding through Northern Canada to the Arctic Sea. Both young speakers were incredibly aspirational yet humble about their exceptional achievements.
The Patagonia Adventure Activists' Tour was another highlight, featuring legend Rick Ridgeway, an experienced explorer and mountaineer who joined Patagonia in 2005 to promote environmental issues and affairs. Rick discussed the inspiring projects he's been involved with to help the company's mission to 'cause no unnecessary harm' to the environment. The second speaker was Slovenian Kayaker, Rok Rozman, leader of the Balkans River Tour which campaigns to reduce the number of dams built on waterways in the Balkan countries. Both speakers were both funny and engaging, down to earth yet undeniably dedicated to the protection of the environment.
Finally, it was a pleasure to also get to see the National Parks UK Volunteer Awards, in association with Columbia. We'll be writing a full article about this shortly so keep a look out if you're interested!