Kendal Mountain Festival has been the first thing on my calendar for the year for the last 4 years. I have always enjoyed the mix of films, lectures, beer drinking and catching up with friends. This year I decided to have a blast around the 10km trail race, catch a film and lecture on Saturday, then try and see as many films as possible with the Sunday all day film pass.
The 10km trail race is a fantastic course, starts up the road up the infamous Beast Bank, then across the fields along the Edge, giving amazing views across the Lakeland Fells, then back towards town through the golf course and down some narrow cobbled ginnels back into town to finish along the high street. All season I have been racing closely with NFR runner David Beach, who has been 4th for the last couple of years at this race I lined up alongside David and Tom Addison (last years winner) who looked nailed on for the win from the start. As expected I had a lead on NE rival Beach as we started the descent back to town and as expected he started to reel me in on the fast downhill section. About 200yards before the first narrow cobbled section Beach came past me, using his experience of the course to know that it was very tricky to counter attack on the slippery steep final descent. I gave it everything, came onto the street 5 seconds after him and couldn’t close him down along the high street to finish in 4th, 5 seconds shy of 3rd place. Perhaps a lesson there that I shouldn’t have given Beach shit that morning for always being 4th!
After a quick lunch we went to see Tommy Caldwell of Dawn Wall fame give his only UK lecture. Tommy was self-deprecating, witty, reflective and wonderfully descriptive of the years of work which had gone into his Dawn Wall project. Reminded me a lot of how Andy Kirkpatrick used to speak, and I can give no higher compliment to a climbing lecture. Following Tommy we filled the early evening with a special showing of “The Citadel” the latest offering from Alistair Lee. It was shot in “amazing 4k”, and it looked pretty, but that was really all it had going for it. The climbers were neither memorable, nor funny, the story had no suspense or surprise and Alistair Lee just looked either bored or embarrassed by what he was presenting.
We spent Saturday night crammed into the bar discussing what makes a great mountain film. It’s simple really, I need to be able to empathise with the stars, and it needs a story. All the great films I have seen at Kendal in previous years have ticked both of those boxes, they hade something which makes me “want to be there”, or “want to do that”. All great films have some sort of plot, which is either historic or adventurous (will they won’t they make it?).
Almost without exception the films we saw on Sunday lacked either plot or character, almost without exception I wasn’t left thinking “I want to do that”. It was a very disappointing and frustrating day.
Brief highlights and extensive lowlights are described below.
The Rocky Mountains Traverse - two paragliders attempt to paraglide the length of the rocky mountains, never been done before and a good story but the main stars were dull.
Showdown At Horseshoe Hell - fantastic story of a 24 hour climbing competition staring Alex Honnald, which was brimming over with humour and personality.
UK Caving Video Best Bits 2014 - Unvelieveably poor. Left me in stitches laughing at the ridiculous decision to include the 14 minutes of utter rubbish from Dudley Caving Club. Sorry Chaps but this shouldn’t be at Kendal it had nothing going for it.
A Line Across the Sky - highlight of the festival for me, Caldwell and Honnald on the Patagonia skyline traverse which won them the Piolet D’or. Shot by the climbers themselves on an unbelievable expedition. Funny, honest, amazing, brilliant.
Defiance - The Eiger Paraclimb, great that some disabled climbers climb the Eiger, but so dull to watch, like watching your mates holiday video of his climb.
First Ascent - “Chopped fingers, fun, friendship” It had a chopped finger near the start, but no fun or friendship came through in this film of an expedition with some boring characters on a mountain I had never heard of.
I Climb Therefore I Am - lots of Indian people saying “I love climbing” 12 minutes of my life I won’t get back.
In the Bubble - story of Andy Earl, the desperately sad story which struck one of climbings brightest stars. Emotional stuff.
Stonnis - video guidebok of Black Rocks, nice idea, should have been 15 minutes, not 60.
Into The Light - Red Bull film following Chris Sharma climbing out of a big cave in Oman - I couldn’t have cared less if he got out of that hole or not after watching him struggle for 52 minutes.
Back to the Fjords - the flying frenchies, as they have become known, up to their old tricks, rigging a huge catapult and throwing themselves off a cliff in Norway. Brilliant, light hearted and one of those “I want to do that” movies that was so rare this year.
Operation Moffat - an absolute gem, wonderful, 90 year old Gwen Moffat, Britain's first female mountain guide looks back on her life. Heart warming, sole enriching stuff from the very first second to the last.
The tickets for the film pass had gone up from £21 per day to £30 (Sat) £27 (Sun), and the whole place felt less busy this year. The venues we chose to watch on Sunday were screen 2, (3/4 full), The school, (perhaps 20 people in a venue for 150), and the leisure centre, (10 people in a venue for 250+). So you can see that the place was nowhere near sold out, and that is perhaps a shame, but given the almost exclusively dull, uninspiring, corporate sponsored content, perhaps it is for the best.
I feel that the adventure and mountain films which are the heart of Kendal have dropped in quality this year. I would imagine that there are just as many people making inspiring films about independent adventure, filming it themselves and sticking it into Kendal Film Festival on the off chance that some more people watch it and get inspired by it, but, there was almost non of this content. It was almost all corporate sponsored expeditions with dull individuals doing things that I could never dream of. In short, stuff I didn’t want to watch and couldn’t see why anyone would want to watch. Sorry to say that at nearly £30 a day I won’t be getting a film pass next year. Trail race, lectures and beer for the weekend - Brilliant!
Andy Blackett - Brand Ambassador for Hangar 18.