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Kendal Mountain Festival & Ueli Steck

We have had a fantastic couple of days at the Kendal Mountain Festival (KMF) so far seeing some great films, talks and shows.

The KMF is the largest mountain festival of its kind in the UK and attracts a huge number of people, from professional climbers, to outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world. The focus of the festival is the films but there are also a huge array of talks by climbers, trekkers, skiers etc.

Ueli Steck

By far and away, the highlight for us has been a talk given by Ueli Steck yesterday afternoon at the leisure centre in Kendal. Judging by the queue outside which wound its way down the street and round the car park, this was equally a highlight for lots of other people as well.

The hall was packed and Ueli gave an absolutely breathtaking talk of his many achievements. For those not aware of his accomplishments he scaled the north face of the Eiger in under 3 hours, solo and without ropes. Then in 2013 he completed an ascent of the South Face of Annapurna in record time, also solo without ropes, or oxygen. Annapurna is the 10th highest mountain in the world and over 8000m high in the Himalayas, which usually takes an expedition several weeks to complete and requires the use of Oxygen for most mortals. Ueli scaled the summit and returned to base camp in under 28 hours, a quite staggering achievement.

So we eagerly awaited Ueli’s talk and were not dissappointed. He gave an entertaining and quite funny talk at times, illustrated with amazing photos and videos of him scaling the Eiger, Annapurna and other spectacular summit and ridge climbs. One little quip, which maybe illustrates this, was when he was talking about how he came to climb so quickly. His answer to this was that he had a very strict wife, who insisted that he was back for dinner each day. Being Swiss, if she said dinner was on the table at 7pm, then he had to be back at 7 on the dot, so he developed his unique style and amazing speed to make sure he was home on time.

Arc’teryx Evening

On Friday we attended a series of talks and films sponsored by Arc’teryx which included a great film about budding climbing star Mina. It showed the stresses and strains and shear hard work involved in becoming a professional climber and competing on the indoor circuit.

Saturday Film Fest

On Saturday we attended a large number of films about a variety of subjects relating to mountaineering and snow sports.

China Jam
Our favourite was a film called China Jam about an expedition by a group of climbers with musical skills, to attempt an unclimbed wall in a remote valley in western China. It really showed the determination and effort involved in scaling a remote peak, with huge amounts of food and equipment needed to keep the team going for several weeks while they climbed.
The most memorable parts of the film though were the characters and the times when the weather was so bad they were forced to remain in their tents suspended high up on the cliff face. To amuse themselves they got out a collection of instruments including mandolin, xylophone, flute and drums to pass the time. Absolutely hilarious at times, great fun at others and inspiring in equal measure.

Herford: the life and death of an Edwardian climber
Affecting in a very different was a film about an Edwardian Climber called Herford, who was a contemporary of Hilary and considered the greatest climber to have lived before the first world war. He made some great early ascents in the lake district, but unfortunately his climbing and life were cut short during the first world war. So the timing of the film was very poignant given the 100 year anniversary of the first world war and the film inter-weaved a lot of historical information, about climbing at the time and about Herford and his life.

Dream Line
This was another fascinating film, but again in a very different way. This told the story of a competitive skier and adventurer whose dream was ski some of the highest and steepest snow slopes in the world. His final dream was to ski a face on Gashot in the remote Pakistan Himalayas. The film told an interesting story about his life and how his dreams had intertwined with his life and reality and had a quite profound effect on him as a skier.

There were many other films we have seen and a huge number we haven’t been able to get to, but this maybe gives a flavour for the event and hat we have seen so far. More films today and then the best of Kendal screening tonight which we cant wait to see.