Kendal Mountain Festival is Britain’s biggest adventure film festival; a place where outdoors people flock each year to be inspired, motivated and stoked for adventures had and to be had. It takes place one weekend in November, and has been going on for the last 18 years. It was my second year at Kendal Mountain Festival and I was highly anticipating the weekend; not only because of the amazing films and sessions I had planned, but because it was a chance to catch up with friends from near and far — some of whom I hadn’t seen since the year before. The weekend passed in a blur of inspiring films, tales of adventures and motivational speakers and I already can't wait for next year’s festival. More than that, however, I can’t wait for the adventures I will have between now and then. Here’s a rundown of the amazing events I went to this year.
The first film on my agenda was Blood Moon on Friday night, a climbing film featuring Robbie Philipps who I know as a Patagonia ambassador and always enjoy chatting to. The film was made by Alastair Lee and documents the climbing adventures and misadventures of Robbie alongside climbing partners Calum Cunningham and Alan Carne in Madagascar, climbing a 700m big wall called Tsaranoro Atsimo. Blood Moon has a great amount of energy and vibes; fun music, good humour and a sense of adventure. Afterwards, Alastair talked about his experiences creating the film which really makes you appreciate the lengths these filmmakers go to capture top climbers in remote locations. A climbing film I would definitely recommend watching!
Black Diamond Rock & Ice Session
After having my first taste of alpinism this year, I was keen to get to an alpinism session and the Black Diamond one sounded ideal. First speaker, Klemen Premrl, from Slovenia talked about his adventures ice climbing in Canada and climbing icebergs in Greenland. His adventures sounded slightly terrifying but exciting, an engaging speaker and lovely guy. The second speaker was Welshman Calum Muskett who was entertaining when talking about his early experiences of climbing in Wales, first taste of big wall climbing in the Dolomites, and his most recent adventures on the Eiger and in Patagonia. An inspiring and entertaining session, my only criticism being that I wished there had been some female climbers!
Patagonia Adventure Activists
This was the third time I had been to one of Patagonia’s adventure activist sessions and they never fail to amaze me and leave me feeling stoked, inspired, and ready to be an activist. This time was no exception. First speaker, Zoe Hart, is an American mountain guide in Chamonix who more recently has been committed to showing her two sons how to live minimally and intentionally, and has been getting involved with some of Patagonia’s environmental campaigns. I found Zoe incredibly inspiring, not only because of all the amazing adventures she has been on in the mountains, but because of her commitment to teaching her children - the next generation - about appreciating their surroundings, looking after the planet, and living for experiences rather than possessions.
The next speaker was Alastair from the Rivers Trust who talked about getting involved in your local area (something I did recently when volunteering with the rivers trust in Manchester, clearing Japanese Knotweed) followed by Dan from Save Our Rivers who also talked about the success he has had and the adventures he has been on as an activist. The final speaker was Rok Rozman who set up the Balkan Rivers Tour, campaigning to stop 3,000 new dams being created in the Balkan Peninsula. Rok showed his new film, The Undamaged, which talks about the struggles and successes the team has had, and ends by saying how you can become an activist.
The session ended with a Q&A that was really interesting. The main messages I took from the afternoon were that if you want to be an environmental activist, you should be putting environment first in everything you do. To be inclusive; it’s not about shaming people for what they’re not doing, but encouraging and supporting the little things that people are doing. And finally, that education is key in raising awareness about the issues that others can get involved in.
I was so incredibly excited to watch Alex Honnold’s new film, Free Solo, about free soloing El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, and it did not disappoint. The almost two hour long feature film had my hands sweaty the whole time and my eyes glued to the screen. A Nat Geo documentary made by Jimmy Chin, the film focuses on Honnold’s efforts to free solo (climb without a rope) El Cap; completely gripping, emotional and elating. I won't give too much away as the film is coming to the UK soon. All I’ll say is that it is brilliant, it in fact won the Grand Prize at the festival, and I would watch it again!
Women in Adventure
The final session I went to at the festival was the Berghaus Women in Adventure session on Saturday evening. My awesome friend, Anna Blackwell, was speaking after kayaking from London to the Black Sea for five months over summer. Anna was the first speaker and engaged the audience with an overview of how she started adventuring, the people she met on her travels, and left with the message of following your dreams and not listening to the naysayers. The second speaker was Molly Thompson-Smith, a young climber who was interviewed by presenter, Anna McNuff, on her training for the Olympics in 2020. Being so young, it was evident that Molly was incredibly focused, determined and talented.
The next speaker was the lovely Sian Lewis of The Girl Outdoors, whose blog I have followed for a while. Sian’s message was different, as she praised the beauty of small adventures and type one fun. Sian had the audience roaring with laughter at hilarious wild-camping nights with friends, and solo evenings in bothies. And finally, the Wonderful Wild Women had a series of amazing speakers who blew the audience away with honest tales of struggles, adventures and motivations; from miscarriages to climbing falls, cold-water swimming to cancer treatments. These women were incredibly inspiring and have me keen to get wild swimming and solo hiking very soon.
As well as these amazing sessions, there were a few highlights that will stick in my mind from this year’s festivals. As always Patagonia’s Worm Wear team were on hand to repair everyone’s broken outdoor garments. It’s always brilliant to see the tireless efforts of the team ensuring the longevity of our favourite outdoor gear; reducing the carbon footprint of having to buy a whole new garment and encouraging people repair and recycle, before replacing.
It was also brilliant to hear a Q&A with the CEO of Iceland Food, creator of Surfers Against Sewage, and adventure athlete, Kenton Cool, talking about environmental issues. Basecamp was completely packed out, as the speakers discussed exciting future collaborations, efforts to reduce packaging, and how we can all reduce our carbon footprint.
The Columbia volunteer awards were undoubtedly inspiring as we heard about the efforts of volunteers in our National Parks across the country, while one of my favourite films was the impactful Ascending Afghanistan following a group of Afghan women’s efforts to conquer a peak to raise awareness for women’s issues in Afghanistan.
Ultimately, I left Kendal Mountain Festival with a few key ideas in my mind. The first was inevitably a motivation to go outside, learn more, become stronger, braver and smarter in the mountains. But the most impactful was how essential it is to have a voice, a passion and to be heard. To use adventures for more than just narcissistic pursuits in the outdoors. Whether you're an environmental activist, an advocate for small adventures, a feminist, an athlete, a lover of cultures and people. Whatever it is your passional about, harness that and let it be your voice. Share it, embrace it, don’t be afraid of it, and use it to inspire and empower others.
This will be my focus for the next year and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.