Kendal Mountain Festival 2022 - Report

© Natalie Berry

The 42nd edition of the Kendal Mountain Festival rocked the town last weekend as over 300 events, live music and (mostly) sunny weather brought enthusiasts from across the world together in a celebration of outdoor recreation. A diverse range of speakers, sports and subjects made for one of the busiest and most exciting festivals yet, with many sessions selling-out beforehand or over the course of the weekend.

A sunny morning at Kendal Mountain Festival 2022.  © Natalie Berry
A sunny morning at Kendal Mountain Festival 2022.
© Natalie Berry

Event Highlights

A mix of elite adventurers, environmental activists, authors and everyday heroes headlined speaker events, while festival-goers could partake in their own adventure in a wide range of competitions and organised activities throughout the weekend. The Adidas Terrex 10K Trail Run sold out and resulted in some pink-cheeked runners lining up at the food trucks in the Basecamp Village afterwards. Key evening speakers from a climbing perspective included local legend Leo Houlding and mountaineers Paul Pritchard and Brian Hall. 

Jacob Cook talks about his recent Greenland expedition on the Buff Bothy stage.   © Natalie Berry
Jacob Cook talks about his recent Greenland expedition on the Buff Bothy stage.
© Natalie Berry

The Kendal Mountain Book Festival continued to go from strength to strength, with yet more events showcasing a variety of authors writing on different topics across multiple genres. Women's mountain literature was featured prominently and well-received, with Boardman Tasker Award-shortlisted authors Anna Fleming (Time on Rock) and Helen Mort (The Line Across the Sky) continuing their joint book talks and Faye Latham premiering her debut poetry collection with British Mountaineers.

Dave MacLeod shares tips for improving your climbing in a crowded Plas y Brenin Tipi.  © Natalie Berry
Dave MacLeod shares tips for improving your climbing in a crowded Plas y Brenin Tipi.
© Natalie Berry

In the busy and buzzing Basecamp Village - which occasionally ended up with a one in, one out system and a 10-minute queue - free talks at the Buff Bothy Stage, Cotswold Outdoor Stage and the Plas y Brenin Tipi kept visitors informed and entertained. UKC presenter Rachel Crewesmith kept the energy going with a number of informal chats at the Buff Bothy with athletes, activists and weekend warriors, including Jacob Cook, Franco Cookson, Adriana Brownlee, The Blue Mind Men and The Monstrous Regiment women's expedition team. TV stars such as Aldo Kane and Jason Fox drew crowds to the Cotswold Stage to hear about their latest adventures and their experiences of the SAS: Who Dares Wins series.

Other venues throughout Kendal played host to a variety of talks and activities, from intimate discussions to sold out events at the 900 seat auditorium at Kendal Leisure Centre. The Patagonia Climb Session at Kendal Leisure Centre offered quick glimpses into the lives of a series of people from the world of climbing, from those striving to make the climbing scene more accessible, to those operating at the top level of climbing, in competition, on rock, and in rock-run endurance challenges. At the Shakespeare Centre, Rob and Craig Matheson's wonderfully informal session added inspirational trad climbing into the equation (along with a healthy serving of father-son banter), with Rob talking about climbing E7 at 70, and Craig providing insight into his process on Hard Cheese (E10 7a).

The Mountain Equipment Risk vs Reward session.  © Natalie Berry
The Mountain Equipment Risk vs Reward session.
© Natalie Berry

On Sunday, a panel discussion 'The High Mountain Session: Risk vs Reward in Alpinism' gathered a full house at the Kendal Townn Hall. Rachel Crewesmith hosted an insightful session featuring climbers Dave MacLeod, Brian Hall, Tom Livingstone, Susi Süßmeier, consultant psychologist and climber Dr Rebecca Williams and risk analyst and climber Robert Charles Lee. The group talked about risk taking and avoidance, fear, coping mechanisms, emotional fallout and asked 'What draws us to danger, and how can we learn to manage risk in adventure sports?', drawing on film clips and personal experiences to drive the debate.

All talks, literature sessions and films can be watched online via the Kendal Mountain Player.

The Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature

This prestigious award is presented annually to the author or authors of the best literary work concerned with the mountain environment, whether fiction, non-fiction, drama. This year, six authors were shortlisted by three judges: faculty editor for the Banff Centre's Mountain and Wilderness Writing Program Marni Jackson (Chair), Director of International Sales at Quarto Books Matt Fry and Editor of UK Climbing Natalie Berry. The 2022 winners of the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature are 'High Risk' by Brian Hall and 'A Line Above the Sky' by Helen Mort.

Helen Mort discusses her book A Line Across the Sky with Stephen Venables prior to being announced as joint winner.   © Natalie Berry
Helen Mort discusses her book A Line Across the Sky with Stephen Venables prior to being announced as joint winner.
© Natalie Berry

Chair of the jury, Marni Jackson, commented: "This year, in a unanimous decision, the jury took a risk and drew a line. The 2022 Boardman Tasker Award goes to both Brian Hall for High Risk and to Helen Mort for A Line Above the Sky."

The shortlisted authors gather on stage.  © Natalie Berry
The shortlisted authors gather on stage.
© Natalie Berry

Sir Chris Bonington, esteemed mountaineer and patron of the award, attended the ceremony and gave an impromptu speech following an emotional poetry reading by Joe Tasker's brother, Paul Tasker. "What impressed me most in hearing about these six books - all of which I intend to buy - is just how superb all six books are in their sensitivity; they're about people, they're about feeling," he said. "I feel hugely privileged to have climbed with and been close friends with Joe and Pete."

Kendal Mountain Film Award Winners 2022

A jury of five experts judges including chair British journalist Keme Nzerem, Head of Screenwriting at the London Film School, Jonathan Hourigan, Kendal Mountain 2021 People's Choice Award winner Menna Pritchard, local adventurer Anna Taylor and award winning author, blogger and presenter Jools Walker selected the winners from 438 entries. 

Commenting on the selected winners, Jury Chair Keme Nzerem said:

"I've been coming to Kendal Mountain Festival for a decade now. The content and vibe this year is testament to the expansive and inclusive vision of the organisers. The films this year spotlight solidarity - with the people who enjoy outdoor and mountain adventure in all our diverse brilliance and joy. Be it a celebration of pioneering Sherpa mountain leaders, the young climate activists who hit the road for Cop26, or trail runners exploring landscapes and histories as varied as Rio de Janeiro's precipitous urban jungles - to the source of the Thames.

The Kendal Mountain Film Festival is built on the hard work and creativity of the filmmakers who bring their joy and insights to this very special community - I'm proud and honoured to play a role in celebrating our relationship with mountains and the great outdoors."

Judges' Special Prize: An Accidental Life.  © Henna Taylor
Judges' Special Prize: An Accidental Life.
© Henna Taylor

Best Creative: The Water Holds Me/ The Water Binds Us 

Director: Lily Mae Kroese 

Based on the stories of women who dip, dive and swim in rivers, lakes and seas, it evokes many different experiences in one swim. From the anticipation of getting in cold water to the feeling of floating alone and the conviviality of bobbing together. 

Best Short: Tempo II. Movements in Jungle

Director: Thomas Woodson 

A conceptual exploration of the shared feelings between music and mountains, this film is set in the world's largest urban jungle, exploring styles of Brazilian drumming and trail running. 

Best Environmental: Not a Hero's Journey 

Director: Catherine Dunn 

17 year-old climate concerned Jessie tackles a long distance bike journey from her home in Devon to Glasgow for COP26. See the amazing people she encounters along the way and the potential for us to all come together and make a difference. 

Best Adventure and Exploration: Exposure 

Director: Holly Morris 

This extraordinary story of resilience and global citizenry follows an unlikely expedition of women as they attempt to complete their audacious goal of skiing to the North Pole. 

Best Mountain: Pasang: In the Shadow of Everest 

Director: Nancy Svendsen 

Discover Pasang Lhamu Sherpa's tragic and inspiring journey to become the first Nepali woman to summit Everest in 1993. As an uneducated, indigenous woman and a Buddhist in a Hindu kingdom, Pasang's dream to scale the legendary mountain pits her against family, foreign climbers, her own government, and nature itself. 

Best Short: Long Live Livi 

Director: Parisia Urquhart and Ling Lee

Livingston skateboard park is world-legendary but forty years on it has fallen into disrepair. Can three ambitious young skate girls bring Livi back to life? 

Best Climbing: Elevated 

Directors: Palmer Morse 

Effective communication is a challenge every climber faces. For Deaf climber Sonya Wilson, communication and community is of vital importance. Elevated is a non-verbal film sharing Sonya's experience as a Deaf woman and outdoor advocate working to bridge the gap between the Deaf community and the outdoor industry, one crag at a time. 

Best Community & Culture: Source 

Directors: Matt Kay 

Martin Johnson attempts a new fastest known time on the 184-mile Thames path, from the Thames Barrier in London to the source of the river in the Cotswolds. What starts as a record breaking attempt turns into a journey of discovery as he learns about the entangled history between Black people and the river. 

Changemaker: Fragments Choisis 

Director: Alicia Cenci 

Elizabeth combines her ski career with life as a political science student. In the mountains she is Elizabeth the skier - in the streets, Elizabeth the activist. She lives her two lives separately, until the day she becomes world freeride champion. The activist then meets the sportswoman when Elizabeth uses her visibility to come out publicly. 

Judges Special: An Accidental Life 

Director: Henna Taylor 

An accidental life details the recovery of alpinist and speed climber Quinn Brett who experienced one of the most traumatic accidents in the history of rock climbing. This story shows the complexity of a whole human being in the midst of extraordinary change. It looks, unflinchingly, at the good, the bad and the quirky of Quinn's experience as she grapples with life after a near death climbing accident. 

Grand Prize: The Hermit of Treig 

Director: Lizzie MacKenzie 

In this humorous, transcendent and life affirming documentary, Ken Smith, now in his 70s, reflects upon the past four decades he has spent living alone in the Scottish Highlands, without electricity or running water. 

People's Choice Award: The Last Forgotten Art

Director: Jessie Leong

This film showcases the art of crack climbing. Keep an eye out for the film on UKC's YouTube channel.

Kendal Mountain Festival - Watch Online

The social event of the year for outdoor people.

Missed the festival, or want to relive the action? Catch up online via the Kendal Mountain Player on the KENDAL MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL SITE.

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21 Nov, 2022

Thanks again Rob.. I can almost lift most of my reply from last year... being very similar to my experiences then: it was the equal best KMF (with last year) I've seen in my decades of attendance.

It was great to see local food and drink providers continue at basecamp. The past problems were not the festival organisers fault but it's still vital in the modern context of the festival that local is given priority.

The age profile looked almost as young as last year and was even more diverse (ditto for presenters), which was great to see. I chatted to a few people about how wonderful it would be if we could get some of the benefits of that wider contribution in the forums (UKC already do well in articles and news).... maybe consider an EDI forum to get things moving (with tighter moderation, like the beginners forum, to encourage posts....the main reasons I was given for those not posting were unwanted aggression).

My favourite events were much the same literary ones you mention and I'd add one more... Zofia Reych. I didn't get to see as many films or presentations as usual but the two climbing film sets were superb... the wide boys' M5 crack epic was hilarious, completely nuts and mindbogglingly impressive, all at the same time (....just imagine your roof hand jam tightening as an HGV drives above!) and it's lovely to see Jessie win people's choice with a human exploration of Ramshaw crack climbing. I also missed but heard really good things about the risk discussion on Sunday.

As someone who was helping staff at a stand (BMC...a big up to the superb team) it was very obvious the extra space continues to benefit the exhibitors. People could still move about despite the occasional queues to get in!

I'd make the same point I made on the cost of basecamp stands last year.... it's good that the festival still supports the fine charities (especially CAC and CAM).... but how about making one or two of the big money companies give way to say some smaller cheaper commercial stands (maybe on a lottery basis?) for organisations that do a lot for our community but lack the budget of the big players (I do miss these, especially the UKC/H Rockfax stand).

As ever, people make a festival and it was wonderful chatting to everyone, from toddlers to climbing heros, friends old and new, especially to the hundreds of volunteers. It's been great as ever to be able to help a few people in small ways in their adventurre and festival journeys.

A final point... fingers crossed that the cost of living crisis, which is already biting, doesn't close excellent businesses in the town, from b&bs to bars.

21 Nov, 2022

The weather certainly came up trumps.

21 Nov, 2022

An excellent summary. The festival was brilliant: variety of events, well-catered and also very inclusive. Well done for keeping up the standard. It was hard to tear myself away…

I can't take credit for writing this report, as I spent most of the day in bed yesterday, catching up on sleep and generally letting my brain recover from a fairly full-on few days of 'work'.

I'd echo exactly what you said though. I thought last year would take some beating, but I think they managed it. That said, there's loads (and loads) that I missed, so I'm looking forward to catching-up on it later in the week - once my brain recovers - using the Kendal Mountain Player.

Sorry we didn't get to properly catch-up!

22 Nov, 2022

Sorry... I double checked last year's news report first (as things worked well in the same ways) and I had both pages open at the same time..... must have got that from the wrong page.

Catching up works both ways, so you have my apologies as well... I've never had a festival that was so non-stop. Given it was so busy, and had so many having a great time, I'm surprised more haven't posted here.

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