Full report from this year's Kendal Mountain Film Festival cake shop, includes first recorded instance of Acute Mountain Film Fest Sickness (AMFFS) - you'll wish you'd gone...
They're hosing down the streets of Kendal after another cracking
year of the Mountain Film Festival. Last year the festival really
came into its own with the premier of Touching the Void. It
would have been hard to top such a headline-grabber, but this year's
festival was another excellent event which was so popular that by
Saturday morning, film passes had sold out completely.
anyone who's never been to Kendal before, it's a bit like being given
two hundred different cakes and just one weekend to eat them all.
Even sticking to your favourites, you're still going to be pretty
sick of cakes if you try and scoff the lot. Far better to pick your
must-sees, throw in a wild card - The Clanging Chimes of
Doom, an account of extreme caving with Mongolian yakherds, for
example - and just enjoy the weekend.
But just making those choices gets harder every year because the
quality of film-making on offer just keeps getting better and better,
with less cliquey climb-y expedition snooze fests and more
thoughtful, beautiful films made by mountain lovers at every level,
but still plenty of jaw-drop to keep things interesting.
'A Wake-Up Call For
Meltdown, the new film from SlackJaw productions is a
wake-up call to climbers. Roger Payne (formerly of the BMC, now
International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation - UIAA)
and three companions went on an UNESCO-sponsored expedition to climb
Island Peak and report back on the growing problem of glacial lakes.
Shocking stuff - the villagers talked of the devastation left
behind when a glacial lake at the foot of Ama Dablam breached its
retaining wall in 1987, causing chaos along the river valley.
Payne and Julie-Ann Clyma reach the top of Island Peak to find the
mountain 'rotting away right in front of them'. They've nothing to be
chuffed about; the climb is unrecognisable, says Payne, and looking
at the dripping rotten summit of this little Himalayan peak, the
spectre of global warming becomes horribly real.
Several smaller lakes below Island Peak have grown to become one
huge 2km-long lake at the foot of the Imja glacier which, if the
walls break, will wash 300 million tonnes of water through the
densely populated valley below. A sobering film, leavened with some
unintentional comedy moments from UIAA president Ian McNaught-Davies'
glamorous Chilean wife Loreto, who puts on a full face of slap every
day, even when laid low by altitude sickness. An example to us all,
I'm sure the ladies out there will agree.
Also seen Nima Temba Sherpa, an account of a Jagged Globe
expedition to Cho Oyu, from the perspective of the sirdar, or head
Sherpa, and The Conquest of K2, which uses interviews with expedition
members and previously-unseen footage to tell the story of a defeated
Italy getting behind a bunch of climbers and holding its head high
The disputed account of Walter Bonatti's freezing bivouac is
touched upon in the film (a long story, explained properly in this
Geographic feature -
www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/0409/excerpt6.html - but Bonatti
himself keeps shtum, referring the filmmakers to his books.
Our Highlight Of The
Personally though, the highlight of the festival was Sur le Fil
de 4000m. One of the loveliest mountain films ever made is La
Grande Cordee, in which Patrick Berhault narrates his incredible
traverse of the Alps from Slovenia to France: climbing,
mountaineering, via ferrata, skiing and on plain old booted foot.
was an incredible achievement in itself, but La Grande Cordee
conveys Berhault's love of mountains in a very low-key, gentle way.
Watching the French climber tinker up a via ferrata with his son,
explaining why this and why that, well, it makes you feel like you're
right there with them on that sunny little outcrop. Sadly Berhault
died earlier this year, attempting to climb all 82 Alpine peaks over
4000m in three months. He fell to his death on the 58th day, stepping
through a cornice on Switzerland's highest peak, the Dom, and Sur
le Fil de 4000m was supposed to be the story of how they did
Sur le Fil was never going to have a happy ending, but at the end
of the film, Berhault's climbing partner Magnin talks about finding
Berhault's belongings in the hut. Among them is a small card printed
with a definition of courage, and when Magnin read the words aloud,
promising that he'd go back and finish the traverse because Patrick
wasn't the kind of man to leave things half-done, there wasn't a dry
eye in Cinema 2.
Outside The Cinema - Chouinard And
Other than films, what else was on? Presentations by climber Jeff
Lowe, photographer Heinz Zak, Kurt Diemberger and the perennially
popular Alan Hinkes kept the crowds inside even on a glorious frosty
Saturday, and the star attraction on Saturday evening was a
presentation by Yvon Chouinard, climber and founder of Patagonia, and
something of a visionary when it comes to ethical business.
[right] was on good form - a committed environmental
campaigner who just keeps going, despite his pessimism about the
state of the planet. A sense of humour no doubt helps keep him going,
and asides such as: 'You know, leading an examined life is a real
pain in the ass' kept the session from turning into a
His advice for outdoors people who want to see the outdoor
industry take more responsibility for their impact on the
environment? Question companies about the things that are important
to you. Ask businesses about the dyes they use. Orange is the most
toxic dye, says Chouinard, which is why Patagonia doesn't use it
anymore. Inform yourself, he says, but when you're informed, you then
have to decide what you're going to do with that knowledge. Like he
says, it's a pain in the ass, but it's up to every one of us to do
something if we think something should be done.
Chouinard seems like a reluctant guru, but when someone who's made
enough money to go surfing for the rest of his life puts $750,000 of
his own cash into a 'Vote for the Environment' campaign, you can't
help but admire the guy. Well, he was happy to sign a couple of
festival posters for us, so if anyone wants one (in exchange for a
donation to the environmental charity of your choice), take a look
here [link to forum or ebay thingy when I get it up].
Festival Signs Up For One Per-Cent For
After the Chouinard discussion, the festival organisers had some
good news - next year, Kendal Mountain Film Festival will be
the first UK organisation to sign up to Chouinard's One Per Cent for
the Planet, basically a self-imposed one per cent tax for companies
and individuals who believe government isn't doing enough for the
environment. In the US, this fund supports grassroots environmental
campaigns, and although the UK version is just heaving itself off the
ground, it's an exciting project. If you want to know more abut how
you can get involved, click here [www.onepercentfortheplanet.org]
Acute Mountain Film Fest
So at the end of the weekend, the winners are announced
list here www.mountainfilm.co.uk/2004/results.html] and the
weary punters drag themselves home.
The symptoms of Acute Mountain Film Fest Sickness (AMFFS) are
familiar - an aversion to bright lights, a facial tic brought
on by too much caffeine, an aching bladder and a state of utter and
inexplicable knackeredness. You're wiped out, but the last thing you
feel like after a bum-numbing two-hour programme is sitting down.
What you really want to do is hand in notice on the rest of your life
and buy a one-way ticket to Patagonia, but most years, standing pint
in hand listening to the lucky sods who really are off to Patagonia
next week is the best we're gonna get. All the same, sorry to have
Your Himalaya - a tribute by the Basque climber and
filmmaker Alberto Iurrategui to his brother, who died on Gash II, a
compassionate beautiful film which won the festival's Grand Prize
The Adventure Is Not Yet Over - Bonington and
Houlding climb and hang out together in Australia's Blue Mountains
(highly recommended by Chris Lines, Berghaus gear supreme, tha
Parahawking - a British film about parapenting with
birds of prey in Nepal
Reflections of a Solo Sheep-herder - a 15-minute
film on a North Carolina-based big-wall chauvinist (who says
Americans can't do irony?)
And with the Kendal Mountain Film Festival rapidly turning into
the Alastair Lee Mountain Film Festival, Alastair's Twice Upon A
Time in Bolivia waltzed off with the People's Prize on Sunday.
His account of an ascent of the very lovely Pequeno Alpamayo
[as climbed by Maria herself in 1997 - Ed.] by a
motley crew of bums from Burnley was highly praised by all -
well done, Alastair.
All pics courtesy of Kendal Mountain Film Festival - www.mountainfilm.co.uk