The Kendal Mountain Festival 2019 – Friends will be Friends

The run up to Kendal is always busy, so this year I decided to spend as much time as possible in Hospital to shield me from the chaos.  Actually, I’d been knocked off my bike by a car and was nursing some rather stiff joints.  Serious care, rest and drinking would be required over the festival weekend if I was to make it through…

As I headed north on the train, floods scarred my native Derbyshire, but the skies above Kendal were clear and bright.  I walked into an already busy Thursday evening, where the opening parade filled the streets and Base Camp packed out to the early birds.  I felt home again, surrounded by Mountaineers, Climbers, Filmmakers, Presenters and most importantly – Friends.  We’re a tight knit group at the festival and though we may not see each other from year to year, we hug, smile and laugh like we only parted yesterday.  I had to watch my right knee carefully over the coming days as it had taken a heck of a bang when the car hit me and then buried itself into the tarmac.  The festival is riddled with steps and stairs, which could cause me a lot of issues.  There was no speeding around for this 50 year old.

The highlight of Friday was opening ‘Edie’ with producer Mark Stothert.  This beautiful film had many in the audience (including myself), in tears.  The story tells of Edie, who walked with her father, but felt trapped by her disabled husband.  He dies and Edie decided to find her youth again by climbing Suilven in the Highlands of Scotland.  Shelia Hancock plays the role with such honesty, with great support from Kevin Guthrie.  The story line is one many of us know of or have experienced, and losing my own father this year brought it home.  My 81 year old Mother regularly walks with me now and enjoys the beauty of the outdoors, even with poor eyesight.  I don’t think she wants to tackle the Highlands of Scotland, but a few miles in the Peak District work beautifully.  ‘Edie’ is not a drone fest splattered with a sack bag of Go Pros, more a touching story of a life left and lost.  (I was accused of being 70 in the cinema  however..!)

On Saturday morning I introduced Peter Owen Jones who spoke with great beauty about ‘Everest England’ where he climbed the height of Mt. Everest in 12 days without leaving England.  I’ve heard many speakers in my time, but this was more than just a speech.  This was a service to the soul, where the outdoors are your church and your heart is overflowing with joy.  The room held on Peter’s every breath and a silence filled the air.  I’ve written many times about my quest to find peace and for a few minutes, sat at the back of the room, it overwhelmed me.  It may not have lasted long, but I felt recharged both spiritually and mentally.  Peter kindly gifted me a copy of his book which I look forward to reading before my fire at home.

We had a new event at the festival this year – a gala dinner.  Hosted by yours truly, Sir Chris Bonington and Doug Scott spoke about the festival and their years in the mountains.  It’s incredible what you find out about people when you’re researching such an evening.  Besides his huge feats on the world’s greatest mountains, Doug seemed to be an accident prone cyclist and is now an avid Brussel grower..!  It was wonderful to host these greats of Mountaineering in a packed room, recounting stories from a golden age.  We went long into the night that Saturday, which in itself is a festival tradition.

I first spoke at Kendal as I climbed the Matterhorn with Andy Perkins in 2010.  We talked of speaking and Andy, as head of presenters, invited me along.  I’ve been there ever since. We had been connected by Martin Moran, who was tragically lost in India earlier this year and we sat this festival reminiscing over a fine malt or two, toasting absent friends.  Martins loss is a huge blow to both British Mountaineering and Guiding.  We crossed the Cullin Ridge in 2017 and had built a great friendship over the years.

The support I feel from the festival crew is beyond words.  They’ve cared for me, helped as I’ve cried, laughed and giggled, helped me with my injuries and always been there. My thanks to everyone involved.

My right knee was a mess and I’ve since had an MRI scan. I hope to see the results soon and be back in the mountains asap.

Same time next year folks..?

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