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(The Gear Loop) - Last weekend (17 to 20 November) saw Kendal Mountain Festival return once more to the Cumbrian adventure capital. 

Various venues across the market town were taken over, with presentations, film screenings, art galleries and more. The tented basecamp village was packed with over 80 outdoor brands, providers and platforms sharing their products and visions for the future. 

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Meanwhile trail runs, bike rides and all manner of community hikes headed out into the surrounding countryside. The 10k trail run saw an all-time high of just under 1,000 people line up on the start line.

Ticket sales totalled over 25,000 this year, while on the ground and in-town visitors increased from 15,000 to an estimated 20,000, highlighting the festival’s growing popularity. Many global and EMEA senior management staff attended the event for the first time – magnifying solid outdoor industry representation, which is now a very important and key element of the festival. 

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More than 170 speakers shared their tales of derring-do and personal discovery, including the likes of Sir Ranulph Fiennes, arguably Britain’s greatest living adventurer, Kenton Cool, one of the world’s leading high-altitude climbers, Jenny Tough, adventurer, writer and film maker; and Leo Houlding, one of Britain’s most legendary climbers.

The festival began its journey in 1980, when the Kendal Mountaineering Film Festival was set up by half a dozen passionate adventurers. Today, Kendal stays true to its film festival heritage, with 170 adventure films from across the globe screened at various venues during the weekend.

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You can use the Kendal Mountain Player to view many of the festival’s films and speakers using the digital Festival Pass. Use the code GEARLOOP20 to get 20 per cent off the pass until 31st December 2022.

The Book Festival also sold out in record time. Particularly uplifting was the impact of the KM for Schools programme, which saw over 900 excited school children attend a sold-out venue with 1,8000 Family Adventure audience members inspired by the festival’s content.

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Top industry prizes for film and literature were awarded during the weekend. As the UK’s premier mountain event, Kendal’s film awards can be considered as the Oscars of mountain films, while the Boardman Tasker Prize is very much the Pulitzer Prize of the adventure literature world.

Boardman Tasker Prize shared

Named in honour of British mountaineers Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker, prolific alpinists and writers who perished while attempting an unclimbed line on the North-East ridge of Everest in 1982, the Boardman Tasker Prize was awarded on the Friday night. Previous winners of the award include Joe Simpson’s classic Touching the Void and Andy Kirkpatrick’s Psychovertical.

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The prize was shared this year between High Risk by Brian Hall and A Line Above the Sky by Helen Mort. 

High Risk tells of the UK’s golden age of Himalayan mountaineering in the late seventies and eighties, portraying the escapades of eleven unforgettable climbers. It follows their wild adventures, as they pioneered fast and light alpine tactics on big Himalayan mountains, with many of them paying the ultimate price for their endeavours.

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A Line Above the Sky explores the line between the risks and terrors of motherhood and an adventurous life spent exploring and climbing big mountains. Helen Mort, one of the UK’s brightest young poets shadows the life of Alison Hargreaves, a pioneering British climber who continued her alpine exploits as a mother. Mort delves into the visceral lessons mountains and motherhood provide.

Twelve film awards handed out

There are a dozen awards handed out to the very best adventure films this year. The grand prize went to Director Lizzie MacKenzie’s The Hermit of Treig, which reflects humorously and evocatively on Ken Smith’s four decades living alone and off-grid in the Scottish Highlands.  

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The People’s Chocie Award went to The Last Forgotten Art, director Jessie Leong’s film that follows three crack climbing aficionados on their hunt of interesting ‘off-width climbs’ in the Peak District.

The full list of winners can be seen here.

Dates have already been announced for next year's festival, so slot Thursday 16 to 19 November 2023 in the diary and check the website for info on tickets.

Writing by Alex Foxfield. Editing by Leon Poultney.