Thursday, 24 March 2011

Sheffield Adventure Film Festival

For me, one of the most important things about climbing is the community that has spawned from such a complex and varied sport. From the highest mountains to the smoothest boulder, climbing takes us to environments that require every ounce of our being, but have so much to give in return. It is no wonder that people from all walks of life and of all different levels of experience feel a need to come together and be amongst those who cherish the adventure, danger and grace that makes climbing such a unique sport.

Every year across the UK various festivals showcase films, lectures, awards, outdoor retailers and competitions to celebrate mountains, adventure and get the climbing community together for a good party, the pinnacle of this calendar being the Kendal Mountain Film Festival in November.

When spring comes around it’s all about the home of the world famous grit stone. The Sheffield Adventure Film Festival took place from the 4th to the 6th of March this year and saw not only some amazing films showcase but also an electrifying bouldering competition which took place over two days at the Climbing Works.

Friday evening kicked off the festival with a hilarious talk from Andy Kirkpatrick. Andy manages to make his atrocious mountain epics sound side splittingly funny. He has been consistently trying to push the boundaries of big wall climbing with solo and winter ascents of some pretty big rocks- El Capitan and the North face of Fitzroy to name but a few. His talk was sold out, along with Kenton Cool’s, who was on stage after. It was in fact Kenton’s lecture about Everest at the Royal Geographical Society that first inspired me to climb the great mountain. I have since been lucky enough to climb that same hill with the man himself, so be careful if you’re seeing him speak soon- you might leave and turn your entire life upside down like I did.

The next two days were a whirlwind of films such as The Prophet and lots of short films from across the spectrum. Kayakers, cyclists, skiers, swimmers and runners all showcased breathtaking films and the screenings were consistently packed out despite the beautiful and tempting anti-cyclonic weather- perfect for an afternoon on the grit!

When not spell bound at the showroom cinema we were down at the climbing works for the qualifying round on Saturday and the finals on Sunday of the CWIF competition. The qualifiers saw over 300 competitors- some there to give it a go, some there to win. It was a great atmosphere climbing amongst some of Europe’s best. With 30 problems to get through the competitors had their work cut out- there was everything from technical slabs with almost non-existent holds to pumpy overhangs requiring almost impossible amounts of body tension.

Sunday loomed for all but the 32 semi-finalists with sore heads after a night at the showroom for the official festival party. Semi-finalists included Reading Climbing Centre regulars Jen Wilby and British bouldering team member Jon Partridge. Only six competitors from each category made the grand final which took place to round off what was a fantastic weekend long celebration of climbing and adventure.

I watched from the 200 strong audience as Katie Whittaker clinched the women’s title and the Slovenian machine Jernej Kruder flashed all but one of the four problems, which were set by Britain’s manliest man Jason Pickles.

By the end of the final the Works was so packed that people had to stand in the street and watch through the windows. It was a fantastic atmosphere and everyone came home with a humbling appreciation of the pressure that these climbers are under and the skill it takes to climb at this level.

With the last trophy handed out it was back south to another normal week. After a weekend of so much inspiration from the speakers, films and climbers themselves I am more excited than ever for my own projects over the coming year. That’s what it’s about I guess- inspiring yourself to be the best climber you can be- whatever being the ‘best’ means to you.

On that note- It’s time to go climbing!

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