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Field Journal

The North Face Mountain Festival review

The North Face Mountain Festival review

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. The valley sides rise steeply enclosing this narrow valley. Waterfalls, 72 of them apparently, thunder down the walls, hundreds of metres into the  Lütschine river. Beyond the walls are some of the great mountains of the Alps: the Schilthorn, Schwarzmönch, Bietenhorn and, of course, the Eiger.

The grandeur of the scene from the valley floor is overwhelming. The feet of great glaciers can be seen through the swirling morning mists and the cable car disappears out of view, still far from its destination. And it is in this this valley where The North Face has set up basecamp for its 2016 Mountain Festival.

The North Face Mountain Festival review The North Face Mountain Festival review The North Face Mountain Festival review

The three-day festival is an intimate celebration of the mountains, and the sports that happen in them, and of those athletes at the peak of their game. Over the course of the festival, those who travelled from around the world to visit, would get the opportunity go running with Jez Bragg, climbing with the Pou brothers and catch up with winter mountaineer Simone Moro over a beer. Here, among the 500 or so visitors were some of the world’s greatest mountaineers, runners and climbers, sat at the same long breakfast tables, sharing a beer in the bar and dancing late into the night. That is why there’s no other festival quite like this, the heroes of the mountains are all milling around, camping on the same site, and you can join them.

From the Friday afternoon until Sunday lunchtime there was a huge range of events, for those taking their first steps into the mountains to expert runners and climbers. The days are given over to activities: trail running, climbing, mountaineering expeditions, canyoning, whitewater rafting, hiking and paragliding among others, before returning to basecamp for a hot shower. Then there’s the opportunity to catch a couple of early evening talks from inspirational North Face athletes including Andy Housemann, Eneko and Iker Pou, and Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger talking about their remarkable winter summit of Nanga Parbat. It’s then time to kick back and enjoy the bands and DJs into the early morning before returning to the tent.

The North Face Mountain Festival review The North Face Mountain Festival review The North Face Mountain Festival review

Sidetracked were there with international mountain leader and expedition chef Kieran Creevy, who was offering expedition cookery workshops and filling the main tent with wonderful smells and appreciative ohhs and ahhs. In a different tent, another Sidetracked contributor, the climber and adventure photographer Lukas Warzecha, was offering tips and tricks to taking the pictures outdoors.

The weekend was a non-stop ride through heart-pumping ascents in the day, reliving the unbelievable experiences of the North Face athletes in the evening before having some fun in the evening. It’s set to get even bigger next year, keep an eye on for details nearer the time.  

Over the next few weeks we’ll be publishing some of the interviews we conducted and stories we found at festival, including interviews with Simone Moro and Andy Housemann.

The North Face Mountain Festival review