Keswick Mountain Festival was blessed with good weather to accompany a packed schedule of events that included tales from the Montane Spine Race and Bob Graham Round as well as Alan Hinkes who was fresh from his talk at the Blencathra Field Studies Centre the previous week.
Outside the main events was the BMC Montane Skills Camp where a host of talks provided speakers with snapshots of wild adventures alongside practical advice on navigation and emergency management from Mountain Training. Mountain Heritage Trust were also front and centre in the tent on Friday exploring the history of the iconic Old Man of Hoy, first climbed in 1966. Through films and annecdotes we discovered the stack's rich and varied history as a TV celebrity and remote location that has captured the imagination of climbers ever since Sir Chris Bonington, Tom Patey and Rusty Baillie. Through TV features and unqiue formation it gradually developed a reputation, demanding commitment and planning for a successful ascent to be realised. This culminated in a pioneering ascent by Catherine Destivelle who climbed the original route solo in 1998, a climb which came in the same decade as her successful solo on the North Face of the Eiger and routes on the Matterhorn, Grandes Jorasses and the Dru.
We were lucky enough to also be joined by Gilly McArthur who provided a modern day take on climbing the stack having made an ascent back in 2011. Her experiences of the living heritage of the route provided an insight of what the route is like to climb today, not least the ever growing amounts of tat which back-up the abseil station to the base of the route. In many ways it has become jaded in recent years, with old ropes swinging in the breeze as a hallmark to bygone eras and the countless film productions and attempts that have been made to reach its top.
Beyond the festival ground it was particularly special to see the history of the Bob Graham Round explored through a panel of Billy Bland, Jasmin Paris, Steve Birkinshaw, Martin Stone and Steve Chilton. Given the 36 year old record was broken last year by Kilian Jornet it was a fantastic opportunity to hear from the previous record holder as well as other well-known fell-runners who've attempted the route in recent years.
The weekend was part of our on-going summer events programme which includes two up-coming talks at the Blencathra Field Studies Centre in conjunction with the RGS-IBG. Find out more here.