When I think about the weekend I’ve just experienced, I’m reminded of a scene from the 2002 film The Rules of Attraction. One of the character’s recent trip to Europe is presented back to the audience as a fast-paced montage of craziness, packed full of adrenaline. But while his story is one of hardcore parties and everything that goes with it, my weekend was more on the wild side.
For it was adventure, inspiring talks and the Swiss mountains polished off with a party until the early hours in sports gear that transformed my experience of the North Face #MountainFestival into a 24-hour plus fiesta.
One minute I was packing my bag and heading to Gatwick, the next I was clearing out my home for two days aka…a very damp festival tent. Yes, there was rain. And yes, I slept in all my clothes. It was also not the easiest location to travel to. Let’s just say when I arrived at Lauterbrunnen station in the dark and realised after googling the directions from the station to the festival that it was a 1h20 walk, my first thoughts could not have been further than “yay”. Thankfully, I worked out that the bus went straight there. Nevertheless, I don’t regret my little sejour at the year’s North Face #MountainFestival. Here’s why:
It’s one thing arriving at around 10pm, in the dark, slightly disorientated after too many hours of travelling (damn you Gatwick for all your delays). You do start to wonder whether that time wasted at the airport, three trains and a bus to the campsite was worth it. What’s more, it’s not the warmest outside. Thankfully, your friends have put up your tent and you’re able to share a beer or two before heading to “bed” (a sleeping bag layered over your two waterproofs as you have packed light for the weekend). But when you finally arise after a not-great night’s sleep and step outside, suddenly it all makes sense. For you are surrounded by mountains and lush greenery. You glance one way to see snow on the top. Look the other and you spot lines of water rushing into the valley. You thinks this is why you’ve come to the #MountainFestival and get excited about the activities planned for the day.
It’s one thing being at the foot of the Eiger, JungFrau and Monch mountains, it’s another being given a guided tour. From trail running, hiking and climbing to canyoning and paragliding, the amount of activities on offer meant there’s was a real chance to get out with like-minded enthusiasts and explore. I signed up for a trail run in the morning and hike in the afternoon, which were both equally enjoyable. Climbing up towards the waterfalls, passing by cows and goats, while enjoying the company of others and learning about the area from the guide on hike, it was cold but thoroughly entertaining. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fit in anything else but to give you a taster of what was on offer, here’s the programme for Saturday:
The North Face Athletes
As you can see from the timetable above, there were a number of inspiring talks from The North Face Athletes. From climbers such as Caroline Ciavaldini and James Pearson to Tamara Lunger and Simone Moro, you were transported by stories of their adventures. Humorous, entertaining and honest, being able to hear what these athletes were about really brought to life the point of The North Face. Every adventure starts with a dream and with help from the North Face, these people are offered the chance to really #NeverStopExploring.
When you’ve been out all day, it’s cold and wet outside and there’s banging music playing until the early hours, what you gonna do? Join in of course. From conga-ing around the tent to throwing some moves as the Red Bull DJ worked the decks, it was one hell of a party. Instead, this time everyone was dressed in trainers and sports gear (mainly The North Face stuff). Oh yes, the beer was flowing…
Did I mention you could product test gear at the festival? Well, I happened to give the Women’s Ultra Endurance Shoes a go. They are lightweight, comfortable and grippy enough to ensure I didn’t slip on the wet rocks during my run and hike. In fact, I didn’t want to have to return them and was quite tempted to “accidentally” leave my spare shoes behind but honesty got the better of me.
The North Face festival may have felt rushed but it was totally worth it. I can’t wait to see what next year has in store.