And then there was Mountain Festival.
After almost a week in beautiful Switzerland and pretty much 4 months of waiting – The North Face Mountain Festival was finally on.
What is Mountain Festival? It is like when cool kids get together and decide spending their long weekend doing what they love most in one of the most beautiful versatile places in Europe –in Lauterbrunnen at the foot of the Eiger. (PS: can we go to Chamonix for next year’s edition?)
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t get the early bird ticket and tried its best to cover the stunning beauty of nature that was surrounding us. But as much as wild hearts can’t be broken, even the miserable weather couldn’t spoil it.
Night before we camped about 1 mile from the festival village, so in the morning we took our tent and walked in. What an entrance. (Photo @ Ben Read)
Welcomed by mountains and lights and rain, we set up our tent and ready for exploration we decided to go for a short walk. Because normal is boring, we ended up hiking straight uphill to Murren and then run down bumping into guys from Cliff Run led by Jez Bragg. During the day, it was mainly about cheering and greeting our NeverStopLondon friends.
In the evening we were listening to most amazing talk I ever been to: Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger about Nanga Parbat. It was full of life, brilliant, funny, emotional, full of proud moments and strength. I loved it so much!!
Decided to skip the night run as our main activity was about to start at 6am which meant waking up –yet again- before 5am.
So I got the chance to see Kleine Scheidegg again. This time from train. The weather was much better than 2 days before even when it was still way too far from good. Packed on the train, I was excited as a little kid in candy store. But in my case, the candies were made of ice. The train goes up all the way to Jungfraujoch and it is the most impressive train ride you can imagine. It stops for 5 minutes on Eigerwand and Eismeer station. I will never forget how I felt when I got out of the cable car in Aiguille du Midi 2 years ago and seen Mont Blanc for the first time. There was this moment of excitement which made my knees week, my eye pupils bigger and breathing shallow. I was staring through the glass window like hypnotised. Same feeling when I visited Lac d’Emosson in autumn last year. And now this. The North Face on Eiger. At very last I was able to see it with my own eyes. And for a short second I started to wonder if I will ever see it from the other side of the window. No, I will not, I’m not a climber. I’m not a mountaineer. But I’m definitely obsessed with Eiger. And all the stories behind that window.
Back on the train, some wild ideas starting to attack my mind, and for the rest of the day, the ideas were wilder and crazier. We were about to walk on the Aletsch glacier. Crampons on – surprisingly figured out how to adjust them and put them on – all layers on, ice axe in the hand and we were ready. Group of 10 – lead by David Goettler – we finally got out of the manic station.
Some people watch TV and admire actors. Some people love mountains, don’t own TV and spend evenings watching TNF YouTube videos about climbing, running and mountaineering. Assume you can guess which group I belong to. To comprehend how it feels standing next to David on top of Jungfraujoch and listening to his instructions felt so surreal like if you will be suddenly playing in a movie with Julia Roberts or someone (I’m really out of date when it comes to TV celebrities). Walking through the mist with no views sounds boring, but it was really amazing.
But once the skies cleared out and we got some views, you could feel in the air how excited everyone was. We were split in 3 groups with 3 leaders, all beginners level and most of us for the very first time wearing crampons and walking on glacier. We stopped to admire views and very safely one after each other we also observed crevasses to comprehend how beautiful but still dangerous and tricky glaciers are.
There was a moment when we were standing on about 20 cm of snow with massive hole underneath us – all without knowing it.
We finished the 2,5k loop and was asked as a group if we want some more exploration or prefer to explore the commerce of the train station. Group David was full of adventurers so we stayed together and walked a bit more. This time steep up and those few metres were the very best as it felt we are doing something “proper”. Group shot, very short walk on the ridge and down again.
When can I do it again? Cause I definitely want to, will and I got hooked. It was first baby step to hopefully climbing Mont Blanc next year. We were at 3,500m + and I could feel the altitude at all and was very happy to move.
I don’t think words can really describe how that day felt like so here, I will use picture to speak for me.
On the way back, all of us fall asleep fed by emotions and adrenaline.
I can wait for next year’s edition of Mountain festival and this time I will make sure to come full of energy rather than after week of hiking in high mountains.
Thank you so much The North Face for the great weekend, it was exactly what hungry explorer need to feed their souls, minds and ever hungry hearts!
To get into the spirit of The North Face Mountain Festival definitely check out pictures from amazing Ben Read on his page: