Festival Column: Fort William Mountain Festival 2011
With the winters we’ve been having, who hasn’t plodded and stumbled along in the vast tranches of the white stuff and thought “I could really do with lessons in this? Come to think of it, a spot of avalanche training might come in handy too.” If this cycle of weather keeps up these courses will be added to the national curriculum but in the meantime, there’s the opportunity to learn more about basic techniques in mountain walking during snowtime, advanced climbing classes for the brave/foolhardy, and what to do if a big torrent of the white stuff comes careering in your general direction.
All this takes place at the Fort William Mountain Festival, a five day jamboree of lectures, workshops and films and activities for residents and visitors who want to learn about and celebrate mountain culture (well, if tomatoes and aliens get their own festivals, why not a homage to those magnificent monuments to tectonic instability?). The events take place throughout Fort William and Lochaber – the Outdoor Capital of the UK – from Friday 11 to Monday 15 February. Included are a series of lectures and films on various aspects of extreme sports including mountaineering, white-water kayaking, ice-climbing; workshops on a variety of activities including skiing and snowboarding, and an evening of cinematic highlights from the Banff Mountain Film Festival (Canada). Then there’s the really fun stuff. Fancy practicing your mountain bike jumps and flips with the safety net of a giant airbag? Or how does the Mammoth Descent sound, where everyone gathers en masse at the summit of Aonach Mor and skis/snowboards all the way down... to the pub? Well why not?
Getting there: Fort William is well serviced by trains and buses from the Central Belt. Or you can walk there along the wonderful West Highland Way (takes a week mind).
Staying there: The Moorings Hotel offers great views of Ben Nevis in suitably comfortable surroundings, whilst the Torlinnhe guest house is a cosy option with free biscuits and wi-fi.