As over 1,000 people descended on the Lauterbrunnen Valley, deep in the Swiss Alps, there was excitement in the air. The initial rains did nothing to dampen spirits and, by the time tents had been put up and we were heading out for our first activities, the heavens had cleared.
In its second year, The North Face Mountain Festival is a celebration of the incredible and inspiring outdoors we have on our European doorstep. A short distance from the infamous Eiger, Lauterbrunnen has it all; rock climbing, hiking, running, canyoning, rafting, and countless more sports to whet your adventure whistles.
As a mountain all-rounder I was most excited to share as many different activities with as many different people as possible. With everyone from complete beginners to seasoned mountain athletes, The North Face provided activities for every level of experience, fitness, and motivation.
Starting with a nice easy run, a group of 24 of us were lead off up the valley by The North Face trail running team athlete Pau Capell. Hot off the back of an incredible first season in the Ultra Trail World Tour, Pau shared stories, training tips, and his love of the mountains with us while we did our best to keep up.
Upon returning to base camp it was time for a quick shower before dinner was served and the opening party commenced. Incredible food plus a few cold beers got everyone in the mood and the opening party set the scene for the rest of the weekend. After introducing all of the athletes there - some 18 runners, climbers, alpinists, and adventurers - it was time to party and the live band didn’t disappoint. It was clear how the weekend was going to go: train and work hard during the day on the trails and walls, relax hard in the evenings.
The next 3 days were a heady blend of world class trail running, scenic hikes, and technical rock climbing. While I stuck to the core activities, every evening people were flooding back in, grinning ear to ear from crazy experiences like white-water rafting, bungee jumping, paragliding, and canyoning. For those looking for something a little more chilled out there was a number of highly educational workshops covering base camp cooking and adventure photography.
Whatever your poison, there was something there for you and it showed. By Sunday lunchtime when we were all packing our tents away, wondering how the weekend could have flown by so quickly yet felt like it had lasted a lifetime, there was a peace and happiness throughout. We had had our ‘fix’ and would take away memories that will last a lifetime; new friends, new skills, and new passions for the great outdoors.
Charley Radcliffe is the Community Manager for The North Face in Chamonix, France. If you find yourself at the foot of Mont Blanc, do check out #NeverStopChamonix for training, talks, and general mountain adventures!
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