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The Banff Mountain Film Festival UK Tour

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The Banff Mountain Film Festival UK Tour

Big Screen Outdoor Inspiration

Alpinist Ines Papert climbing on Senja Island, Norway. Photo by Thomas Senf.

I took some time off from dodging high winds, cold rain and disappointing winter conditions to go to my local screening of the Banff Mountain Film Festival tour. I enjoyed it so much that I think you should too.

So, what is it? Well, it’s an evening at the cinema for outdoor adventure lovers. Each performance on the tour amounts to just over two hours of short films, which vary in length from roughly four to 40 minutes, and aims to showcase some of the best outdoor film-making of the past year. There are two programmes to choose from - with lots of the bigger venues being lucky enough to have screenings of both - and if you’d like to get a little preview of what to expect then point your browser at this energetic 3-minute trailer. The content, as you’ll see, covers everything from mountaineering to mountain biking to rowing across oceans to cross country skiing whilst strapped to a team of dogs to informal musical jamming suspended by rope hundreds of metres above the Gorges du Verdon (yes, really). Along the way the tone understandably varies from the sublime to the surreal to the inspirational... but always manages to feel impressively inclusive and approachable, more of which in the images below.

As you might have guessed from the name too, the main annual event is based in the mountain town in Alberta, Canada. Sitting amongst 6,600 square kilometres of soaring Rockies, by all accounts it’s a fairly spectacular place (it looks like this if, like me, you’ve not yet been) but for the past seven years a dedicated team have been bringing this tour of all the best bits to the UK and to another 39 countries beyond it too. This marked the third time I’ve been to a screening personally, and it’s most definitely a tour which has grown in quality and popularity even in that short period (last week’s screening, for example, marked the first time the Cambridge event had been held in the city centre’s cavernous Corn Exchange - and it was absolutely packed).

In case you’re wondering what makes the Banff tour so special, well... the truth is that it’s just one of a big calendar of similar events in the UK. There’s absolutely no shortage of mountain or outdoor film festivals originating here too, including Kendal, Dundee, Sheffield and Llanberis (to name just a few). But despite that there’s no disputing that the Banff tour is an excellently put together bit of work, and with such a wide range of venues it’s also one that’s easy for many of us to catch up with, no matter where we live.

And - to throw in another way of looking at it - why would you limit the amount of inspiration in your life? Just because you visited Kendal in November and Sheffield in March doesn’t mean that you can’t spend an evening with the Banff team loading up on yet more tales of the adventurous, the determined and the (frankly) borderline insane. Who knows? Maybe something will stick and come summer you’ll find yourself rowing to Iceland or playing a tuba on top of the Grandes Jorasses. Anything’s possible.

You can find out more at and should expect to pay somewhere between £12-£16 for tickets. If you visit you can find all the venues the tour will be tagging until it wraps up for the year at Milford Haven on 17 May.

To round off this post, here are some promotional images from the “red” programme that I was lucky enough to see last week, with a few explanatory captions along the way. Enjoy!

15-year-old prodigy Ashima Shiraishi takes on some of the world’s hardest bouldering problems in Young Guns. (© Brett Lowell)

16-year-old climbing star Kai Lightner, co-star of Young Guns, tackles his first major outdoor routes on a trip to Norway with Ashima. (© Brett Lowell)

Portrait of Ashima Shiraishi. (© Brett Lowell)

Portrait of Kai Lightner. (© Brett Lowell)

The surreal and brilliant Metronomic stars daredevil musicians The Flying Frenchies and has been hailed as “an anthem to the void”.

The flying drummer. That’s all that need be said. (© Damien Deschamps)

More Metronomic surrealism above the Gorges du Verdon.

Four Mums in a Boat tells the astonishing story of a most unlikely of teams and a most harrowing of challenges. (© Ben Duffy)

… with a finale as moving as you might expect. (© Ben Duffy)

Max Your Days is a love letter to Canada’s west cost, and the joy of exploring it during the summer solstice. (© Leo Hoorn)

Dog Power provides a rare insight into the burgeoning world of dog-powered sports… (© Jordan Schevene)

… the team spirit that builds between canines and their owners… (© Jordan Schevene)

… and the strength and beauty of dogs in general. (© Jordan Schevene)

Charming nutters / respected professional climbers Cedar Wright and Matt Segal decide to become beginners again by taking up paragliding in the laugh/wince-a-minute-fest that is Fledglings. (© Taylor Heating)

(it features some stunning shots of Californian/Mexican landscapes too). (© Taylor Heating)

Skye-born trials cyclist Danny MacAskill’s back. But no Cuillin Ridge for him this time, today he’s merely off for a Wee Day Out...

… with some big tricks thrown in.

Make sure to visit the Lifesystems Facebook page and Twitter feed to share your own experiences of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, and with any other recommendations you have for inspiring outdoor cinema!

Until next time.


Dan Aspel is a journalist and Mountain Leader. You can find him at

Visit to find a host of kit and equipment for your next mountain adventure.

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