If you’re into mountain sports of any kind, then Fort William is almost certainly a place that’ll be on your radar. If not, then it really should be! It’s a place that I’ve been visiting for many years, to ride MTB, ski, climb and walk in the incredible mountains that surround it.
Whatever your adventure
It really is an outdoor sports mecca and the gateway to some of Scotland’s most amazing mountains and the adventure opportunities within them. Last weekend, the town hosted its annual Mountain Festival, and I was thrilled to be invited along as one of the speakers at the Bike Night.
The mountain festival is a gathering of mountain sports enthusiasts from many different sports, and a chance to get together and celebrate all that we love about life in the mountains, be inspired by stories of adventures of many shapes and forms, and to share the passion that we all have for all mountains, but especially those in the West Highlands.
It seemed only fitting to make the most of a trip up north, so I headed up early to meet some friends for a couple of days climbing, and was treated to some fantastic conditions! Unfortunately, the next few days at the festival we were not so lucky, but in Scotland bad weather never stops anyone from getting out and getting on with it!
Love for the Highlands
On Friday night, I headed to one of the featured sessions, the Scottish Backcountry gathering, to hear a great variety of speakers talk about tales on two planks. From the story of creating the Nevis Range ski hill, to avalanche safety and rescue, freeride racing, to skiing the steepest Scottish gullies late in the spring, it was an inspiring and fun evening that left me motivated to get out on my skis this winter!
Snow in the Highlands
So much so that in the few days since the festival I’ve been out and about making the most of the great ski touring conditions and fantastic snow in the Highlands! Saturday saw heavy rain and snow up high, winds and cold temperatures, and me being somehow persuaded into the “Runduro” event being run by No Fuss Events.
20km, 750m climbing, and 8 timed stages left me feeling like I might not be able to move come Sunday. I am definitely sticking to mountain biking from now on. It was, however, a great motivator to get out on a day when I probably would otherwise have sat in the café most of the day, and I actually enjoyed it in a strange kind of way, meeting lots of friendly folk along the way thanks to the sociable format of the race
On Saturday night it was the Bike session. Like many of the ticketed sessions, another sell-out event. The evening was hosted by Aneela McKenna, fellow Juliana Ambassador and one half of Go-Where Scotland, who did a great job of introducing everything, keeping the evening running smoothly, and also making me feel a little less nervous than I was feeling about being up on stage in front of everyone!
As well as myself there was Crawford Carrick Anderson, winner of what sounds like everything he has ever entered on skis, bikes and motorbikes! And Chris Ball, Enduro World Series Director who talked about his love of scoping out new and exciting places to race, and his personal adventures biking climbing and skiing in the mountains. I talked with
I talked with Aneela in a kind of interview/Q&A style session about all sorts of things including the challenges of being a female guide in a male dominated sport, the places I’ve been, and some of the trips I’ve done.
As well as this, there were some fantastic films shown, and then a party at a nearby hotel where it was great to spend the evening catching up with friends. A great evening and I think enjoyed by all who were there.
The best of….
Throughout the weekend, there were many other film showings, speakers, photo exhibitions, book talks, climbers lectures, and trade stands…almost too much to choose from, and with every outdoor sport catered for. The final evening of the weekend saw a showing of the Best of Banff, selected films from the World’s biggest and most famous mountain film festival.
I’ve seen a few of these “Best Of” evenings now, and they are always amazing. Some of the activities featured are completely mind-blowing, and you leave in awe of the athletes involved. And then it was all over unfortunately. Time definitely flies when you’re having fun! It was a brilliant weekend get-together of like-minded mountain folk, full of inspiration for future adventures, and the dates for next year are already in the diary!
If you want to catch it for yourself, the next one runs from Feb 15th – 17th 2017. Get your tickets early as they do sell out fast!