THIS year’s Kendal Mountain Festival proved itself to be bigger and better than ever before.

Thousands of outdoor enthusiasts descended on the town for the prestigious four-day festival, with Sir Chris Bonington officially opening KMF 2012 at Thursday evening’s grand ceremony.

Sharing centre stage with a giant outdoor screen outside Kendal Town Hall, the noble knight of the climbing fraternity said KMF was one of the best festivals in the world and urged everyone to ‘give it a try’.

He added: “It is like a tribal gathering of mountaineers all mixing and rubbing shoulders with each other.”

The launch, which showed a 60-minute selection of short films, paved the way for the world class event, with festival-goers pouring into Kendal from across the UK and beyond.

Festival director Clive Allen said the event was the biggest and busiest ever.

“This was our most ambitious year yet, with the addition of a new Adventure Sports Village at the Dojo venue plus a speaker programme involving 40 outdoor personalities,” said Mr Allen.

“We were completely bowled over by the response. Headliners such as Olympic triathletes Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee meant we were full to bursting at times.

“I guess it underlines the fact that this festival is now very much the main event in the outdoor calendar, and a huge social event as well as the chance to see the latest films and lectures. We estimate that as many as 9,000 people joined us over the weekend so together with the satellite events we run this is really putting Kendal on the map. It definitely makes this the biggest mountain festival in the world.”

On Saturday morning the Brownlee brothers helped competitors warm up for the start of the adidas Terrex 5-mile Trail Run from the Kendal Dojo which attracted a field of 200 runners.

Paralympian hand cycling time trial silver medallist Karen Darke, who gave a ‘truly inspirational’ lecture at The Brewery Theatre on Saturday night, said: “I think it is a fantastic event. There are so many people doing so many things at the festival and you can come here and get really inspired. I love this area and learned to climb here.”

“It is great that they have diversified the festival away from just climbing so that it is more about adventure — there is more of an appeal for the general public.”

This year’s gathering came to a rousing finale on the Sunday night when at its version of The Oscars, the festival film judges announced the winners of 11 coveted prizes. Having sat through all 65 films showing at the event — more than 150 hours worth — the judges decided the Grand Prize should go to Crossing The Ice.

And a high-impact, low-budget film telling the compelling story of a Kentmere hound trailing trainer and her young prodigy pup Capetown was voted best film in the hotly contested culture section. It was made by Kendal photographer and film maker Ben Barden.

Rescue pair trek 112 miles in 24 hours

TWO members of the Kendal Mountain Rescue Team have completed a non-stop 112-mile circuit of the area covered by the volunteers — on foot, bike and by kayak.

Deputy Team Leaders Dave Howarth and Kath Jackson, left, took 24 hours to get round the team’s boundary in a challenge that co-incided with the Mountain Film Festival.

And just two hours before setting off on the marathon triathlon, the pair were part of a team called out to Scout Scar to search for a woman  missing while walking her dog. She was found safe and well.

“The reality of the Round is still sinking in,” said Ms Jackson. “Thank-you doesn't sound near enough to say for what so many did to make it work.”

The pair were on bikes for 56 miles, on foot for 50 miles and in a kayak for six miles.

What you thought of the event

​Adidas Terrex Endurance Night (Friday) It’s not every day that we see Olympic medalists in Kendal so the whole family made sure we were there for the occasion. The place was jumping with anticipation, and when the Brownlee brothers finally came on stage the response was huge. The nice thing was that they’re so down to earth, just really normal guys. The Baker family, Storth

Josh Dueck (Saturday) What a total inspiration. This is a guy who was one of the best freestyle skiers until an accident paralysed him from the waist down. What did he do? Get in a sit-ski and fight his way back until he won a silver medal at the last winter Paralympics. Makes your realise there are no limits as long as you have belief. Jude Bayliss, Nottingham

Andy Cave (Saturday) I’ve been a fan of Andy’s since reading his first book about how he moved from being a miner to a mountain guide. This time Andy was talking about some of his recent exploits, he showed a really cool film about a hard climb he’s recently completed. He’s got such a down-to-earth and approachable style it was a pleasure to be there. Adrian Buckley, London

Karen Darke (Saturday) I found this a really emotional experience; I knew something about Karen’s background but really wanted to hear about her Paralympic race when she won a hand-cycle silver medal. I think the whole audience was just totally inspired to learn how much Karen has achieved. And I got to be photographed with Karen and her medal! Josh Turnbull, Ingleton

Fred Beckey (Sunday) I’m no spring chicken myself but listening to Fred Beckey talk made me realise age is no excuse! He’s an American legend; 89 years old yet still climbing as much as he can, and has probably climbed more new routes than anyone else in the world. What a privilege to see him in Kendal. George Fletcher, Kendal

Ed Byrne with Andy Kirkpatrick (Sunday) I didn’t expect to see comedy at the Festival so this was too good an opportunity to miss, it was a sell-out crowd and Ed was brilliant. Andy Kirkpatrick had taken Ed out climbing, which certainly gave them plenty of funny material to work with! Just hope they do something similar next year. Gill Armstrong, Skipton

  • VIDEO: The Social Network for the Outdoors (AWOL) talk to Kendal Mountain Festival director Robin Ashcroft.

  • VIDEO: AWOL talks to Phil Turner, editor of Mountain Pro magazine.