If there were a device that could measure toughness – an adrenalin radar scanning the planet for nutters in harnesses – hardcore hotspots would probably include the Himalayas and the Alps. But the sick-ometer (as in "dude, that was like the sickest jump ever") is at risk of blowing up over a grey corner of northern England later this month when some of the world's greatest daredevils gather for the Kendal Mountain Festival.
If you like mountains, or films about mountains, or doing dangerous things on mountains on film, then Kendal is your Cannes. Just swap red carpets for cobbles, DJs for down gilets and canapés for mint cake. "It's a tribal gathering for mountain lovers," says the festival's director, Clive Allen. "We get at least 7,000 people over the weekend and put on screenings and exhibitions and family events. It's a big deal for a small town."
So what can Kendalites, who number about 28,000, expect when their ranks swell with gnarly types in Gore-Tex? Allen says the "beating heart" of the event is the market town's brewery. "We really can organise a piss-up," he says. The brewery has become an arts centre but the beer will flow again come the festival. "I seldom get out of the bar," says Leo Houlding, a world-beating free climber and base jumper. "The bonds you form in climbing are incredibly strong and this is the biggest social event in our calendar."
But Kendal is about more than thrill-seekers bingeing on beer and badinage. There'll be a host of films including an epic depicting Houlding's recent assault on Mt Asgard in the Canadian Arctic, as well as talks from legends including Doug Scott and heroes such as Major Phil Packer, the paraplegic Iraq veteran who ran the London marathon and hauled himself up California's 3,000ft El Capitan cliff face.
But a short French guy with a mullet will likely steal the weekend. Alain Robert, the climber they call "spider-man", will be in town for a rare speaking gig. More used to scaling the world's skyscrapers without ropes or permission, he'll recount his life and escapades. "I'll talk about what I've done, my accidents and how I started again," Robert says on the line from his native France. Organisers might be relieved to hear the daredevil has no plans to pack his climbing shoes, but they may wish to post him some directions. "I don't even know where is zis Ken-dull," he says. Mountainfest.co.uk (19-22 November) Simon Usborne
Why jogging bottoms are the height of fashion
At the Paris couture shows in July I witnessed something truly surprising. No, not a dress for under 10 grand – that really would defy belief – but a member of the impeccably stylish international fashion press in, wait for it, tracksuit trousers. Of course when I regaled people back in London with the fantastic tale of the girl who went to the couture shows in jogging bottoms (albeit teamed with a sequin blazer and killer heels), I was met with incredulity and raised eyebrows. I might as well have said I'd spotted a size 16 unicorn on the catwalk.
Now, however, those doubters of little fashion faith can un-arch their brows, because tracksuit trousers are a bona fide trend. Of course, this being the very nuanced world of fashion, any old shell tracksuit from JD sports à la Vicky Pollard won't cut it. Instead opt for a grey marl version in a tapered shape, as seen at French label Isabel Marant, or Christopher Kane for Topshop, or choose a style in a more luxe fabric that sits somewhere between 'a harem,' 'a legging' and 'a tracksuit trouser,' such as Ashish's pompom adorned or sequinned styles.
Unfortunately just when it looked like sloping down to the shops in the blissful comfort of an old pair of jogging bottoms had been elevated to a major fashion statement, there's a catch. They only look good with very high heels. Of course it was all too good to be true. Carola Long
Polar bears: a survival guide
It's happened to all of us. You're minding your own business traversing some Canadian ice plane when you inadvertently get separated from your travelling companion and end up stranded alone adrift on a chunk of ice with just three polar bears for company. But what if – unlike a 17-year-old unnamed boy in the news this week who found himself in such perilous circumstances – you don't have a gun to ward away said beasties? What's the best way to tackle a polar bear? Well, according to the Parks Canada website (pch.gc.ca), you should use any potential weapon (skis, ice blocks, penknives, bad language) before assuming a foetal position to protect your face and neck. "This position should be maintained if possible until the bear has left the area," says the website. Go figure. There is another piece of timeless advice we should recommend, which is applicable to both this and several other similar situations. Run like sweet Jesus. Rob SharpReuse content