For the Love of Mountains

5 December 2022

We talk to Piotr Turkot, programme director of the Krakow Mountain Festival, about the event's ideas, guests and programme.

Alicja Głów: You’ve been involved with the event from the very start, and this year the festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary. What’s the idea and format?

Piotr Turkot: The Krakow Mountain Festival features meetings with eminent mountaineers and climbers. It allows us to explore mountaineering culture through films, lectures, publications, photos and art. Its strength lies in the inspirational stories told by our guests and the powerful emotions in the films screened as part of the competition. From the outset the festival has been celebrating our love for mountains and nature which is right there, at our fingertips. It’s an event for all lovers of mountains and their cultural, leisure and sports aspects. The festival follows a tried-and-tested formula, with an online element added in recent years via the streaming platform Play Kraków.

Tell us about guests of this year’s festival.

Kraków will be visited by Hans Kammerlander – legendary Italian alpinist and high-altitude climber from South Tyrol. He is famous for his fast ascents and being a pioneer of ski mountaineering. Another international star is Stefan Glowacz from Germany who started during the golden era of free climbing in the late 1980s. Stefan will receive the Kraków Climbing Award for lifetime of achievement. We will also welcome Mykyta Balabanov and Mikhail Fomin from Ukraine who conquered Annapurna III last year. Mykyta is also actively involved in supporting the Ukrainian army and civilians, and in recent months we have been working with him on coordinating aid from outdoor companies from all over Europe. The Ukrainian theme is important and will be present throughout the festival, but their main reason is still mountaineering. The sports climbing and bouldering theme will be continued with Mélissa Le Nevé – the first woman to complete the iconic route Action Directe. The French climber will talk about the hard physical and mental work she has put in to achieve this. Inspirational stuff!

This year’s festival showcases women’s achievements in mountaineering.

This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the passing of Wanda Rutkiewicz, so we will devote a lot of time to the heritage of this pioneering Polish climber and to celebrating women in mountaineering in general. We will host meetings with alpinists including Karolina Ośka, Ilona Gawęda and Małgosia Jurewicz. We will show a selection of films made by Rutkiewicz, and present the exhibition Wanda Rutkiewicz’s Archive, mainly comprising previously unpublished photos. The competition films for exemple several exploring women’s experience of climbing. They won’t simply focus on sport – each film carries a universal message and describes myriad challenges, including social, faced by women. They will include dramatic stories such as An Accidental Life (a powerful, honest documentary about Quinn Brett’s serious accident), A Woman's Place (a joyful story about the 100-year-old Pinnacle Club bringing together several generations of British female climbers), Big Things to Come and This Is Beth (introducing the American alpinists Alex Johnson and Beth Roden respectively who find that climbing helps them find their own place in society) and, last but not least, the incredible story of the mountain kayaker Nouria Newman titled Wild Waters.

Wild Waters (2022), dir. David Arnaud
photo courtesy of the organisers

What films will compete for the KFG Grand Prix 2022?

We have a list of almost forty films shortlisted for the International and Polish Film Competitions, over half of which will be screened as premieres. There are too many titles to list, but I’d like to mention a few. The Last Mountain: The Story of Tom Ballard is a powerful, moving story of the alpinist who died on Nanga Parbat. Slegàto tells the tale of the Italian climber Alfredo Webber whose goal is to complete a free solo pass of an 8c route. Longing for Áhkká features stunning images of Swedish mountains as part of a moving family story with skiing motifs. We will also be showing a film about a legendary Basque expedition, Mendiak 1976, featuring a Cracovian accent: after one of the participants had an accident, a nearby Polish team stepped in to help, saving his life. The screening will be followed by a meeting with the filmmakers and participants in the Cracovian expedition from 1976. I’d also like to mention two Polish titles: the art documentary The Way telling the story of local climber Maciek Dobrzański, and the nostalgic biopic I Dreamt of Połonina covering the life of Ludwik Pińczuk – founder of a famous refuge in the Bieszczady mountains.

The Way (2022), dir. Wojciech Kozakiewicz
photo courtesy of the organisers

How are you marking the festival’s anniversary?

We’ve worked hard on every detail, but of course we also want to include some interesting anniversary themes. One of them is special screenings of memorable films from past editions of the festival. We had hundreds to choose from, but the ones we have selected focus on our main mission: inspiring adventure and exploration. King Lines showcases Chris Sharma’s iconic climbs. We’ll return to the classic film Valhalla celebrating life in remote Canada and joy found in nature and off-piste skiing. In Autana, Leo Houlding and his team make the first ascent of a remote mountain in Venezuela. The anniversary is also the perfect opportunity to explore mountain cinematography through a discussion with the Italian historian and journalist Roberto Mantovani.

What else can we expect?

There will be a meeting with the Cracovian director Marcin Koszałka and other creators of the film Goralenvolk, currently under development. We will talk about how they want to show climbing in the Tatras and how they shot scenes in particular mountain locations. The literary meeting programme presents the latest releases – mountaineering literature is enjoying peak popularity, which we will be discussing with authors, protagonists and readers. The festival has always stressed the importance of safety in the mountains, and as usual we will host workshops and training courses with experts. All this will be held in the state-of-the-art interiors of ICE Kraków. Although we don’t have a red carpet, I hope that the most important elements of the festival programme will provide plenty of emotions and inspiration!

Piotr Turkot
Co-founder of, Poland’s leading website dedicated to climbing and alpinism. Co-publisher of the quarterly “Outdoor Magazyn”. Involved with the Krakow Mountain Festival since the start, responsible for the event’s programme. President of the Polish Outdoor Group. In his (scarce) time he is a fan of rock climbing.

Alicja Głów
Journalist, independent audio producer, curator of the Mountain Documentaries section of the OFF CINEMA Documentary Festival. She provides media relations for the Kraków Mountain Festival and other travel festivals. Producer of eight seasons of a travel show for Radio Afera. Creator of audio notes for the Polish Greenland Expedition A-22-750 and the 6th season of the Safe Kazbek project. Privately fan of slow living, mountain hikes and kayaking.

The interview was published in the 4/2022 issue of "Kraków Culture" quarterly.


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