Media release: ‘Death Zone’ mountaineer, Nirmal Purja, to headline Fort William Mountain Festival 2020

Everest summit

THE Fort William Mountain Festival 2020 programme has been announced today (17-11-19), with the exciting news that 36 year-old Nepalese mountaineer and former Gurkha in the British Special Forces, Nirmal Purja MBE, who summited all 14 ‘death zone’ mountains (over 8,000 metres) in a record obliterating six months, will headline the programme with a truly inspirational talk highlighting this Herculean task.

In its 16th year, organisers of the Fort William Mountain Festival will once again stage a stunning line-up packed full of inspiration, education and entertainment, action and adventure, at venues in and around the bustling Highland town of Fort William, at the heart of the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’, from Wednesday 19 to Sunday 23 February 2020.

The programme includes presentations from world-class outdoor adventurers, together with adrenaline-filled and thought-provoking films from both the festival’s very own international film competition entries and the Banff Centre Mountain Festival World Tour; a number of award nights, including The Scottish Awards for Excellence in Mountain Culture and The Photographer of the Year Award, celebrating a range of outstanding achievements; some thought-provoking environmental discussions; and a collection of quality fringe events including winter mountain skills workshops, yoga classes and bike and running themed nights.

Visitors to and residents of Lochaber can celebrate everything that the great outdoors has to offer at the 16th Fort William Mountain Festival, which is presented in association the Nevis Landscape Partnership, Heritage Lottery Fund, the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’, and the Highland Council.

Rod Pashley, chair of The Highland Mountain Culture Association, organisers of the Fort William Mountain Festival, said: “Celebrating the wild landscape that surrounds us in Fort William and Lochaber is the inspiration behind the mountain festival. The mountains, glens, rivers and coastline influence our culture in many ways, whether it is the beauty of the landscape, our engagement with it or the opportunities we find in it.

“The Fort William Mountain Festival has something for everyone with a love for the outdoors. With an exciting programme of adventure and events taking place throughout the region the festival offers a superb line-up of inspirational talks from top climbers and mountaineers, mountain bikers, mountain runners and mountain filmmakers, together with exhilarating film screenings from cutting-edge outdoor adventurers; mountain skills workshops and exhibitions.

“We are especially pleased to announce that our main Saturday night speaker will be the remarkable ‘Nims’ Purja, who has successfully climbed all 14, 8000m peaks in less than seven months. An astonishing record and achievement! Normally, this takes seven years.

“Of course, the festival is not just for high adrenaline adventure enthusiasts. It is for everyone who appreciates the great outdoors. With the best winter walking, climbing and snowsports conditions of the year, visiting Fort William and Lochaber in February for the mountain festival is the perfect time of year to experience the stunning landscape of the area first-hand.”

The five-day Fort William Mountain Festival 2020 programme includes:

Festival launch night – Wednesday 19 February – Cameron Square, Fort William High Street

Music, live-streaming of exciting local outdoor events and back by popular demand the return of FlameOZ with fire and juggling. This is a non-ticketed event for all of the family

The International Film Night and the Photographer of the Year Awards – Thursday 20 February – Main Theatre, Nevis Centre, Fort William

Hosted by Paul Diffley of Hot Aches Productions. Audiences are invited to relax at a night of award-winning outdoor adventure films. The winners of the 2020 competition categories will be announced: People’s Choice, Best Short Film, Best Mountain Sports Film, Best Exploration and Adventure Film and the John Muir Trust Wild Places Film Prize. The new 2019 Young Photographer of the Year Award will be presented.

The Climbers Summit – Thursday 20 February – Studio Theatre, Nevis Centre, Fort William

Hosted by Mike Pescod of Abacus Mountain Guides. This session focuses on nutrition for climbing performance. Presenters include Sarah Kekus a nutritional therapist, Rebecca Dent is a high-performance dietician and Mina Leslie-Wujastyk is a rock climbing and bouldering competitor.

Bike Night – Friday 21February – Main Theatre, Nevis Centre, Fort William

Sponsored by Nevis Range.

Hosted by Emma Holgate. Speakers include Ben Cathro, who will introduce Cathrovision including outtakes and chat about the Downhill World Cup season 2019 with Q&A’s with some of the young’uns he is coaching, Katrina Brown, who will introduce her film all about motherhood and biking and Ed and Marion Shoote will chat about their epic Asia expedition on bikes.

Running Night – Friday 21 February – Studio Theatre, Nevis Centre, Fort William

Hosted by Es Tressider, who recently set his own Ramsay Round record. Speakers include Paul Tierney who set a new record round the Wainwrights and Anna McNuff who is running all around the UK barefoot!

Mountaineering Night with Nirmal ‘Nims’ Purja MBE – Saturday 22 February – Main Theatre, Nevis Centre, Fort William

Meet and listen to Nims Purja, former Gurkha and British Special Forces soldier and mountaineer, to hear about his remarkable achievement, climbing all 14 of the Earth’s 8000m peaks in a single season, six months and six days to be exact. The previous record was well over seven years.

SARDA: Meet the rescue dogs and puppies and learn about their training and experiences

The recipients of both The Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture and The Scottish Youth Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture will receive their awards at a special ceremony.  These prestigious awards recognise and celebrate lives spent in the hills, exploring everything the land has to offer whilst inspiring others along the way. The 2020 winners will be announced in early February.

Polar Night – Saturday 22 February – Studio Theatre, Nevis Centre, Fort William

This is our Environment Night with a twist… The focus is on climate change and the effects of global warming in polar regions. Supported by the British Antarctic Survey scientists will share their research from living and working in Antarctica.

Festival ceilidh – Saturday 22 February – Alexandra Hotel, Fort William – From 22:00 ‘til late with Riska Ceilidh band. Everyone’s welcome.

Matinee – Sunday 23 February – Main Theatre, Nevis Centre, Fort William – 16:00 – 18:00

Hosted by Ailsa Johnson-Ferguson. A collection of family-friendly films from the International Film Competition to inspire adventurers of all ages. This is a non-ticketed event.

Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour – Sunday 23 February – Main Theatre, Nevis Centre, Fort William

A selection of the finest mountain films to entertain, enthral and inspire from the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour.

NEW FOR 2020 – Secret Sessions – Thursday 20, Friday 21 and Saturday 22 February – Three Wise Monkeys Climbing, Fort William – 17:00 to 18:00.

Reserve a place to meet an interesting and inspiring person – but you won’t know who it is until you meet them. Surprise yourself! Food will be provided. Book your place through the festival website.

The exhibition zone

The Exhibition Zone at the Nevis Centre opens daily before the main programme events and during intervals. There will be the usual mix of mountaineering exhibits, books and trade stands.

The Photographer of the Year Award 2020

The Photographer of the Year competition is open to both adult and youth (anyone aged 17 and under). Applicants have been invited to submit one photograph with the theme, Mountain Moments, celebrating and expressing the love for the great outdoors, whether that is showing the achievements of people or taking us on a journey to a place that inspires. The judge is local photography legend and all-round mountain hero Alex Gillespie. The winning photographs will be displayed in the Exhibition Zone.

Workshop programme

Festival organisers have put together a wide range of workshops with plenty of opportunities for both novices and experts alike to get out and about amidst the beautiful Lochaber winter landscape.

To find out more about the Fort William Mountain Festival 2020 and to buy tickets, go to For up-to-the-minute news and event updates, go to


Media contacts:

Paddy Cuthbert | Littlehouse Media | E: | M: 07913 951717

Rod Pashley | Fort William Mountain Festival | E: | M: 07785282733

For downloadable images of Nirmal ‘Nims’ Purja MBE go to

The Fort William Mountain Festival on digital:

Website –

Instagram –

Facebook –

Vimeo –

If you are keen to attend activities and events at the 2020 Fort William Mountain Festival for a commissioned travel feature, or for an adventure/activity feature, please contact Paddy Cuthbert to discuss.

Notes for editors:

The Fort William Mountain Festival 2020 runs from Wednesday 19 to Sunday 23 February 2020 at venues in and around the bustling Highland town of Fort William, at the heart of the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’. The main presentations and film nights take place in the Nevis Centre and the festival launch night will take place on the Fort William High Street. Venues for workshops and other events can be found on the website.

The Fort William Mountain Festival 2020 programme is presented in association with Nevis Landscape Partnership, the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’, and the Highland Council.

The Fort William Mountain Festival 2020 is sponsored by Rare Breed Productions, Ellis Brigham, University of the Highlands and Islands, Strathmore Hotels, Abacus Mountain Guides, Jahama Estates, Nevis Range, the John Muir Trust, The Granite House, the Outdoor Capital of the UK, Print Smith, Lamont Design, Caledonian Discovery, Black Isle Brewery, Great Glen Charcuterie.

Festival tickets can sell out in advance particularly for the popular nights.

The festival attracts approaching 1,500 people over the five days and takes place each February in and around the town of Fort William.

Festival organisers – The Highland Mountain Culture Association Limited, is a not-for-profit organisation, whose aim is to promote the understanding and appreciation of the world’s mountain places and people, by creating opportunities for people of all ages to share their mountain experiences, ideas and visions. To showcase these ideals, it stages annually a programme of events within the Lochaber area, called The Fort William Mountain Festival. The festival is organised by a dynamic organising committee, all volunteers, made up of a team of hard-working local outdoor enthusiasts.

The ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’ is Lochaber Chamber of Commerce’s tourism brand, promoting adventure for all! The chamber publicises, sponsors and promotes Fort William and Lochaber as the best place in the UK for everyone to experience the outdoors; with a view to developing local jobs and wealth and encouraging sustainable economic growth. This is done through a range of collaborative marketing initiatives and activities. The organisation currently has a wide range of member businesses ranging from accommodation, food and drink and activity providers to non-tourism focused businesses who support the aims of the Lochaber Chamber of Commerce and acknowledge that tourism is crucial to the local economy. Many of these businesses are SMEs and by pulling resources and working as a team the Lochaber Chamber of Commerce achieves the positive results that individually the members couldn’t otherwise reach. The chamber also produces the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’ website, the go to site for local events, outdoor activities and visitor accommodation in the area. /

The prestigious Scottish Awards for Excellence in Mountain Culture recognise the achievements of inspiring individuals and their outstanding contributions to Scotland’s outdoor culture. In 2019, The Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture was presented to Noel Williams, inspirational high school teacher, author of respected mountain guides, founding member of the Lochaber Geopark, retired member of Lochaber Mountain Rescue and accomplished hill runner; and The Scottish Youth Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture was presented to Rob Cochrane, volunteer Cub and Scout group leader and a Duke of Edinburgh leader, from Inverlochy, Fort William.

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