Marchalp – The film

On July 6 and 7, 2019, a troop of 50 people, including knights and men in armor, crossed the Col de Mary (2641 m) in the Alpes de Haute-Provence. The scientific expedition, conducted as part of the Marchalp research project, gave rise to two documentaries and several public events that provided numerous opportunities for mediation between research and civil society.

© Megapix'Ailes & Heliatus
© Megapix'Ailes & Heliatus
© Megapix'Ailes
© Megapix'Ailes

    The Marchalp project is based on a historic event that took place in the summer of 1515, the prelude to the victory at Marignan: the crossing of the Vars and Larche Alpine passes by King François I in armour, accompanied by thousands of men, horses and cannons. Scouts, guided by the knight Bayard, hypothetically passed through the Col de Mary. At the time, this was an extraordinary logistical, physical and moral feat, comparable to that of Hannibal.

    At a distance of 500 years, and in order to better understand the physical performance involved in moving armed troops through mountainous terrain, Marchalp attempts to recreate this effort by restoring the constraints of this crossing thanks to the combined contributions of history, biomechanics, computer science and physiology. The equipment (4 suits of armor) had to be reproduced as accurately as possible, and the presence of horsemen led us to turn to specialists in the equine world and re-enactment. In addition to the scientists, sportsmen, soldiers and enthusiasts who take part in the experiment, a doctor accompanies the expedition.

    The project revisits the history that led Western societies to tame the perilous space of the mountains. Before mountaineering and outdoor recreation, it was very often men of war who had to conquer the slopes and make unprecedented efforts in the face of verticality. Without their audacity and innovation, the mountains we know today would not be quite the same.

    Two professional documentaries have been produced, retracing the expedition. One of them, Des Chevaliers dans la montagne, co-produced by Labex ITTEM, was awarded the Prix Jeunesse for scientific adventure films at the Rencontres Montagnes et Sciences 2019. The results of this experiment will be published in 2021. The project has also given rise to numerous conferences, meetings, interviews, reports and exhibitions. During the expedition, a camp set up in Maljasset was open to the public.

    Finally, the project has also spawned a partnership between Grenoble Alpes University and the 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade, with the creation of the Conflict, Innovation, Mountain research chair.

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