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How would a knight in full armour climb down from the top of a mountain?

Discussion in 'Research' started by Ruby, Dec 29, 2013.

  1. Ruby

    Ruby Auror

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    How would a knight wearing full armour climb down from the top of a mountain? Would he need to leave some, or all, of his armour behind on the summit?

    Obviously, he hasn't climbed up the mountain (this is a Fantasy story). But if he took off the armour he wouldn't be able to carry it with him when he climbed down, would he?
     
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    Are we talking full plate armour? All shiny and bright? If he could get out of his armour, then he could tie the pieces together [on a rope or in a bag/net]. At that point he could probably hang it below him as he climbed down. Some parachutists [fire jumpers and paratroopers etc] do this with a drop bag they carry their gear in [100kg]. It hangs below them a few feet to let them jump free but carry extra gear. You don't want land with the extra weight on your back.
    I can't see it being easy and there would almost certainly be damage to the armour as well as a lot of noise!
    I think scrambling down a mountain side would be just as hard, possibly harder. The knight would have to carry his armour and that would be awkward, painful and a constant threat to knock him over or throw him off balance.
    My initial thought is that a knight couldn't take off his armour without help or without ruining the various buckles or clasps. Is the an urban I meant fantasy legend that a knight can't take off his own armour?
    I can see that climbing in chain mail would be tiring hot work but do able.
     
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  3. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    I was so tempted to say very carefully!

    However taking the armour off isn't so hard. Putting it back on generally requires an assistant (squire). So if he takes it off he's not going to be getting redressed in a hurry.

    Still my best guess would be to strip, tie the armour together in some way, throw it down the mountain and then climb down after it. Hanging it from your feet like a fire jumper isn't a winner for me. You have to have the rope and all he'd likely have would be the ties holding the chest and back plate together. Plus it could get snagged on a rock, trapping him or worse tripping him. For that reason the sword would have to go down with the armour as well.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  4. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    What kind of climbing are we talking about? Going down sheer cliffs, hanging on by the fingers and toes, or are we talking about negotiating steep slopes? I've never done any mountain climbing, but I have hiked a few steep trails. Full plate armor weighed around 60 pounds, so hiking, even on steep trails, could certainly be done in full armor. There's a historical source - I can't remember who it was - that wrote of all the activities a knight should be able to do in full armor - run, jump up into the saddle. climb ropes, and all sorts of other things. And I've watched re-enactors in full plate armor do cartwheels. Plate armor was designed to conform to the human body, so generally the easiest way to carry it yourself was to wear it. So I would say the armor would be a problem if he had to to what we typically see rock climbers doing, but if it was something like walking down the mountain through passes or along trails, it would be entirely possible to do it in armor.

    Another consideration is temperature. Is it cold up on this mountain? If so, wearing metal armor would make the person wearing it freeze that much quicker.
     
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  5. Ruby

    Ruby Auror

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    Hi CupofJoe, I'm not sure whether he would be wearing full plate armour. He's on a quest and his opponent, who is arriving by sea (ha ha) is dressed in a doublet and hose and one of those pointy shoes that curl up at the toe.(He's lost the other one). This suggests to me that this is a medieval type of fantasy. So I need to find out what type of armour was available. I was once shown chain mail and it was really heavy. It just occurred to me, today, that the knight might have some difficulty climbing down the mountain.:)
    I also have seen armour in the Tower of London and remember being told that knights couldn't dress themselves and that if they fell over they were unable to get up again unaided. Battles must have been a lot of fun!
     
  6. Ruby

    Ruby Auror

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    Hi psychotick/Greg, yes I wondered if you might find this amusing. However, this is for the Reaver challenge, and it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to find out how to get the knight down the mountain at the first draft stage of writing the story.
    I thought if he climbed down wearing armour he might fall off a precipice. Also, wouldn't armour be rather noisy and put him in danger from predators?
    On the other hand, if he throws the armour down the mountain he might damage it or injure the hero who's just landed on the beach. (I'm not giving the plot away here, it's in the brief for the challenge.) Have you read a story before where the knight just throws his armour down the mountain? :confused:
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2013
  7. Guru Coyote

    Guru Coyote Archmage

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    I would be very interested in seeing that historical source! From what I've seen of full plate armor, even the modern re-enacter type... I'd say that the weight is the least of the issues. Far more of a problem is dexterity, simple things like reaching up higher than your shoulders etc.
    It's possible we are talking about very different styles of armor though, but I'd weigh in with the "a fallen knight can't rise on his own' train of thought.

    But as Ruby states, it's not clear if we are talking full-plate anyway. Full-plate was a rather short lived thing anyway, usually only worn by knights on horse back and soon made obsolete by crossbow and firearm. Why wear a tin if anyone can fire a hole into it?
     
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  8. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    Here's the source.



    It depends on the definition of climbing.

    Climbing down a rope in armor -- any kind of armor -- would be possible if you knew the technique; you would do a fast-rope with the rope around one leg and your other foot as a brake. This is really more of a slide than a climb, but it's not impossible. The trick would be explaining how he learned it.

    Any type of technical rock climbing, anything more than a scramble up or down an incline over fist-sized hand- and footholds, would be pretty much out in almost any kind of armor.

    Simply walking down a mountainside in armor? Even in full harness, there's nothing to it. The problem with armor wasn't that it hampered mobility, it's that it took a lot of energy out of you. There was a Popular Mechanics article with guys in 15th-Century armor on a treadmill, testing their oxygen usage with a respirometer. They found that wearing full harness takes about twice as much energy and oxygen as not wearing it.

    It's the same problem with modern ballistic armor, today. It's hot, it's heavy, it chafes. You're worn to a frazzle at the end of the day and all you can think about it getting out of it. I've run obstacle courses in the IOTV, which with all its plates weighs more than a shirt of mail. It sucks, but it's doable.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2017
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  9. Ruby

    Ruby Auror

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    Hi Guy, having read the very helpful advice above, I think that there will have to be mountain passes, or the knight is not going to make it. I think it is usually cold at the top of a mountain, but I believe he has landed on a tropical island. However, that would mean he is exceedingly hot when on the beach. Thank you for the information about the different things knights were trained to do in full armour. I am going to do some more research about types of armour, now.
     
  10. Ruby

    Ruby Auror

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    Hi Malik, Wow! Thank you so much for posting this video.
     
  11. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    French knight Jean de Maingre (ca. 1366—1421), also known as Maréchal Boucicault.

    A lot of re-enactor armor isn't historically accurate. Historical armor wasn't a uniform thickness. The armor for the limbs was typically thinner than the front of the breastplate, for example. A lot of re-enactment armor is uniform thickness and therefore heavier than historical armor. Get Dressed For Battle sells a suit of Gothic plate that weighs about twice what it should. Like I said, historical plate armor weighed around sixty pounds, far less than what a contemporary soldier carries into battle. If we know that wearing armor too heavy for the wearer to get up was a bad idea, why wouldn't the professional fighters, the men who actually used this equipment, whose lives depended on it, also know that? The idea that a man in plate who fell over is erroneous. I think there are several reasons for this belief:

    There was plate armor that was designed specifically to withstand the impact of jousting. This armor could get very heavy, but it was never intended for the battlefield. It was intended solely for jousting. One way to distinguish such armor from battle armor is if the helmet had to be bolted onto the cuirass, it was jousting armor.

    In the race between gun makers and armorers, armorers did end up crafting some heavy armor that could withstand gunfire, but this stuff was rare and never widely used. Armor that's so heavy it makes movement impossible is counterproductive.

    After hours of fighting, exhaustion could make it difficult to move in armor, leading to the idea that a man in armor couldn't get up without help. My mail shirt only weighs about twenty pounds, but it doesn't take long to feel those extra twenty pounds

    The idea that battle armor was so heavy comes from the Victorians, the same people who said the medieval sword was heavy and clumsy. Anyone who's handle such a sword can attest to how wrong this belief is.

    Arms and Armor—Common Misconceptions and Frequently Asked Questions | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2013
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  12. There's even the urban myth that a knight in full plate couldn't get on his horse without a crane or pulley. That's rubbish of course. Imagine an army of knights saddling up for battle!

    Tournament armor was a lot thicker than normal armor because you didn't need much mobility (except in your arms) to joust. A joust didn't take long either, unlike some battles.

    Demi-lancers often had reinforced plate armor to protect from gunfire but by that time, most professional soldiers choose a thick, reinforced breastplate over a full suit of armor. It was cheaper and because they didn't carry the extra weight of a full suit of armor, they could carry a thicker breastplate.
     
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  13. Guru Coyote

    Guru Coyote Archmage

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    Very good points about jousting and battle-armor.
    There is the idea of foot-soldiers going about after a battle and killing off the knights who coulsn't rise out of the mud... but that could well be explained by exaustion and injury.
     
  14. Highly unlikely they did that. If you capture them alive, they're worth a fortune in ransom. In the (faulty) hypothesis that armor is so heavy you can't get up, it would be the ideal scenario for capturing knights. They can't fight back.

    Foot-soldiers were sometimes sent out on the battlefield to stab knights (and other footmen) with the misericorde. Mercy duty would be a good name for it. Basically you stab everyone who's too injured to be saved. If your skull is fractured, your chances of survival are nada so it's best to avoid a painful death with a quick stab from the misericorde.
     
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  15. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    From what you and others have said, I would guess that climbing/scrambling down a mountain could be done but the risk of tripping and falling would be heightened. If you've ever hiked with a rucksack, then you will know what I mean. You can walk, climb styles, run even, but if you trip then you find yourself face first in the dirt. Every mistake is amplified. I've always found going down worse than going up. Gravity lends it's helping hand and things tend to happening faster and get worse if you make a mistake going down a slope.
    I've worn chain mail [at a re-enactment day] and it was heavy but it is a distributed loan close to the body so apart from getting tired fairly quickly [I've not trained to wear it] it was easy to forget about. But without a good layer of padding between me and it I can only thing that it was uncomfortable if not out-rightly painful to wear for long.
     
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  16. Knights usually wore a gambeson under their chainmail. That would definitely alleviate the chafing and the pressure.
     
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  17. Ruby

    Ruby Auror

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    Hi Abbas-Al-Morim, thank you for this. Is it an urban myth then that a knight could not stand up again once he was knocked down in battle?
     
  18. Ruby

    Ruby Auror

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    Hi CupofJoe, I was at a Steamfair once in a London country park where they were staging a re-enactment of knights fighting and some bright spark dressed as a knight gave me some chain mail to hold. I had a shock when I discovered how heavy it was and immediately dropped it! Presumably, when we see actors playing knights on stage or in films, they are not wearing real armour?
     
  19. Ruby

    Ruby Auror

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    Apparently the idea about a knight needing a pulley and a crane in order to mount his horse, came from Mark Twain who wrote about this in his book A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
    Have any of you looked at Malik's video of the man in armour? He seems to have a normal range of movement despite the armour. However, I can see from the small amount of research I've done so far into this, that armour varied a lot in different ages and cultures.
    The armour I've seen in the Tower of London looked heavier than this. I think it was worn in Tudor England. Would the armour worn by medieval knights have been lighter?
     
  20. Guru Coyote

    Guru Coyote Archmage

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    From all that has been said here, I'd think it's very important to see what the armor was worn FOR. Tournament or actual warfare? To impress or to fight?

    Also, the point about different times and cultures is a good one. What do we mean by 'a knight' wnyway?

    Then there is also the question of the knight being cavalry or on foot. Did they have a gaggle of aids or just a squire? All that would very much define what kind of armor was practical.

    In any case, my own idea of 'knightly armor' has been expanded by this discussion :)
     
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