Forbidden Pilgrimage / Pèlerinage Interdit

a creative documentary by Ellen Vermeulen.

“Il y a longtemps que je sais que la montagne est une femme. Il y a entre elles des affinités certaines: beauté, mystère, danger, caprice, variété d’humeur et de caractère.”


By leaving her footprints on the virgin mountain Déodakni in 1952, Marie-Louise Chapelle becomes the first woman ever to conquer a virgin Himalayan summit. But is was her ‘Pèlerinage Interdit’, her forbidden pilgrimage, as few days before her glorious moment, she was refused to climb another mountain, the Chaukhamba. She was refused because she was a woman. And if a woman can reach a top, the mountain is considered to be just a hill. That was the general belief back in 1952.

10 years earlier, she made a radical decision that shattered her bourgeoisie life: six moths a year she will live at home with her husband and four children, the other six months she will travel around the world and climb mountains with her guide Frendo.

For the next 50 years, she lives a life torn apart.

What makes a woman split her life in two? And how does she deal with the consequences?


The project received script, development and production support from the Flanders Film Fund (VAF) and was selected for ARCHIDOC 2013 and EURODOC 2015.