Despite having parents who are mad keen on hiking, and having ‘climbed’ (albeit in a backpack!) my first mountain around the age of one, these days I don’t get to spend much time exploring in the hills. It’s a shame, because every time I do get out on the mountains I love it and come back renewed and relaxed. I love the feeling of being outside, in wild places and using my own two feet to navigate my to spots you can’t reach any other way. It’s magical. So obviously when I got a call from the team at Decathlon asking if I fancied heading to the Mont Blanc region to hang out with the team behind Quechua and try out some of their gear I jumped!
The first thing that strikes you when you’re in the mountains is how big they are and how small you are. It’s mind-blowing knowing that the plates of the Earth have pushed together to rupture these epic ranges that crowed around you. It’s a very real reminder of the power of nature.
We were lucky enough to be taken out to explore these mountains with local guide Thibaut. Thibaut is hugely experienced, he grew up not far away and has the air of being a man of the mountains and a terrible sense of humour. When he’s not on the hills he works for Decathlon in one of their stores and is a huge advocate for Quechua’s product - there are so many people in the world of hiking and mountaineering who can be a bit dismissive of what Decathlon’s doing, preferring expensive niche products that are intimidating to novices. However, Thibaut explained that he really likes the equalising nature of Decathlon, the price points are accessible to make it easier for people to try new things, and the products are really good quality! Plus he was able to share lots of feedback on how the kit works when you’re out on the mountains.
The real advantage of going out with a local is that they really know where they’re going. No faffing about with maps, furious google searches for routes or worrying about not being able to find your way back to the car, with Thibaut leading we were able to relax and enjoy the hike, taking in the breathtaking scenery as we climbed to 1690m. Our path up the mountain took us up steep woodland slopes, across rivers of fresh water (that you could drink! Nothing beats cold water straight from the river!), through patches of loose rocks and scree and into meadows of beautiful wildflowers where cattle used to graze. It was stunning, and the perfect way to test out some Quechua hiking boots!
My last pair of hiking boots died of old age. I’d bought them when I was 16 and about to go on expedition to Ecuador. They were the most expensive thing I’d ever bought and I was very proud of them. 15 years later and they finally bit the dust, the soles cracking and the waterproofing dead. At the time I didn’t replace them, I had trail shoes and I figured that new boots would just be too expensive, especially as I wasn’t hiking much. The thought of picking some up from Decathlon didn’t even cross my mind, and I was so used to boots being mega expensive I doubted anything cheaper would be any good. It’s a good thing that I like to be proved wrong, because the Quechua boots I wore for this hike were awesome! They were the perfect balance of light and durable (you don’t want to feel like your feet are encased in concrete when you’re hauling yourself up a slope), yet solid and protective. I could feel the ground and work with it, but I also knew that my feet weren’t going to get destroyed. The boots were also totally waterproof. I know, I stood in a stream to test them. Totally waterproof boots at this price point feels pretty amazing!
Heading down off the mountain covered in sweat and with aching legs I felt like I’d found the gateway to my happy place. There is nothing more satisfying than feeling like you’ve really used your body and that you’re going to sleep well that night (and I really did, out like a light as my head hit the pillow). Spending the day in the mountains, exploring with amazing people really was the dream, and it really showed that you really don’t need fancy kit to go for a hike. Some decent boots, comfy clothes and good basic food. There’s so much ‘stuff’ on the market that you can be tricked into thinking you need it all, or that you need to spend loads of money, but keep it simple and you’ll have the best time!
*Big thanks to Natasha for sharing her beautiful pictures! *
* Thank you so much to Decathlon for inviting me to spend time in the Alps, and to the team at Quechua for making me feel so welcome. Decathlon organised this trip and provided me with kit to test, but all opinions are my own*