It’s been a few weeks since I was lucky enough to head to Sallanches in the French Alps with Decathlon, for a fantastic couple of days of hiking and exploring. The weather was just as gorgeous as it is now though, and the scenery was simply stunning! As someone who doesn’t ski, I’d never really thought about visiting the Chamonix region, thinking it was just for winter sports, but there’s so much more to the area than that, as I soon discovered.
The aim of the trip was to find out more about Quechua, one of Decathlon’s own brands, created in 1997 as the home for hiking, climbing, mountaineering, ski and snowboard products.* The name comes from the Quechua people, located at the heart of the Andes, in Peru, as an example of how to integrate and adapt to the mountain environment. The brand hopes to make hiking and camping available to everyone, and Quechua do truly produce fantastic quality products, which convey that love for the mountains.
*They have since separated ski and snowboard into Wed’ze, climbing and mountaineering to Simond, and trail running to Kalenji so Quechua is now purely hiking and camping.
As part of our trip we headed out into the mountains ourselves to trial some of the Quechua kit including the MH500 women’s hiking boots, designed for technical trails and all weathers. We were lucky enough to enjoy brilliant sunshine and hot temperatures, but I put the waterproofing to the test in a nearby mountain stream just to see how they stood up!
I have to say, I was very impressed. I’m always wary of trying out new kit on actual adventures, having not had the chance to test it beforehand for any chafing/blisters/sizing issues etc but these were very comfortable right from the off. The boots are really lightweight and cushioned, and even standing ankle deep in running water, I emerged with completely dry feet!
However, as lovely as the boots were, I didn’t spend a lot of the hike staring at my feet. Our journey took us on a 7km circular loop that began on a woodland trail through pine trees, alongside the aforementioned stream. We were soon heading up and up and up until we emerged into lush green wildflower meadows with epic views across to Mont Blanc. It completely took my breath away, and not just because of the steep climbs!
We stopped for a typically French lunch of baguettes, cheese and ham sitting on the edge of a grassy hillside at 1690m, the whole of the Chamonix valley spread out before us. Our descent presented the new challenge of scree and loose rocks, but the boots were up to the task and it was all too soon before we reached the end of our route, hot and sweaty but exhilarated. I would definitely love to revisit the area to do some more hiking, the trails were clearly signposted and well-trodden although we didn’t really see many people – our picnic spot was very much a private one, with just the (hungry) birds for company!
The home of Quechua in this region is the fabulous Mountain Store, which I highly recommend you visit if you’re in the area. The building is huge, which as well as being home to an outdoor enthusiast’s shopping paradise, has a lot of exciting behind-the-scenes aspects as well. This is where all Decathlon hiking and camping products come to life! Teams of colleagues work together to create innovative new designs, which are then developed into prototypes right there in the Mountain Store. They’re tested in-house, and put through their paces by ambassadors on the trails, tracks and slopes of the surrounding area, before being sent off to be mass-produced for retail. It’s an unusual process, and one I’m not sure a lot of other brands go through, to really ensure that they’re producing kit that works for the customer.
I continue to be impressed by Decathlon and their sub-brands, and Quechua is definitely one of my favourites, from the Air Seconds 4.1 XL inflatable tent to the great women’s hiking boots I tested on this trip. Plus I was completely blown away by the stunning landscape surrounding Mont Blanc and Sallanches – I’m so keen to plan a return visit!
Have you been to the French Alps? Have you tried any Quechua kit?
NB: This was a complimentary trip thanks to Decathlon, but as always all opinions are my own.