From valleys to summits … An initiatory quest in Gaston Mercier

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“The valleys are the quiet moments of life but sometimes you have to go to the peaks to find yourself in adversity and see the birth of these famous links so precious.”

At Gaston Mercier, we like to design and manufacture saddles that will later write beautiful stories of life between a horse and his rider. When Cyril offered us his story, we immediately wanted to write it with him and tell it to you.

Hello Cyril, can you tell us about yourself?

My name is Cyril and I am 26 years old. I grew up in the countryside in the village of Montcel near Aix-les-Bains in Savoy where I currently live.

My father had a pedagogical farm, I was always surrounded by animals, new friends with the school classes that parade over the months, it was really the foot. Without forgetting all the sensitization on the fauna and the flora that induced to live in a teaching farm. We had a lot of animals but horses have always been the hard core of the activity, my father being more passionate about animal traction.

I made my debut on Shetlands: Pins and Frisquette, two inseparable spiders who found themselves in another world a few years ago now. For traction, my father had chosen Fjords and I must confess not to remember their arrival, for me they have always been there. Kamaee was part of it, it was with her that I had the most hooked atoms and since we share a few moments together, the time of a hike lost in the middle of nature.

You introduce us to your mare Kamaee?

Ah sorry, I said too much in the previous question! But don’t worry, there is still more to say about it. Kamaee is a Fjord, the owners of Fjord will understand why I repeat myself.

It is an animal with a strong character and when it has an idea in mind it is often difficult to make him let go. To say, on a ride, it happens to him to want to choose his route and I find myself having to make concessions on the direction to take so that one can both pass a good hike. Here at the moment I am in full preparations for departure and we go out a little less often: well she knows how to make me understand! She has what could be called a dirty character but they are horses that need to work and be close to the man otherwise it is difficult to draw the expected benefits.

What is the genesis of this hike?

A few months ago I lost Kamaee’s cousin, Kali, a beautiful mare when it came to fetching a few trunks in the forest. I had some projects with her like selling bread in a carriage. On the day of her death, I realized that Kamaee was getting old and the urge to push our relationship beyond habits was felt. If there are stronger links to weave between us, I understood that it was now and not tomorrow.

Why “From valleys to summits”?

“From valleys to summits” because in Savoie it is what we have around us, it is our environment. The valleys are the calm moments of life but sometimes you have to go to the peaks to find yourself in adversity and see these famous links so precious.

When are you leaving ?

Departure is scheduled for June 22 in the morning. As you would have understood I do not go with an Arabian thoroughbred to aim for stellar qualifications. The goal is above all to finish the loop! Kamaee is 19, I’m really curious to see how she’s going to handle this trip. We have set the date of July 22nd for the return. I am likely to appreciate the challenges and if Kam goes well we will not drag.

What will your itinerary be?

Carte Randonnée de vallées en sommets avec Gaston Mercier

We leave Montcel to join Le Revard over Lac du Bourget. Then we will go through the Maurienne valley to Termignon. Then we will cross the Vanoise National Park to reach Val d’Isère and continue towards the Petit Saint Bernard Pass to pass through the Aosta Valley.

From there I would like to join Courmayeur, and return by the Mont Blanc massif by the GR Tour du Mont Blanc. We had to go through Switzerland but the boring laws led us to prefer to stay between French and Italians.

The return was intentionally less worked to leave a little more room for the unexpected, the last-minute choices. We can see it as a luxury when we go alone because with customers, we can not afford this kind of crazy. My only wish for the return is to stop to see the villages of my ancestors, where they lived, in the mountains. Go see my grandfather, my family in Albertville and spend a night at my cousin, which will mark a first great satisfaction before the last two or three days remaining to join the farm at Montcel.

With what equipment do you leave?

I tried to lighten up my equipment to invest a little in ultra light. I leave with a tent of 960g, an inflatable ultra light floor mat, a pillow on the advice of Yann Jeannin. I have not decided yet whether I took a down because bulky and a good survival blanket type Bivy can largely suffice below 1500m. The difficulty remains the peaks close to 3000m. I have already slept in a garbage bag at 2500m, but I still think to go for a test before the departure, it is more careful.

Then there are the essentials such as spare irons, nails, tricoise, pharmacy … All this weighs heavily but I consider that we can not stand as a phone, compass, solar panels, GPS watch. Finally for food, I would see depending on the place if I have the luxury of taking a stove. Here we have the outline. My detailed list includes more than 70 different articles.

Why choose a saddle Gaston Mercier?

I like to hack my equipment normally but over a long distance like that I did not want to take any risk of injury due to inappropriate friction. Having already ridden with a saddle Gaston Mercier it was clear that this was the best. I am talking about friction and risk of injury for the mare but there are also my little buttocks who like comfort and it is important to have no embarrassment.

Margeride saddle with padded seat

What was your choice of luggage?

For the luggage it was still necessary storage. Saddlebags were mandatory for the linen, the farrier kit, the pharmacy, the cards.

The fonts are also very convenient for catching or storing the material that you have to go out several times on the trail like water, a little food, the K-way because in the mountains we quickly made to be surprised by the rain. It avoids additional twists in the back to access the saddlebags.

For the Charvin I did not take the largest size. It seemed out of proportion to Kamaee, which is really not very big. But it’s enough for tent, carpet, tarp, pillow, hammer, foldable bucket and I even have room! The Charvin, it’s really my little crush of saddlery. The design is uncluttered, the simple and effective use and the straps allow to add material like my down for example. Then two snaps and a zip in the length to access the content are of great ease and speed to access the business, which we appreciate all the more after a hard day of hiking.

And the saddle pad ?

For the saddle pad we decided to take a shape memory without pocket, always in the idea of not overloading the already small mare and extra storage did not appear necessary.

What are your first impressions of the saddle Gaston Mercier?

The saddle I go with is different in many ways from the ones I used before. First of all, the model. I go from a Compiègne to a Margeride. I really like these cleats well characteristic of Gaston Mercier who hold your legs back and place you where you should be on the horse. It’s already one less thing to think!

The Margeride with which I leave has a new design at the seat forming small sausages. It gives it more character but at the level of the seat I admit to prefer a smooth material. To see the distance, I think I can be pleasantly surprised: more breathability, less numb thanks to the forms giving a little more dynamism.

The Gaston Mercier team surpasses itself to bring the best and on horseback, it makes you want to do the same

Padding in contact with the horse is also a new material very pleasant to the touch. We feel that it brings more lightness. In all cases we feel all the work upstream as much from an aesthetic point of view as technical. The team Gaston Mercier surpasses himself to bring the best and on horseback, it makes you want to do the same.

How does Kamaee react?

It’s hard to say because the saddle is accompanied by all the luggage and with fonts, saddlebags, Charvin, we almost forget that there is a saddle under! Moreover, she is not used to being so over-equipped. At first I climbed 90% of the time bareback. But if I had to be critical I would say that there is no visible discomfort except for the heat that generates all this equipment but with the temperatures that we have at the moment, it is difficult to do better.

How do you feel before the start of your adventure?

I have the impression to relive a race of 1000 meters in athletics: there is the announcement, you know that you will run, you try to predict where to manage your efforts, which corner to accelerate … Then we place you on the line, we look at who you are, we record you, the time is long, the wait too, the sensations almost unpleasant until the start. And there, it’s over, you do not fight anymore, you’re in action. I can not wait to be in action. But unlike any other sport, in outdoor riding, stop drinking lemonade or nap under a tree, even stay 1 full day at a place that enchants you that’s also part of the game is that’s what makes this activity great.

And Kamaee ?

Kamaee has recently had some minor health problems requiring antibiotics. I do not hide that I was worried for her and for the hike. But the opinion of the veterinarian remains favorable for this trek. I will have to redouble my vigilance on his health, but the scenarios including stages bivouac have done very well. We feel that she is really discovering new horizons and that seems to excite her. She will have to learn how to manage her efforts, mainly to sleep in the middle of the day, eat at night and especially not to go back to her comfort around the farm, which is important for her.

Where will you sleep your first night?

A short break-in stage to begin will certainly bring us to the summit of Revard. The view of Lac du Bourget and Aix-les-Bains is splendid and it will be an opportunity to take the time to say goodbye to this beautiful region and all the people who support me in this project.

Thank you Cyril and have a good trip with Kamaee