This morning was my 10th summit of Longs Peak so far this year, and the third this week. My previous two times up the mountain earlier in the week were both probably the toughest conditions I’ve experienced on the mountain. Temperatures weren’t unreasonable, but on both Wednesday and Friday the mountain was completely socked in by unforecasted, heavily-snowing clouds, and whipping winds sent constant waves of spindrift through the air. Though it was a week late, it felt more like winter than any of my previous true winter ascents of the mountain.
This morning was quite a bit different. On the way up there was plenty of snow blowing in the wind, but once I had made it to the west side of Mt. Lady Washington the wind mostly died and the rest of the day was exceedingly pleasant. All of the snow on the north face made the technical climbing feel easy and secure, so on the way down I just downclimbed instead of rappeling, and since the sun was now high in the sky I actually stripped down to a short-sleeve t-shirt at 13,000′ and ran back down to the trailhead in comfort.
I recently visited the factory where Ultimate Direction is made. This was extremely worthwhile: I met all the people we work with, saw the entire production process, reviewed prototypes for our completely revamped 2014 product line, then discussed the changes and improvements we wanted to make directly with the people who will be implementing them.
And, since the factory is in the Philippines, my morning run was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, followed by a quick swim. Very different than the 11 inches of snow and 8 degree temperature in Boulder this morning!
I also wanted to check on working conditions over there – I’ve always wondered if there really are “sweat shops” – what was our factory like? To be socially, environmentally, and technically progressive is very important to me personally, and thus I always want to move Ultimate in that Direction. And (presumably by coincidence), this town happened to be the start of the infamous “Bataan Death March” in WWll!
Upon arrival, my worst fears were realized: working conditions were really hard …
Getting up the hill this particular day wasn’t going to be easy. When I awoke, the gently flaking sky seemed benign enough, but now, half-way up Green Mountain, my jacket is soaked through, I’m slogging through shin-deep powder and a raucous north wind is inducing periodic white-out conditions. Up here on the hill, the snow rate has officially crossed the line from “bucolic snow-globe scene” to “blizzard”. A quick tag of the summit and I turn to begin the slalom back down, eager to regain the shelter of the forest.
As I’m running the streets back down to my apartment—indulgently striding right down the center, taking advantage of the universally higher amounts of inertia that exist in homes on weekend mornings, especially when it’s snowing—I am reminded of my roots as a runner. When I was 13, I would regularly run 20 milers in this kind of crap, I think. Thirteen. Over 15 years later, my current pursuits—100 mile mountain races, all-day peak-bagging efforts—suddenly make a lot more sense with that kind of perspective and history.