November 14, 2015
There are few places that I enjoy running at more than on the Continental Divide at Loveland Pass, CO. Choose one direction, and within 5 miles you have climbed nearly 3,000ft over a 13er, then Grey’s and Torrey’s, both over 14,000 ft. Choose the other direction, and follow ridges that tower over forests and lakes for as far as the eye can see.
I found myself in the vicinity of Loveland Pass this week during a quick trip to Colorado. I always have a change of running clothes and shoes in the car, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to drive a little bit out of the way to run in my favorite places. (Okay, so it was 3.5 hours round trip out of the way… worth it.)
I arrived at the Loveland Pass summit exactly at noon. I stepped out of my rental car, silently applauding it for somehow making to the top. The sky was a blanket of blue above me, seemingly being held up only by the countless mountain peaks that lined the horizon in every direction. Per normal, there was a significant breeze. This time, it was carrying a wintery chill with it.
I reached in to my Ultimate Direction SJ Vest and grabbed the Ultra Jacket, which was tucked away effortlessly inside. I typically keep it stored in my vest this time of year in case I need it for unexpected weather; at just over 3oz, it goes unnoticed.
I started heading up Cupid’s peak, the nearest mountain to the summit of the pass. Footing was better than expected for this time of year. A hard, thin layer of snow dotted the trail in places, mixed in with the equally present rocky dirt. It was a perfect situation to be wearing the Altra Lone Peak Neoshell’s, which are waterproof and gritty enough to claw their way through any sort of terrain.
After a short few minutes, I was plenty warm and started shedding layers. I folded up my lightweight sweater and slid it between the bungees on the SJ Vest, securely out of the way but easily accessible if needed. I never had to reach back for it though. Even with the mid-teen windchill temperatures, I stayed perfectly comfortable in a long sleeve tech shirt and the Ultra Jacket. Being waterproof and windproof, it truly is a great barrier from the elements.
I continued my way up Cupid, alternating between hiking and running. Gasp. I was reminded that at just shy of 13,000ft, I was about 25 times higher elevation than Michigan. From the top, I gazed at the Continental Divide, watching it pass over Grey’s Peak, which was vibrantly reflecting the sunshine from it’s snowcapped peak. Meanwhile, I did my best to hold my ground as the wind whipped into me. I unrolled the built-in mittens from inside the jacket and put them over my gloves, helping to keep my hands a bit warmer.
I turned around to run back, the wind now in my face. I put on the hood of the Ultra Jacket and tightened it up. I realized that even through all the effort expended in climbing up here, running, and pushing through snow, I was still completely dry in the jacket. It was nice to know that it was breathable enough not to collect condensation, especially at a time of year and location where hypothermia could be a very real threat.
I bombed down the valley I had just come up, and was back to Cupid in no time. One other hiker was nearly to the top. I passed her on my way down. We exchanged something like “hey! its a beautiful day to be out here!” screaming, still inaudibly, over the wind. We understood each other’s efforts and just smiled and nodded in comprehension.
To sum up my experience with the Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket:
-Extremely lightweight and packable
-surprisingly good at keeping you warm
-built in mittens are a lifesaver when your fingers get cold
-Waterproof and windproof, yet breathable
-the hood is an added bonus, especially the visor and air-channel that keeps your hair from getting sweaty.
-has an internal pocket to store a phone, tissues, calories, or anything you don’t want exposed to the elements.
-bungees at the waist and in the hoodie to cinch the jacket down to a personalized fit.