It had only been 10 weeks since our last trip north but it somehow felt like 10 years. Clearly we were suffering from AMD (Acute Mountain Deprivation). Happily we were able to find a cure this weekend.
We left the house at 6:00 Sunday morning and had clear sailing all the way up. We pulled into the parking lot at Cardigan Lodge at 9:00 and were raring to go. The day was cloudy and the forecast called for wind (is it ever not windy on Cardigan) but at that point there wasn't a breath of air moving. We had to skip the summit when we were at Cardigan last January since we didn't have traction but this time we were prepared with our new microspikes which we were dying to put to the test.
The trails were all well packed (no surprise) and were perfectly fine for either bare booting (at least until the ledges) or traction all the way. We headed up the Manning trail to Firescrew. The temperatures were perfect and we had (of course) overdressed. After several stops in the first 1/2 hour we were down to just base layers and light fleeces. Even with no new snow in a couple of weeks the trees were still coated and the hike up the Manning was very pretty. When we got to the first ledges (where we had to turn back last year) the microspikes got their first test. Perfect - these things stick like glue!
At the top of Firescrew it got a bit windy but not uncomfortable. We headed across the Mowglis to Cardigan and enjoyed the views. The last set of ledges up to Cardigan summit were the toughest spot of the day. Steep and very icy with just enough coating of snow to make them tricky. We got up fine as did the group of 8 behind us who were all bare booting (I have no idea how they made it though). The wind picked up as we got to the summit and we shared a spot behind the base of the tower with the other folks on the summit and had lunch.
Since it was still early we decided to head over Orange Mt on the way back. We headed down the West Ridge trail as everyone else on the summit headed down Clark. It was a bit nerve wracking at first going downhill on the icy ledges but the traction worked great and we were soon comfortable again. As we were approaching the junction of the Skyland trail we met a couple coming back from that way who told us that it was unbroken and that they hadn't been able to find blazes to follow it. We decided to give it a shot anyway. We switched to snowshoes and headed in. After a few hundred yards we found where they had veered left just before turning around and to me it appeared that the trail went straight. Turned out that straight was correct and even without blazes the trail was pretty easy to follow. The blazes finally started again right before the Rimrock junction. Looking ahead we could see that Skyland wasn't broken leaving the junction and probably the whole way to Orange Mt. I knew from BarkingCat's post a couple of days ago that it was broken from Orange to the lodge but with a long day ahead for tomorrow we decided to just head back down the Clark. So back up to the South Summit, across to Clark and down to Cathedral Forest and Holt back to the lodge. Kept the snowshoes on the rest of the way down even though we really didn't need them. Overall a really nice hike.
This great day of winter fun provided an almost complete cure for our AMD. We finished off the day with a wonderful dinner and hanging out with our friends Tim and Val who graciously hosted us this weekend. We spent the evening scheming our Monday mountain plans and the remainder of our cure. But that's another story...
First views of Cardigan from the Firescrew ledges
Frozen "weeping" boulder
Still good views even with the clouds
Nat on the icy Firescrew summit
Cardigan summit ahead
Frosty on top
Happy to be back on a mountain. Photo courtesy of South Summit cairn "tripod"
Full album here: http://picasaweb.google.com/mtruman42/Cardigan11710#