Mt Cardigan - Clark Trail - November 10, 2018
There is rain and snow forecast in the morning so I go for a late start and am on the trail just before 11am. The parking lot is really slushy and it still looks like rain so I decide to wear my snow pants in case it gets really wet and cold. I set off towards Grand Junction and am planning to take the exact same route as I did last year.
The beginning section is all slush and in some parts there are muddy streams to cross. When I packed earlier I attached my micro spike to my boots ahead of time because I don't want to have to deal with them when my hands are cold and the rubber has hardened. For this section there is no ice and it is really pointless to have them on. At some point I look down and see I lost the spikes from one boot. I curse and trudge back a couple hundred feet until I find it and put it back on. No more than 1/4 mile later and I look down and see I lost the spikes from my other boot. I curse again and back track until I find it. This time I sit down and take them both off and stick them in my backpack.
Alexandria Ski Trail
First Aid Toboggan Cache
Upon reaching Grand Junction I head up the Alexandria Ski trail. I don't think you are really supposed to go up this way, but there isn't enough snow for anybody to be skiing and it's a lot more direct. This is fairly steep though and I find that I have to be careful with my footing so I don't slip and I'm also huffing and puffing pretty hard. This part isn't the most fun, it's a lot of work and there is no view. I'm sweating like crazy in my snow pants too, so far I haven't needed my down jacket or gloves. The higher I go the more frozen the snow is and less slushy it becomes, I would guess it's above freezing though
At the end of Alexandria Ski Trail
Finally I reach the overlook, PJ Ledge, it's rewarding to look across the valley below and makes a great resting spot. I continue onwards up Clark trail towards the summit. Soon the ground is becoming icy and because I'm not wearing my spikes it takes some effort to make sure I don't slip. Eventually the footsteps that I am following up stop and there isn't any obvious trail, but I just go up. Seems like I went over one hump and then all of a sudden the wind hits. There are a few clouds that seem to be rolling in and a couple snow flakes. It's not too ominous so I decide to keep going, but first I shelter behind a small ledge and put my spikes back on, I can see that above is really icy and that I'll need them. I also put my hat and gloves on, but leave my jacket in the backpack.
Immediately after setting off again the wind really hits me and even with my hat it feels like someone has dumped cold water on my head. I stop and take off my backpack, putting a foot through the loop because it feels like it might blow away, and carefully put on my jacket, taking care that this doesn't blow away either. As soon as I get my hood on I am toasty and from here I am really close to the summit and can see the tower. I get to the tower, huddle behind it, take a few pictures, and head back down.
Mt Cardigan Summit
At this point I make a mistake, I'm conscious that the wind is blowing me east and I try to offset that a bit, I overcompensate and start following the West Ridge trail down. I'm plodding along it's nice and easy now to descend. I also pass a group of three people who are coming up. I'm following cairns when it hits me - I wasn't following any cairns on the way up and that I've overshot where I want to be. Fortunately I didn't go too far and technically I know that further down this trail does connect to the one I actually want, but I'm not sure it will be easy to follow in the snow. So I backtrack uphill a bit until it is possible to traverse sideways and I move east. I know that there is an abandoned cabin that I pass on the way up and so I'm hoping to either intercept my original footsteps or sight the cabin in the distance.
It's actually kind of fun to traverse across this open and exposed section while also being low enough to be out of the brunt of the wind. Soon I can see the cabin in the distance and so then I turn my path and head straight down towards it. I don't bother taking a compass reading and I'm confident I can intercept the trail now. What I should have done was set a compass bearing the night before and used that for the ascent and descent, that would have saved me a bit of walking.
From the abandoned cabin it is straightforward and a lot more enjoyable now to be descending and out of the wind. Not much energy expenditure is required. I stop once more at PJ Ledge and being out of the cold and wind I can take in the view a lot better than up at the summit.
Instead of going back down the ski trail, I go down Clark trail which is a bit longer. It's a good decision because the trail itself is a lot more interesting and it's not too steep. Soon I'm back on the flat and easy part, it's just a little bit boring, but it's peaceful and I don't see any other people until right at the end. This was a short hike for me, but the extra exertion from the snow and not having hiked recently has me wiped out.