This was chosen as a fairly easy hike with a couple of buddies who weren't necessarily in the very best shape. But since they left the planning to me, we went the scenic route: from the east, up north in search of Cliffey's Cave (didn't find it), then to the top of Firescrew. By that point Mike was just about ready to drop thanks to a sudden-onset flu infection, and Victor was getting tired too. We definitely didn't want to have to carry Mike back to the car, since he outweighs me and Victor combined. But the summit of Cardigan was SO close! (Maybe half a mile, and about a hundred vertical feet.)
So while Victor accompanied Mike on the descent, I literally raced to the summit, promising to catch up within fifteen minutes. I'd been doing a lot of running and I knew I could make it.
Once up on the summit cone, though, I was in for a shock. The wind was so nasty I did the last hundred yards on all fours. That was the first and last time I truly feared being blown off a mountain into thin air. I've probably been in worse winds since, but Cardigan is so baby-butt smooth that there is no place to hide and absolutely nothing to hold on to until you reach the observation tower.
That's how I remember it, anyway. Now that I've got more rock-climbing experience I can see there are lots of cracks in the rock, but at the time it felt like trying to go up
a playground slide - not all that difficult in itself, but I hadn't counted on the wind playing the role of playground bully grabbing at my shoulders.
I clung to the cable stays of the tower while I snapped some hasty summit views.
Then I carefully crawled back downslope into calmer air, and ran to catch up with my buddies. A little below the top of firescrew I stopped and got a summit shot with the lowering sun giving faint hints of pink to the clouds:
I caught up with my buddies right on time. We all made it home safely, though Mike was sick for a week.
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