Ascent of Mount Isolation on 2013-08-13

Climber: Gabriel C

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Isolation
    Location:USA-New Hampshire
    Elevation:4003 ft / 1220 m

Ascent Trip Report

On Tuesday morning, I woke up to my alarm around 06:30. I quickly took most of my stuff out of the tent and put it in the car after which I put Luiza’s things for the day in the tent. She would have to switch our tent one camp site over after the residents there checked out. I was surprised that the forecast from yesterday, which advertised clouds and rain building up during the night, was wrong and that it was still sunny. The goal for the day was Mt. Isolation. It was the second longest day I had to do after my Passaconaway/Whiteface hike, but at least it had less ascent.

When that was done, I took the road southeast towards Bartlett and Glen. There, I took HWY 16 north until I reached Rocky Branch hiker parking. There was another car in the lot so I parked alongside. While I ate breakfast from the trunk, an elderly man walked up to the end of the lot, on his morning walk, and chatted a bit with me.

While eating, I wondered if the people parked here had arrived earlier or were on the mountain since longer so I felt the tires. They were cold, so I assumed I wouldn’t pass anyone on the trail. I got dressed and ready to head out.

From there, the trail headed off north. A series of switchbacks along an easy grade brought me up to a level area where the trail went generally north for a good while. After diverging from what was a cross-country ski trail, the going got a little bit harder as the grade steepened. I kept going at a brisk pace as the sky was still partly clear. My idea was to beat the weather as far as I could on my itinerary.

I knew I had to pass a low ridge before heading down in the Rocky Branch valley, and wondered how much I would have to descend as extra elevation on this long day. This part of the ascent went at a steady grade, up in many long switchbacks, before levelling out in a brushy and boggy area. From there the trail headed northwest and dipped down towards the valley. The usual spider webs were present since the beginning so I was certain now that the car’s owner had slept in the mountain.

As I closed towards the junction with Rocky Branch trail and Isolation trail, I heard some voices ahead. Soon afterwards, I saw their source: a couple with heavy packs heading southeast, towards the trailhead. I asked where they had slept and they told me they spent the night at the Rocky Branch Shelter #2 site. They asked me where I was headed and I answered I was going to Isolation and back. The conversation was short, and we went our separate ways. A few moments later I reached the camping site. I looked for the shelter, but never found it, and went back to the main trail, heading to the junction. I reached Rocky Branch river, and couldn’t guess if I had to cross or not. There were no signs, but I saw what looked like a well-trodden area across. I found some rocks to hop over and on the other side I found the trail sign for Isolation trail.

There was another river crossing back to the other shore of Rocky Branch only a few hundred feet away and then the trail diverged and went further and further from the river until I couldn’t hear it anymore. This part of the trail was very wet, even if it wasn’t raining yet, and the footing wasn’t the best I’ve seen. At least there weren’t too many roots. After a while, the trail came back to the river and crossed Rocky Branch three times in quick succession before diverging again. It was now much smaller. The sky was heavier and a few droplets fell from time to time. It was close to starting to pour. Then I reached a new area where there was a lot of blowdown. This must be one of the places where the 2011 storm did some heavy damage. Most of the trees were felled and piled up on each other. I had to navigate through this carefully as the trail meandered through the damage.

It remained this way until I reached Davis trail. Most of the altitude gain was now done but the rain started as soon as I headed south towards Mt. Isolation. I put the rain cover on my pack but it wasn’t hard enough that I needed a coat. I covered a few hundred feet before the rain got much heavier and I had to stop to put my coat on. It didn’t take much time before I reached the summit area. The main trail didn’t go over the summit and the side trail leading to the peak was marked with a white, hand-written chloroplast. The rain subsided as I reached the summit rocks, and the clouds receded enough that I could see west and south to Mts. Eisenhower and Pierce. I took some of my snacks out, ate, and packed before heading north to the main trail again.

It started raining again as soon as I reached the main trail and my boots were starting to show signs of being soaked through. The leg to the junction between Davis trail and Isolation trail was uneventful, and it was a quick walk. From there, I started again southeast and inside Rocky Branch valley. I crossed the damaged area and soon reached the three river crossings where I missed and slipped off a rock and plunged the right boot completely. Afterwards as the trail distanced itself from the river, I heard voices ahead. It was the couple I had met before. They had made a mistake and instead of taking isolation trail, they had turned around towards the trailhead. I chatted with them for a few minutes, pointing out the two camping spots further up towards Davis trail and the crazy blowdown patch.

When I resumed hiking, I had to deal with the brush that was now dripping from the rain. My pants were soaked and so more water got in my boots. It was pretty uncomfortable the whole way back. The leg to Rocky Branch trail junction was very boring and wet, and I didn’t linger when I forked off towards the trailhead.

The remainder of the trail was straightforward, ascending up the ridge and then descending through the switchbacks. When I reached the parking, I changed quickly into drier clothes and drove back to Dry River Campground where Luiza had been fortunate enough to be able to change the tent spot before the rain started. I took a quick shower and we headed, along with pretty much every other tourist in the Whites, to North Conway for a coffee and a wifi connection.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4075 ft / 1241 m
    Extra Gain:656 ft / 199 m
    Round-Trip Distance:13.5 mi / 21.8 km
    Route:Rocky Branch, Isolation, and Davis trails
    Trailhead:Rocky Branch trailhead parking  1240 ft / 377 m
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Weather:Raining, Pleasant, Calm, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 31 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 28 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Gabriel C
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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