Trip report

Mount Isolation Hike

Hiking/Walk DATE: 05/13/2017 - 05/13/2017

Trip/Event Location: Jackson, NH

Trip Leader(s): shep5

Max # People: 10

Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money

Difficulty Level: Strenuous

Join me for this hike up to the secluded Mount Isolation at an elevation of 4003 feet.  Mt. Isolation is part of the Montalban Ridge just south of the Presidential Range in a remote part of th...
Driving directions to the location and spot to meet at:

FROM GLEN...At the junction of Routes 16 and 302, travel north of Route 16 for 7.7 miles.  The trailhead will be on the left.

FROM GORHAM...At the junction of Routes 16 and 2, travel south on Route 16 for 14.7 miles.  The trailhead will be on the right.

Look for a gray Hyundai Elantra.  Once we've gotten together we'll carpool to the Glen Ellis Parking Area.

For GPS Users:  Rocky Branch Trailhead; Route 16; Jackson, NH (44.203649, -71.239262)

Trip Report/Photos
Featured Photo

On Saturday, May 13th, six of us (Robert, Jim, David, Luciano, George and myself) met up at the Rocky Branch Trailhead off of Route 16 in Pinkham Notch. It wasn't until about 8:50 that we were all assembled given the distance that everyone had to drive. We got ready and took two cars up to the Glen Ellis Falls parking lot. This lot wasn't open yet for the season, but we were able to park just outside the gate along the access road.

At 9:10AM we walked over to the trailhead for the Glen Boulder Trail. It was somewhat chilly at the start of the day with the summits obscured by clouds. As we walked, we quickly warmed up and it wasn't long before the trail steepened with some switchbacking around some granite ledges. In about 20 minutes we reached the junction for the Direttissima Trail. Staying on the Glen Boulder Trail, we continued to climb at a fairly persistent grade. By 10:15 we popped out of the woods briefly and were presented with a view of the Carters and Wildcats across the Notch. As we continued the trail was covered in a good depth of packed snow...probably 2-3 feet in spots. After another 15 minutes we emerged from the woods and after climbing up a ledge we were treated with wonderful view of Mt. Madison, the Carter Moriah Range and the valley below. By 10:35 we reached the Glen Boulder, a large rock perched precariously on the slope. Climbing further the trail was again covered in snow as we re-entered the woods. After going over Slide Peak the trail followed the top of a ridge with views looking down into the Gulf of Slides. We could even see the antennas on Mt. Washington. Along the day we had run into a couple of guys carrying skis/a snowboard, who were looking for a place to ski. We hiked further and by noon we had reached the trail junction with the Davis Path. We decided it was a decent place for lunch. It was chilly with the wind coming out of the east, so we climbed up to some rocks to get out of the stronger wind.

It was 12:30PM when we decided to continue on. As we headed back to the Davis Path, we ran into the guys who were looking to ski and they seemed to have decided to head over to Tuckerman's Ravine. We then started our decent with views of Mt. Isolation off in the distance. In about a half-an-hour we re-entered the woods and began to make our way over to Isolation. For the most part, the trail was fairly easy to follow, but it had not received alot of foot traffic. In a few places there was significant blow-downs and we had to stop and look for the trail. At 1:40 we reached the junction with the first Mt. Isolation Trail (west) and the Davis Path was easier to follow after this point. Another 25 minutes later we were at the second Mt. Isolation Trail (east) junction. From here it, the trail had seen more use, despite the fact that this was not the usual winter route. This was a good and a bad thing...with more use the trail had formed a packed monorail of snow, where we were starting to posthole more frequently. Luckily, there were intermittent stretches of trail which were free of snow. By 2:30 we were finally climbing up Mt. Isolation and in about 10 minutes we reached the spur trail for the summit. We turned onto to this and in about 5 minutes we were standing on the summit of Mount Isolation (4003'). The views were fantastic, despite the fact that Mt. Washington's summit was clouded over. The southern Presidential peaks were all visible, as well as wonderful views over the Dry River Wilderness. As we were on the summit taking pictures and chatting, two gray jays showed up to beg for food. At about 3PM it was time for us to head back down. We backtracked to the Mt. Isolation (east) Trail. It took us approximately 30 minutes for this and we then turned onto this trail. Luckily, this trail had seen some use and it was easy to follow. Still, we were postholing in spots. For the most part this trail was long with a fairly modest grade. Despite this, we had to cross the Rocky Branch Brook 4-5 times, which was progressively challenging as the brook widened and it became more swift-flowing. The last crossing was at the junction with the Rocky Branch Trail, which we finally reached at 5:30PM. After this we climbed over the shoulder of Engine Hill and then began our descent. The trail was still intermittently covered in snow until we got to the eastern side of Engine Hill and then it was much easier going. It still took us approximately 2 hours to get back to the trailhead which we reached at 7:25PM.

Since it was a little later than we anticipated and everyone had a ways to drive home, we decided to call it a day instead of going out to eat. We went up to the other trailhead and retrieved the other cars and headed out.

A big thanks to George, Robert, Jim, David and Luciano for coming out for this adventure. It turned out to be a good day with great views through the day. Our progress was slowed at times because of the snow and postholing, but it was still an incredibly enjoyable day with wonderful company.

  There are 39 photos in Album (Note: Move mouse pointer over larger pic and click on NEXT for better viewing)

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shep5 May 15, 2017 at 8:22 PM

Thanks, Mike. Yes, it was a month that I needed Isolation for the Grid, but I also just really like that much as many seem to dread doing it! This was my first time using Mt. Isolation Trail (east), so it still gave me something new!

Gandalf May 15, 2017 at 7:03 PM

Congrats! I'm sure the crossings must have been challenging...especially the last one. Steve...was the time of year chosen for the grid?

Robert.L May 15, 2017 at 6:01 PM

It takes a certain discipline to be "in the moment" and I certainly was all of this trip. I love a good adventure and dare I say the longer the better. Thanks Stephen - you rock for leading this trip. It was quality and quantity time on the trails with a good mix of post-holing, mini snow bridges, bird feeding, bush wacking and so much more. Keep calm and carry on and let's dig in for the next one!

Scorpione May 15, 2017 at 9:50 AM

Thanks Steve, You are a class A leader. Challenging hike, all aches the day after. I hereby rename Engine Hill Calvary Trail. Great group: affable David, made this hike possible; George, his understated, remarkable trail expertise; Jim and Robert (J’étais neige, á tes rayons je fondis?) Superb views. Can imagine a warm, starry night on top of Isolation. First Triliums in blooms exorcised the snow murderous “monorails”.

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