March 7, 2004

Well, we’ve been at it again. Gordon and I headed out for yet another backcountry trip into the whites. This time our sights were set on the aptly named Mt. Isolation. After attempting a two-day trip to Isolation last year and not even getting close we went back to try again. Our last attempt was thwarted by very deep powder that was untracked. It took us all day to go just 4 miles. At that rate it would have taken us 4 days to reach the summit. This time there had not been snow for weeks and we knew we had it in the bag (not that easy as you will see).

We got to the trailhead for a 9:30 start. After wishing well another small group of hikers who were leaving just before us for the summit, we were now sure that we’d make our goal as we would have fresh tracks to follow all the way, and the group in front had a GPS with them to find their way (this trip requires you to bushwhack, no trail to the top). It rained on us for the first 3 hours of our hike but given how steep we were climbing we were probably getting more wet from the inside out, than the outside in. We made good time to the shelter and our campsite for the night. It was 12:30, the rain had stopped, and we were dropping off most of our weight at the camp and filling our stomachs. Things were looking real good for a summit bid that afternoon.

It was bushwhack from here on up, but we had the fresh tracks of the GPS equipped group the rest of the way. We were very pleased with the nice trail left for us and it seemed to head straight for the summit. Within no time we were cresting the ridge and within sight of the summit and what seemed was going to be an easy hike up. It even looked like the weather would break and we might get some sun.

As we climbed to the top of the ridge our luck started to change (except for the $20.00 we found on the ground). Our well tracked and straight to the peak trail began to split off in ever which direction, dead ending half the time and seemingly going no where the other half. We were on the ridge, we could see the summit plain as day and yet it was not clear how to get to it.

It was beginning to look like our GPS donning friends were LOST! At this point we took matters into our own hands. We took a compass bearing on the summit and got out the map. We could see that there was a ridge trail just over the other side of the ridge and if we could get to it, it would lead us right to the summit. The problem was, between us and the summit was a very dense collection of scrub pines, bush and fallen trees, much of it impossible to get through. As long as we could see the summit we know we would be Ok.

Well, so much for that, shortly after we started down the other side of the ridge in search of the ridge trail a very dark cloud began to overtake the summit and shortly after that us. We were now unable to see more than a few hundred feet in any direction, had no idea where we were in relation to the mountain. We were in the middle of some of the thickest mess of trees you can imagine, not to mention, there were so many tracks going in so many different directions it was beginning to be hard to tell which were ours. Time to cut our losses.

Once again, Mt. Isolation had us defeated. We made the prudent and safe decision to head back to camp before it got too dark, or we got too lost. We found our trail and headed down with our heads hung low. No problem, we will get it in the morning we thought.

It was a nice evening for a camp. We set up the tent and chef Gordon settled into cooking us another fine meal of sautéed vegetables, chicken, and teriyaki rice, hmmmm. A few pieces of fine chocolate for desert and few sips of spirits and we were soon forgetting our troubles on the mountain and looking forward to our next day.

After a very windy night (we must have had gusts of over 75mph blow though during the night), we woke to the beginnings of a very nice day. The clouds were starting to give way to sun and we were ready for another summit attempt. After a nice breakfast we once again set off for the summit, this time with a new plan and a new route. We decided early not to be following anyone else’s mistakes and charted our own route. This time, as we crested the ridge we knew that as long as we had the summit in view we could get to it. We forged a new route through the cole at the base of the mountain and after pushing through lots of downed trees and digging our way out of many spruce traps we found the ridge trail that leads to the summit. Within no time we were on top of the world celebrating our victory! It took three attempts but Isolation is bagged.

It was an easy hike back to camp, as we no longer needed to find our way. Again, we had a nice lunch in the warm sun, packed up our gear and headed out for our last 4 miles to the base. It was a very warm and pleasant day for a hike and it made for a nice finish to a great weekend. We were out by 3:30 and home by 5:00.

One more adventure left for the season, Carter Hut and the five surrounding peaks, and we put our gear away until December 2004. It looks like we will be on track to finish all 4000 footers by the end of next season if all goes well.
Until next time. Bob



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