Our anonymous staff writer took on the mighty Mount Isolation... and had a pretty rough go of it...
By: Finding 4000' Staff Writer
I just got back from an adventure to the summit of Mount Isolation. Isolation is one of the shorter 4,000 footers, but, BOY is it hard to get to. This was the steepest climb I’ve had in awhile, and my thighs are still burning.
There are three main route options to reach the summit of Isolation. One on Route 302 from the west of the summit, and two from Route 16, on the east side.
On Route 16, coming from North Conway, you’ll pass the Rocky Branch trailhead first. Then, several miles later you’ll come to Glen Ellis Falls, and the Glen Boulder trailhead. These two trails can be combined for a loop if you have two cars, or want to hitch-hike (Approx. 1 mile).
We chose the Glen Boulder trail to Davis path because it was six miles to the summit, and a 12 mile round trip compared to Rocky Branch’s 14 mile round trip. This was a naive decision. The Glen Boulder trail is 3.2 miles long, and joins the Davis Path at about 5,000ft (just below the Boott Spur Trail to Washington).
[Base Elevation at Glen Ellis Falls is about 2,000 ft. The Glen Boulder Trail on average gains almost 1,000 ft per mile. It is grueling.]
That said, the upper mile of the Glen Boulder trail is beautiful. It is completely exposed. You will pass Glen Boulder, a boulder balanced on a cliff waiting to crash down 2,000 feet to Route 16.
We ate lunch on Slide Peak, off of Mount Washington, sheltered from the wind by a massive Cairn.
From Slide Peak you can clearly see Pinkham, and Wildcat’s ski trails. We saw a helicopter land on Route 16, that we later learned was carrying Bear Grylls.
The most heartbreaking part of this hike was the descent to Isolation. Knowing that you will need to climb back up to 5,000 feet to get home is a draining feeling.
The trail was mostly snow free. However, at higher elevations, under tree cover there were sections still full of deep snow (3-5 feet). The snow is wet and ready to make you post-hole.
It is definitely mud-season in New Hampshire. At lower elevations water ran down the trails before being redirected off. A whole quarter-mile section of the Davis Path was a stream. Stream crossings on the Glen Boulder trail were difficult because of the incredible amount of water coming down. That said, now is the time to check out Glen Ellis Falls at the base. There is a ton of water going over that bad boy, and down into the Ellis River.