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Trail Conditions

Trip Log


Mt. Isolation
Jackson, NH, Sargents Purchase, NH, Cutts Grant, NH

Trailheads, measurements, times, distances, and maps are all approximate and relative to the hike(s) as shown below.
The Engine Hill bushwhack
The Engine Hill bushwhack

Route: Rocky Branch Trail, (Engine Hill bushwhack), Isolation Trail, (bushwhack), Davis Path, Isolation Spur, (Mt. Isolation), Isolation Spur, Davis Path, (bushwhack), Isolation Trail, (Engine Hill bushwhack), Rocky Branch Trail

A nice snowshoe footbed was being established, but some parasitic postholers reaped havoc this afternoon ("I didn't want to carry snowshoes," yet carrying a buttsled). If you're going 6.5 miles into the wilderness with 6 feet of snowpack and you have no flotation, you are being reckless and should pay the full amount of any rescue costs. In addition, your hike should not count toward the winter 48 patch.

Rocky Branch Trail up to the height of land was well packed this morning by snowshoers. Upper portions deviate from the actual trail. The seeps at the upper shelf were initially fine, however some postholers punched through into mud and standing water...karma. By the time you reach the height of land, there is 6 feet of snowpack with a good foot plus of powder on the top.

Important note for return traffic: it appears the abandoned trail down to Winniweta Falls was broken out today. When heading back, a few tenths after leaving the wilderness, this packed footbed looks like the Rocky Branch Trail. It is not; the Rocky Branch bears left. If this is the trail I think it was, it will dump you out way low on Route 16.

The Engine Hill bushwhack track starts in the usual place and climbs up to the usual shelf. However, the track soon dropped downhill into spruce and looked to be doubling back to the Rocky Branch Trail (later heard that it indeed was circuitous). We backtracked a bit and broke out a new track, holding around 3,200-3,300 feet, dropping onto the Isolation Trail a few tenths before crossing #3. Decent track with a few nice glades. Since it's a new track, it would be a terrible idea to attempt to do this without snowshoes or skis.

Above crossing #5, the packed trail deviates from the Isolation Trail quite a bit. There are also a few dead ends. The current track goes toward the camp site, but then cuts direct to the Davis Path.

Davis Path was rough going in places, as the snowpack is 6 feet deep with much deeper drifts. If you are up here without snowshoes (or skis), you are an idiot. One false bareboot step could posthole you in over your head in a spruce trap.

There's a bit of a cornice on the final ascent of the Isolation Spur which is a little tricky.

Beautiful weather today - sunny, relatively warm (but not warm enough to create sticky snow), and (apart from a notch breeze at the beginning) no wind. Wish we could have left a nice track for those to follow, but more parasitic postholers were behind us.

Hike Ratings
Getting To Trailhead: Easy
Destination: Mt. Isolation
Length: Difficult
Steepness: Difficult
Navigation: Difficult
Views: Excellent
Crowds: Minimal

Hike Stats
Date Hiked: Sunday, February 17, 2019
Parking Elevation: 1,260'
Destination: Mt. Isolation
Time Elapsed: 05:08
Trailhead Elevation: 1,260'
Summit Elevation: 4,004'
Vertical Gain: 3,034'
Hike Time Elapsed: 08:38
Hike Vertical Gain: 3,324'

The Rocky Branch Trail trailhead
The Rocky Branch Trail trailhead

The Davis Path
The Davis Path

Looking at Mt. Washington from Mt. Isolation - Click to enlarge
Looking at Mt. Washington from Mt. Isolation

Directions to trailhead: Take Route 16 North from the Route 302-16 junction in Glen. A few minutes having passing Jackson and just before 16 starts to climb to Pinkham Notch, the Rocky Branch parking lot will be on the left. The Rocky Branch Trail trailhead is at the north side of the parking lot.

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