Friday, August 1, 2014

Mnt Isolation #48

The 4000 footer club has been around since 1957 and supports a membership who have all climbed the 48 4000 foot high peaks in the White Mountains.

The club also maintains lists of people who climb all the 4000 footers in New England (67 of them) and those who have done more constrained summits - for example doing them all in Winter.  There are other more stringent conditions that people impose on themselves (usually after completing their first 48) for example: doing them in a specific order (either by elevation or alphabetically); summiting on a moonlit night; climbing each summit four times starting from the East, West, North and then South; doing them all in one season; and summiting each in a different month of the year (17 climbers claimed this achievement in 2011).  We have heard about someone who was driven from hike to hike and ran them all consecutively.  It turns out that his record of 3 days, 17 hours and 21min set in August 2002 was beaten by another hiker (a photographer from Vermont) by almost 2 hours in 2003.  The link (to his spreadsheet of times and summits) has great descriptions of the hike in one of the columns.  Very impressive!

Isolation is the last of my 4000 foot hikes.  Although I did a few of them in 2008, my enthusiasm was only really piqued in 2011 after it became somewhat of a tradition to hike with my colleagues Bruce and John and take on some weighty work-related topics in what we started calling "summits" - many of which were short hikes up Monadnock in New Hampshire through 2010.

I did some of the summits twice over these years so in effect have hiked 54 4000 foot peaks since 2007 when my sons Matt and Nick did Kinsman with me.
Our work-related "summits" continued all the way through 2010 leading up to our small start-up company being acquired at the end of that year and continued into the subsequent years when I was encouraged to take on multi-summit hikes like the Pemi loop with John which we repeated in 2012 with Bruce.  The hardest of all the 4000 foot multi-summit hikes was the one-day Presidential Traverse in 2013 which is without doubt my most impressive hiking accomplishment to date.

Mnt Isolation (4,003ft) barely makes the grade but is one of the two hikes that are often done last (Owl's Head is the other) because they are both fairly inaccessible.  Isolation is a 12mi round trip which involves climbing over a mountain to get to it and Owl's Head is an 18mile round trip.  Thankfully we included Owl's Head in our second Pemi loop.

We had arranged to meet up for breakfast at a railway-themed restaurant called Glen Junction near North Conway.  Nick and Matt both wanted to join me (as did one of their friends) on my last 4000 foot hike but Nick is off on an adventure traveling around the US and their friend works during the week so it was Matt who joined me for the trip up to New Hampshire.  We had a room in the same hotel that we had stayed in on the night before our Presidential Traverse last year.

Our breakfast was hearty - the topic of sausage links usually comes up (I still can't get used to the idea that a sausage can be a patty after all these years) and after some good food we made it to the trail-head at 8:20.

As usual I hadn't paid too much attention to John's description of the trip which had us hike up to Glen Boulder and then on to Isolation.  John pointed out that the most direct trail to Isolation is less interesting than the one past Glen Boulder which promises great views.

Hiking up the Glen Boulder trail was strenuous but nothing like the Mnt Adams hike we did a couple of weeks before and we made good time up the long and fairly steep incline.  I suppose when we came into the area that warned of alpine shrubs it should have occurred to me that we were pretty high up but it was only when we were standing at the junction of the trail above the boulder ready for a descent that I asked John which of the mountains was Isolation.

He pointed down past a long line of cairns on a relatively even mountainside to one of the foothills far below.

We had, it turned out, hiked a path that led to 5100ft before descending down to the 4003ft summit we were after.

The trail after this was long but relatively easy going.  For such an isolated summit we saw quite a bit of traffic - at least 5 or 6 different parties including two separate hikers who were doing their 45th hike of the 48.

The path to the actual summit of Isolation is a junction off the trail and up some rather steep rocks and on to an open area with great views.

Sitting on the last summit on my list was a very satisfying experience.  I pointed out that all we had to do now was to make it out alive....

The trail back was a steady downward gradient for close to 7 miles, much of which was water-logged and muddy.  

Some of the trail passed close to a stream which had some pretty rapids.

The sustained downhill began to take its toll on our knees, legs and feet.  I became convinced that I had a pebble in my shoe but didn't find a good place to stop until we reached a river crossing at least 30 minutes later.

Small stones in your shoe are annoying.  Usually the best way to tell that it is a stone (and not a blister) is to stop and kick your toes into the ground to try to loosen the stone but after you have battered your feet for 10 miles you are not inclined to want to kick anything.

I stopped at a river crossing and took off my shoe only to find that it was indeed a blister hurting the ball of my foot and there was nothing for it but to walk on.  Sitting with my leg bent to tie my laces induced a painful cramp in one of the small muscles in my thigh which was only relieved by straightening my leg and, although it never turned into a crippling cramp, I felt the after-effects of it for some time down the trail after I had managed to tighten my laces standing up.

As usual, Bruce had far more energy than John or I had but he patiently hiked behind all of us (he claimed that I had instructed him to do that the day before).  Matt is in good shape and was frequently making his way up ahead of us and having to stop and wait for us.

I have had several photos taken of me on these hikes and I always joke that I should pull in my belly when the photograph is taken (which I always do).  Sadly it is evident now that this is pointless.  That belly will not be contained. 

Fairly close to the end of our hike we came across a message on one of the rocks.  A good directive for a healthy outdoors experience.

The sound of traffic on the road comes a few minutes before you reach the car-park and is always a good sound to hear, as is the comment by John that we "have cheated death once more...."

John had bought some 4000 footer IPA which I'd put into a cooler box full of ice the night before in my car trunk and it made a very refreshing way to celebrate this milestone.

We did talk about what's next.  This was before I saw the list of 4000 footers in Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts which I suppose we need to consider.  For the immediate future though, there are some lesser, more leisurely peaks that we haven't done that would be a nice option for "summit" meetings.