Isolation Peak - 13,118 feet
Isolation Peak - 13,118 feet
|20 hrs of Isolation!|
I've been aiming to summit as many of the peaks on the skyline from Longmont as possible. I skipped over Isolation for a few years because of the distance. I don't mind an overnight backpack but I really prefer having a campfire and not having to hassle with a bear can. But it was time to seriously consider it, and once I realized that this peak was what I had been looking at when driving to Lyons on 66 for all these years it was inevitable, and I formed the usual obsession to stand on it. I tried to get a good pic of it from Hwy 66 for this trip report but the conditions have been too cloudy and hazy.
So I made a reservation for the RMNP Wild Basin Upper Ouzel Creek backcountry site a few months ago and then tried not to drive off the road when gawking at it. My ascent would be from the east, from it's namesake lake at 12k'
From the plains it is such a broad peak that it was intriguing to guess where the actual summit is. Now I know. I'll leave it to you to discover when you climb it.
I found a couple of good trip reports, but this peak doesn't get much notice (thankfully). The reports I found to be accurate to my experience but I think I can add a bit of value to the collective knowledge of this beauty; and maybe save someone from a wrong turn (or lack thereof) since the peak is not at all obvious until you are almost standing on it.
First of all, the backcountry site at Ouzel Creek is great! There is only one site allowing for 4 people. All my hiking partners were busy, so that night it only had 3; my, myself and I. It is really cool to be completely alone in the backcountry; the appreciation of the vastness of creation is magnified when not distracted with, well, people. I literally did not see or hear a person from near Ouzel Lake at about 4pm until the next afternoon at Bluebird after climbing the peak; 20 hrs of blessed solitude! It is quite a haul to get there (5.8 miles), but with Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls as highlights on the journey it goes pretty easy. I don't know of many hikes that have as many awesome waterfalls.
The wildflowers were still pretty good for mid-august and the raspberries were plentiful!
The site itself is up the hill from the trail and has a great view across to the flanks of Copeland and some thin waterfalls tumbling down that slope.
After some overnight rain, the morning dawned reasonably clear for me, but cloudy for all the poor worker bees on the front range.
On the short hike up to Bluebird, another waterfall to greet me.
At Bluebird lake it was time for breakfast in the sun!
Beyond the east end of Bluebird there is no trail, but there was indeed some reasonably helpful cairns to help you avoid most of the bushwhacking heading above the lake on the north side.
Looking down on Bluebird.
Next I started angling northwest toward my next destination, Isolation Lake.
A couple gents studied me as I approached, perhaps frustrated at me disrupting their isolation.
I found that my natural inclination was pulling me directly west up the drainage as I was thinking the peak was the prominent beast in that direction, with a saddle to the south of it. But my study had warned to steer north, bending away from the next lake (Pipit), and my GPS prevailed and I kept my morning shadow at 45 degrees from my path to stay on course. In the photos below you see the potential confusion. A trip report I studied speaks of heading to 2 "towers".
Those are NOT the towers you seek. I'd say they qualify as major buttresses though they hardly appear on a topo. If you went to the south of them for the ridge then I don't know what you would find in the drainage or the ascent.
I later understood that the 2 rock formations on the far right, not even in view yet were what was being referenced. The key thing is to stay north of that prominent east flank and head to the broad gentle ridge.
It is a very gentle travel to Isolation Lake. Even though I had read that it is much larger than usual for 12k', still I was surprised. It was gorgeous! To get around the lake I went up the slope on the west side a bit as it looked like there might be some major boulder blockers along the shore. On the return I realized I was wrong; the lake shore travel is fine and is less work.
Below is my favorite pic of the lake, looking from the far side (north).
Now all that lay ahead was the east slope up to the peak. From the lake it is not at all clear where the peak is, so I headed for the rock "towers" per a trip report. I checked my GPS about half way up and realized I was heading up to the north side of the ridge. I had intended to go up to the south side as I had read about some airy sections of the north. But no matter, I proceeded up on the left of the towers and easily gained the ridge. This 1k' east slope from the lake is not as steep as most final sections and there was less dirt and loose rock than I expected. On the ridge I headed south and soon got to the cool section I had seen in a picture. So I was glad to have gone up on the north after all.
An easy walk from there to the summit. I found the "replacement" summit log container (a plastic vitamin bottle) tucked in the boulders next to the broken standard container.
Unfortunately it was pretty windy and so I did not stay long. I got an awesome pano but unfortunately it was too large to upload here.
I descended south to the broad saddle.
In summary, this is an wonderful 13er! It is my 25th and certainly ranks high up there for beauty and peace. It certainly was A LOT more pleasant than it's southern neighbor, Copeland. That mountain is relentless boulders from the east approach and downright mean looking (dark grey with many dirt gullies) on the north side. I'd rank Isolation perhaps above even Mt Alice which I did as a circuit from Thunder Lake to Lion Lake and south over the peak and down Boulder-Grand Pass.
Start your dreaming of Isolation but keep your eyes on the road when driving from the east on Hwy 66 into Lyons! Just like me...yeah right.
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