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Gaston

[TR] North Cascades - Isolation Traverse 1/31/2010

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Trip: North Cascades - Isolation Traverse

 

Date: 1/31/2010

 

Trip Report:

On January 31st, Hoodie and I began the Isolation Traverse, starting at the Eldorado Creek Trailhead. This traverse takes you over the Inspiration Glacier, north along the Backbone, around the remote "Isolation Peak," and then over the Neve and Colonial glaciers and down to Highway 20.

 

We put on skis exactly where the climber's trail hits the boulder field...in the rain.

Over the next three hours we proceeded to get soaked, crossing the Eldorado and Inspiration glaciers in a total whiteout. We enjoyed a skin track laid by some hardy souls who had just climbed Eldorado. We met these victorious folks on their way down, and thanked them for breaking trail. The night at the Inspiration-Macalester col proved damp and long.

 

The morning, however, made up for it.

 

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We headed for the unlikely crossing of our next barrier. Two cols to the right of Dorado Needle we were just able to get down without a rope.

 

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The snow on the far side proved impossible to resist, so we did a long run before skinning up high and gliding north along the Backbone. We rounded the north side of the Cocyx and dropped into a lovely corridor.

 

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Clouds began to move in, and we hurried north toward Isolation Peak, anxious to find our way over it while we could see. It proved fairly straightforward, and we enjoyed another excellent powder run down to the bench connecting Isolation and Snowfield. Here we spent another night, this one much warmer, drier, and happier.

 

Tuesday dawned murky and cool, and we followed our GPS units up toward the Neve Glacier. The sun just would not come out, so we roped up for the ski down the Neve. We were glad to have done so, as we found some poorly covered slots and broken areas. I can't wait to go back and see this spot on a sunny spring day.

 

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Visibility improved enough to allow a pleasant ski down onto the Colonial glacier. Then we shuffled under Pyramid peak and began puzzling out the descent through thick trees toward Pyramid lake. The north face of Colonial Peak came out a little, providing some exciting scenery.

 

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Sadly, the snow ran out around 3,800', leaving us to tromp through the woods in the drizzle.

 

The Isolation traverse links a series of very aesthetic ski lines and natural breaks in the terrain. Three days felt like the perfect time allotment; with better weather, we could have skied off of Snowfield peak, or perhaps Eldorado on the first day, without adding a day to the tour. I felt great admiration for the pioneers of this route, and for the vision they had to find such an enjoyable route through this rarely visited country.

 

 

 

 

 

Approach Notes:

The Cascade River Road is totally clear to Eldorado Trailhead. Snow starts at 4,000'.

Edited by Gaston

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It seems that you have figured out a new strategy for skiing Cascade high routes. Do it during an El Nino winter and go south to north, so you ascend the more consolidated south slopes and descend the more powdery north slopes. It seems to be working for you! Congrats!

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Aaah man. you got some wickid views. I was one of the few souls who saw you on your way up to Eldo Glacier. I wish I had thought to do what you did!

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As Lowell remarked, you certainly chose the proper direction of travel.

Very good effort gang! It's got to feel quite isolated at this time of the winter!

As close to an Icecap Traverse as we've got.

 

I don't recall another winter TR for a while.

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That's a great tour. I did it early last Spring and the terrain and scenery is hard to beat. Only sad thing is in your pictures there appears to be sooo much less snow than there should be. :(

 

Very nice trip! :brew:

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