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11/23/17, 05:01 AM

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Author Topic: Isolation Traverse, May 19-21  (Read 2997 times)
danpeck
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Isolation Traverse, May 19-21
« on: 05/22/16, 09:06 PM »

One of the challenges I have is a fairly rigid schedule, which means I need to plan time off for spring ski traverses about 6 months in advance.  The weather is always a gamble.  But high alpine ski traverses are my favorite thing in the world ... the adventure is always top notch.

This year I had May 19-23 set aside.  Everett committed to go no matter the conditions as this would be his first North Cascades traverse and he was pumped.  I extended invitations to other partners but weather and other obligations/priorities left me and Everett as the only two standing :-)

We watched the weather forecast multiple times a day and it changed from day to day.  We had several ideas, but ultimately settled on the Isolation Traverse for it's classic nature offering a variety of terrain and technical objectives. 

Here's what the weather looked like



We decided to start on Thursday morning understanding that we might get wet and spend time in whiteout conditions.  We would camp at the Inspiration/McAllister col in preparation to cross and traverse the Backbone the next morning.

Friday morning held some promise of some clarity and we knew we could make it to Wilcox Lakes via the Ice-Elation couloir by mid day, hopefully beating any rain.

It then looked like Saturday would be another ok morning to potentially finish the traverse.  Sunday wasn't looking so good.  And it didn't seem like waiting out for Monday would be worth it.  So we had weather coming in and out, with small little windows of opportunity--and a lot of stoke!

Heading up Eldorado trail. We were not able to put in skis until about 5600 ft.





It's always nice to rise out of the clouds



The next morning started out a bit cloudy, but as we made our preparations, the clouds lifted.  We had glorious conditions for the crossing and traverse of the Backbone.  Only once did we have to wait about 5 minutes for a cloud to pass us by.















Skiing the Ice Elation couloir







Ice-Elation



A view of our next camp site, Wilcox Lake, and our next day's first challenge, Isolation.  Weather is closing in.



Once we set up camp, the weather cleared.  So we relaxed and then went for an evening ski.









With a pleasant evening ski we went to sleep with high hopes that the forecast would hold true for the next day.  Alas, it was not to be.  Rain started in the night and it never let up.  We woke up at 5 am and held off leaving until 8 am.  We knew we would have to make good time.  With rain, snow, and thick whiteout, it was full-on.

We went from one crux to the next.  All the while hoping for a break in the weather.  It never came.  We spent nine hours navigating in the whiteout through the following cruxes, or challenges.

1. Ascent of Isolation and ski down the correct snow slope to the lake
2. Ascent into the basin below Snowfield peak, making sure to stay well above cliff hazard, and to gain the mellow ramp up to Horseman col.
3. Ski and navigate the Neve glacier (this required fishing with a 6 m chord).  You can see on the GPS track below our challenge in navigating the crevasse hazard.  It was more open than I've seen it this time of year
4. Ascending the col to the Colonial glacier and obtaining the ridge that would take us down to Pyramid lake.

GPS track 

http://www.movescount.com/moves/move106528817

Here's the view (looking back) when we exited the Colonial glacier and our first real visibility.



And last but not least, the forest walk was pleasant, but downright rowdy at times.



a few more images here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/danpeck/sets/
« Last Edit: 05/23/16, 07:02 AM by danpeck » Logged
DOD
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Re: Isolation Traverse, May 19-21
« Reply #1 on: 05/22/16, 09:35 PM »

you never know if you don't go.
props!!!
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Norseman
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Re: Isolation Traverse, May 19-21
« Reply #2 on: 05/23/16, 06:22 AM »

Good work, Dan. Sorry about the weather window closing on your outstretched neck... glad you made it down with little viz.
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Big Steve
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Re: Isolation Traverse, May 19-21
« Reply #3 on: 05/23/16, 08:25 AM »

Very nice. You did some big days. Luv that route. We know all about navigating the Neve in pea soup. When we did the route a few years ago late season satellite imagery helped much in setting GPS waypoints to weave around the crevasses.
« Last Edit: 05/23/16, 08:30 AM by Big Steve » Logged
danpeck
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Re: Isolation Traverse, May 19-21
« Reply #4 on: 05/23/16, 09:05 AM »

My method of navigating the glacier was to keep myself on the broadest contours of the map.  It worked for the most part.  The subtle change in contour is always shocking when after about a minute you find yourself going in the exact opposite direction you thought you were.  Hence we checked out bearing frequently.  We finally resorted to me in the front with the fishing line and Everett in the back with the compass and map to keep me going the right direction.
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Big Steve
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Re: Isolation Traverse, May 19-21
« Reply #5 on: 05/23/16, 10:09 AM »

My method of navigating the glacier was to keep myself on the broadest contours of the map.
Sound strategy for the Neve Glacier.
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Norseman
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Re: Isolation Traverse, May 19-21
« Reply #6 on: 05/23/16, 05:36 PM »

me in the front with the fishing line and Everett in the back with the compass and map

Ah! High-stakes fog-fishing for flytraps
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shred
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WWW
Re: Isolation Traverse, May 19-21
« Reply #7 on: 05/23/16, 07:41 PM »

Way to get er done!
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skykilo
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Re: Isolation Traverse, May 19-21
« Reply #8 on: 05/24/16, 01:36 PM »

Not taking no for an answer!  Some beautiful pictures.
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jtack
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Re: Isolation Traverse, May 19-21
« Reply #9 on: 05/24/16, 11:01 PM »

Dan way to bear down! Pictures are great, thanks for taking the time to let us in on the fun, not that wet sitting here at the kitchen table though! I get queasy looking at that bolder field on the way to Eldorado not my favorite part of that hike!
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