Isabelle Glacier is located in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, 15 miles north of Nederland in the Brainard Lakes Recreation Area. This is a highly traveled area so stay on the trails, and pack out what you pack in.
Take Canyon Road from Boulder CO, travel west until you reach the town of Nederland. Get on hwy. 72 norths and follow the hwy. until you reach the Ward City Limits. Turn Left into the Brainerd Lake Recreation area. Drive until you reach the access gate, the fee there is $9.00 per day. Follow the signs to Long Lake, and park at the trail head (TH). There are a few different trails at the TH so pay attention and you will have no problem.
Follow the trail towards Isabelle Glacier. It is a 4.2 mile hike (to the base of the glacier), relatively easy rolling grade (mostly class I and II).
July 29, 2009.
Follow the trail towards Isabelle Glacier. It is a 4.2 mile hike (to the base of the glacier), relatively easy rolling grade (mostly class II).
The hike in follows long lake, then you ascend up switch backs. At the top of the switch backs you’ll cross a log bridge. Shortly after that the trail will split. The left trail takes you to Pawnee Pass and The right Trail will take you to Lake Isabelle and Isabelle Glacier. Take the Left Trail and follow it beside Lake Isabelle. The trail kind of disappears and you are required to hop across boulders for approximately 200ft (maybe a low class III). Then the trail reappears and will lead you through a somewhat grown in but very obvious trail to the base of the glacier.
It took me about an hour and ten minutes to hike in to the glacier base. At this point I changed into my ski boots and kicked steps towards the top of the glacier.
Once on the Glacier I took precaution to watch for potential slides, and I also kept my eye on the sky due to potential afternoon lightning storms. I climbed the glacier for approximately 30 to 45 minutes. The lower half of the glacier was a 30 dgree grade and it continued to get steeper throughout the assent. Once I got close to the top of the glacier I was on a vertical grade of 40 to 45 degrees. Realizing steepness of the grade I was on I decided not to climb the last 100 ft. of glacier because I would have had no way of safely taking off my pack and snapping into my ski bindings. I climbed towards the south side of the glacier where a slide would have been less dangerous, and kicked a shelf into the side of the glacier to removed my pack. I then kicked another shelf into the snow for a place to snap into my bindings.
Successfully snapping into my skis and replacing my pack onto my back. I took a few pictures and hopped into my first turn. the descent took about 6-8 minutes of continuous skiing, leaving the only ski tracks on the glacier for the day.
Hiking boots, water, power bars, skis, ski boots. An ice axe, and crampons, would have made my climb up the glacier easier; however I did not bring either. To make it to the top of the glacier they would be very convenient. I also didn’t climb the last 100ft. of the glacier because it would have been too steep to remove my pack and snap into my ski bindings.
A few Notes
You will want to climb the glacier before noon to avoid lightning storms which can blow in very quickly and will potentially kill you especially if
you have skis on your back. I was on the trail head by 8 am and back at the car by 12:30 pm.