Intro/StatsIsolation Pk (13118')
Mahana Pk (12632')
July 24, 2010
17.5 miles RT, 5200' gain
From Wild Basin TH (8540')
It's been almost a year since I have been to Rocky Mountain National Park, my favorite place to hike in Colorado. It was time to return! A 5300 vertical day the day before does not motivate me to get an alpine start. I stay at my cousin's in Broomfield and "sleep in" until 3:30. Off to Wild Basin I go, a place that I had yet to visit. It would not disappoint!
The Long Haul: Well Worth the Price of Admission!
I set out from the quiet Wild Basin trailhead at 5:27am as dawn breaks. The plan is to at least get Mahana and Isolation and perhaps go for Ouzel/Ogalalla/Copeland if weather/conditions/motivation permits. With such a late start on a LONG day, odds are low. I cruise on the superhighway tourist trail, passing Copeland, Calypso, and Ouzel Falls. The trail is a moderate grade to cater to horses. I hike into a cloud bank, and my morale takes a hit. It would really be a bummer to not get the killer views that this hike is known for! I plod on with hopes for better things to come as visibility is no more than 100 yards at times. Mr. Bluebird gets lucky again and as I get closer to Bluebird Lake, I climb out of the clouds!
It's a long 6.4 miles just to get to Bluebird Lake, but the slog in the fog was worth the price of admission. I arrive in a bit under 3 hours and odds are looking good for at least 2 peaks. The hike to Bluebird Lake is a classic in itself if you're just looking for a smell the flowers hike with the only drawback being the burn area that seems to take forever to get across.
Ouzel towers above Bluebird Lake:
I had yet to see a single soul and wouldn't until I got back to Bluebird Lake. Isolated, indeed! There is no trail beyond Bluebird Lake, but the routefinding is pretty straight forward. The crux is the crossing of Ouzel Creek over to the north side. There were just enough boulders above water to stay dry, then there's a little scramble up a ramp to the right to get out of it.
The route has a few cairns here and there. There are a few boulder fields to cross, but it's mostly an easy climb on grass with some scree here and there for good measure. There are quite a few willows east of Lark Pond, but they can be avoided with good routefinding. I decided to stay high above Lark Pond and Pipit Lake to avoid any swampy, willow whacking fests. It worked out well as I cruised on open tundra and slabs.
Isolation finally revealed itself. It was awesome to take in this amphitheater of rock, an isolated area indeed!
You have to get right on Isolation Lake before it finally reveals itself. I take it in as I angle east to climb Mahana first.
Ouzel and Isolation Lake, a seldom visited place:
Mahana is a short but annoying boulder hop, and I top out at 10:40. I look over to Ogalalla and it looks like there are no snow free gullies to get down to Cony Pass. Bummer, because I didn't bring axe and crampons. I'll have to climb it via Ogalalla Express someday! I take a long break on Mahana as there are no threatening clouds.
Wonder how many people are on Longs today?
The boulder hop descent down to the saddle is a slow, but I'm in no rush now. For Isolation, I aim to traverse below a cliff band just north of the summit. I link grassy terrain here and there with talus. The talus give way to scree near the ridge crest, but it isn't bad compared to the San Juans! The final ridge run is pretty cool with big drops over the north side.
Summit draws near (the close one):
I top out at 12:35 and there are only 3 to sign the register this year! This is truly one of the most remote places to visit in RMNP. One of the summit candidates is an airy boulder on the edge of the north face. I straddle it for good measure. It would be hard to stand on this guy!
Clouds are starting to build a bit, but nothing immediately threatening. I descend slightly below the south ridge on annoying boulders and drop down the center of the east facing bowl. Plenty of loose junk at the top, but I link up patches of grass further down for some relief. I'm back at the lake, and it's smooth sailing from here. I stumble across a ptarmigan and her chicks near Isolation Lake. She guards them from the intrusive hiker as they press on. Classic moment!
As I cross Ouzel Creek at Bluebird Lake, I take in a postcard view of a reflection of Ouzel on the lake!
The trail is welcome, as now I get to see what I missed out on the approach. I dip my hat at many stream crossings. Ah, the benefits of summer hiking! I fear there's going to be a tourist circus below Ouzel Falls, but it's not near as bad as the congestion of the lower portion of Glacier Gorge.
I'm back at the car at 5:20 as you can really cruise the last 3 miles. What a hike!