Monday, December  17, 2018
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This trip report describes a somewhat non-standard way of climbing Mount Isolation in the Dry River wilderness South of Mount Washington. Mount Isolation, barely over 4,000 feet, is/was the second-last 4000-footer on my NH48 list. As I've sometimes been doing with recent hikes, I felt like trying to climb this peak not by the shortest possible route, but by an interesting and alternative itinerary. In this particular case, my plan was for a bike-supported south-north traverse of Montalban Ridge: park the car at Pinkham Notch, cycle down to the lower end of Montalban Ridge, then hike pretty much the entire length of the ridge - which includes Mount Isolation - and end up at the end of the day at Pinkham Notch, where we'd use the car to fetch the bikes. This is a fair bit longer than the more standard routes up Isolation (say, via Rocky Branch or the Davis Path) , but promised lots of interesting viewpoints along Montalban Ridge and a long stretch of beautiful hiking above treeline in the vicinity of Boott Spur.

Along with me on this somewhat zany hike (because of it's much longer length and elevation gain versus the regular routes) was Jenn. And even after being given the basic details of hike (length, height of objective mountain), I think Jenn was a bit surprised to learn of the fact that after achieving the summit of Isolation, we still had to climb 1,700 more feet to the high point of the hike at Boott Spur.
Morning-glow
Pre-dawn Presidentials
Mountain Bike start
Realizing that this might be an extra long day, we got up at 3:45 am, and got ready as quickly as we could. By 5am, we were at Pinkham notch and pretty much ready to go.

First up was the roughly 30km (18 mi) mountain bike ride from Pinkham Notch to the town of Bartlett. Feeling a bit bad about dragging Jenn on an unnecessarily long hike, I suggested that we change plans, park the bikes at the Rocky Branch trailhead, and do our hike from there (which would cut many miles, feet of elevation gain, and hours of time). Jenn, however, wouldn't have any of it. So, on we went to Bartlett. Fortunately (well, not really as a result of fortune, since this was factored into my plans), the cycle route is mostly all downhill, allowing us to make the journey in a little over an hour's worth of time.
Heading down NH 16
Passing Glen Boulder Trail
Lots of Downhill
Wash-n-Tan
Bartlett VFW
Arriving at Trailhead
Interactive trackmap - cycle to trailhead - double-click to expand
Our choice of departure trailhead was the Mount Langdon Trailhead near Bartlett. Although this is technically not the very lower end of Montalban Ridge (that honor goes to the nearby Mt Stanton Trail), we were still going to be hiking the vast majority of it, so my characterization of this outing as a traverse of the ridge still holds, I think.

We arrived at the Mount Langdon Trail trailhead shortly before 6:30am, fully warmed up. This was partially from the exertion of biking, and partially from the heat and mugginess of the day, early though it was. It was probably going to be one of those stiflingly hot summer days, even though it was only the end of May.
Langdon Trailhead
Smooth start
Hot and Humid
We locked the bikes up at the trailhead and headed off north. The trail here initially follows an old forest road, and was pleasantly covered in a carpet of old leaves, and not muddy in the least. It led up gently, then more steeply, towards forested Oak Ridge. Along the way, the trail leaves the old road and follows a very pleasantly un-eroded single-track path through open deciduous forest.
Entering Dry River Wilderness
Lightly Trodden
Ascent to Oak Ridge
Ridgetop conifers
Parker Trail Jct
Trillium
At the top of Oak Ridge, the trail starts its way through sections of coniferous forest, but still with great footing and no blowdown. After a slight descent, we reached the junction with the Mt Stanton Trail. We continued north along Montalban Ridge (although from this point on it is the Mt Parker Trail).
Mt Parker Trail
Leafy Spring Shoots
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