The Isolation Traverse

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In early February I set out with fellow guide Nick Pope to explore the region between Eldorado and Highway 20. Lowell Skoog's description of the route on his website Alpenglow.org had intrigued me when I first read it years ago. This wild country easily deserves the name Isolation, and the itinerary cleverly links beautiful natural ski lines. I feel sure that I will repeat this tour more than once in the future.

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After a wet, stormy crossing of the Eldorado and Inspiration Glaciers, Nick and I holed up in our tent for a night of witty banter and hot drinks. The morning dawned with colors I can hardly describe, much less capture with a camera.

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Crossing from the Macalester Glacier to the cirque on the west side of Backbone ridge, we were almost stymied by the low snow pack. But with some diligent snooping we found a skiable way down and managed to leave the rope packed. Even in the immaculate powder snow, we glided the length of Backbone ridge with just a little sidestepping. Then we connected a series of troughs and cols to the north, enjoying some excellent turns in the shade.

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We finished the second day just overwhelmed by the beauty of day. Alas, the weather couldn't hold. We spent the next morning picking our way through the murk over Snowfield peak, the Neve Glacier, and up over the shoulder of Colonial Peak. All we ever saw of that spectacular landscape was a few rock ribs and blue seracs. I'll go back just to see the north end of the traverse under the sun.

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We got a few glimpses of Pyramid and Colonial as we dropped toward Pyramid lake. The snow ran out well above the lake and its trail, so we enjoyed some frozen turf and steep trees while we braced ourselves for the sound of engines and the end of the Isolation.