Isolation from the Rt 16 parking lot for Rocky Branch. This route save a few miles and lots of elevation. I have attempted it three times in the winter and was succesful twice. This is not something I would do alone and the one time I was not successful was with one other person and we basically got slowed down breaking trail. It will cut at least 2 to three hours off a trip to Isolation in the winter. I make no warranties of the suitability of the trip in non snow conditions as the undergrowth may be nasty (then again it may not). Its a much sunnier route than taking the trails and we usually get sunburned.
First buy a copy of the Stairs Mountain 7.5 minute quad. Now park at the rocky branch parking lot early in the morning and head west until you encounter the small pass that is roughly between the Engine Hill label and the wilderness boundary crossing. In the field, it is quite obvious that you have gone up and over a flat col on the trail. Very soon after the col, after you have dropped in elevation slightly you should encounter a fairly straight section of trail lined with fairly thick softwoods on your right. Check your altimeter if you have one and take a compass bearing roughly along the 3080 contour line (actually go just a bit west of the contour line. What you are shooting for is where the 3200 foot contour line intersects the rocky branch trail. Now cut through the band of softwoods and come out in a series of open birch glades. Stay on your bearing and make sure you dont drop down off of the contour. You will get frequent views of Isolation off to the west. Keep an eye on it. You are trying to come out on the rocky branch trail when it is ust slightly south of a westerly bearing. If in doubt, slab slightly uphill. Dependent upon snow conditions, you should hit a fairly thick softwood stand in about 30 to 60 minutes, and you shoudl hear the rocky branch stream. The rocky branch trail is cut through softwoods in this area and looks like an old road cut through the woods. If you have an altimeter use the trail to go north or south to around 3200 feet.
Now find a spot to view Isolation if you can. Take a new bearing that will get you to the col between Isolation and the unnamed peak north of Isolation (the dry range wilderness boundary runs throguh this col). Now carefully cross the rocky branch and try to stay up out of the drainage valley on its north side. What you sould try is to slab west slowly gaining elevation until you intersect the brook draining at the inersection of the 3400 foot contour. Now folow the brook up through the softwoods. It can get kind of dense and the snow can get deep, but its not a real long section. Stay witin sight of the brook as the going is bad on either side of it. When you reach the top of the ridge, you will enconter the Davis path. Follow it south until you reach the cutoff to the Isolations summit.
Now the fun part, turn around and run back to the car. The majority of the trip out is well graded and can be done fairly quickly. The one caveat is that on real warm winter (or early spring days, the sun can make the snow stickly and wet.