Ascent of Ishpatina Ridge on 2004-08-31

Climber: Ben Lostracco

Others in Party:Tim and Michael Nellis
Date:Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Ishpatina Ridge
    Elevation:2274 ft / 693 m

Ascent Trip Report

Its been over 10 years since I first started looking at this trip. I slowly collected information, maps from Canada's Dept of Energy Mines and Resources, Jack Bennett's book on climbing Canada's highpoints "Not Won In A Day", internet and numerous telephone conversation with the Rangers from the Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park, who confirmed the trail from the N end of Scarecrow lake.

Ishpatina Ridge, Ontario's highpoint is located in a remote wilderness area of Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park, about 60 miles N of Sudbury and 50 miles NW of Temagami. From my research there are 3 possible approaches.
From the South - north of Sudbury/Capreol pick up a woods road, cross Sturgeon river to an old saw mill on Hamlow lake, then bushwack 4 miles to the TH at the N end of Scarecrow lake. An unmaintained trail leads to the summit.
From the North - At the Montreal river at Gowganda start a 17-20 mile canoe/kayak portage due south, following the Montreal river/Smoothwater/McCulloch/Mihell lakes to the N end of Scarecrow lake and the same TH noted above.
From the East - At Temagami get on a float plane that takes you directly to the TH at N end of Scarecrow lake.

After all these years I decided to give Ishpatina the priority it deserved. I opted for the quickest/easiest/5-star approach .... the float plane. I contracted Lakeland Airways in Temagami - the plane had room for 3 people so my son-in-law Tim and his 8 year old son Michael decided to join in the adventure. We drove up to Temagami yesterday and stayed at the Northland Paradise Hotel, nicely located on a lake.

All pumped-up but somewhat anxious and apprehensive we arrived at the Lakeland Airways Dock. We met our pilot, Ian, a 33 year old from Vancouver working on the necessary flying hours for his commercial license. He informed us that this will be a short 30-45 minute flight.

We boarded the cramped quarters of the float plane and soon after the take-off at 8h00 hrs the conversation turned to "bears"..... "Oh you want to see bears?" Ian answered..... Flying very low over the trees, he obligingly made a short detour over the local town dump where we saw a number of bears enjoying their daily feeding. They calmly looked up at the familiar bird. We had our answer to an earlier question ..... " Are there any bears in the park?"...... Hopefully they are all visiting the dump ! ! !

A somewhat bumpy low flight where you can just about touch the tops of the trees is a super experience. A huge expansive wilderness, all you see is green hills/rock outcrops/small valleys/rivers and lakes/ the odd cabin and woods road...... Ontario is one flat place..... Not much conversation, noisy, enamored by the panorama. Ian confirms that the TH is at the N end of Scarecrow lake, he has dropped off other clients at the same place. I estimated about a 6 hour round trip hike so I asked him to pick us up at 15h30 hrs.

Ian circled the lake twice before setting and coming to a stop at about 50 ft from shore, 2-3 ft of water, elev 1250'. I waded to shore piggy-backing Michael while Tim carried the back packs. We watched Ian take-off and fade away.... with it came an eerie quiet.... the wilderness. We checked out the TH before starting out at 9h30 hrs. There is a well used campsite here.

The well troddened heavily overgrown trail was easy to follow, climbing gradually for about 1000' in 2 1/2 miles. It climbs thru a fairly thick forest, past 2 unnamed lakes, past Dick lake and its dam before coming out of the trees to the top of the bedrock ridge and an old fire tower at the summit. The sign says "do not climb". You get a view of the tower 200-300 meters before reaching the actual ridge. Only a few short moderately/steep sections otherwise easy to moderate.

The trail was fairly routine except for the one obstacle at the second unnamed lake, about half way into the climb. The trail ended abruptly and disappeared into a bog/swamp area right across the trail, 2-3 ft deep, it continued on the other side 200' away..... Our options were to wade across, bushwack around its perimeter or turn back/abort the climb. We opted for the bushwack. I first scouted the bushwack around the perimeter to the left, all was ok, came back and led Michael and Tim around, piggy-backing Michael thru the few short wet areas. Michael enjoyed the last part of the bushwack, in fact he wanted to lead it. We safely got around and continued on the trail.

There was little conversation and no bears or animals on the way up. The tranquility of the wilderness was interrupted only by the sound of foot steps, the brushed overgrown trail and once in a while the sound of Tim's mouth-organ..... trying to put out the theme from the movie "Deliverance"??????. It was very funny when you thought of why this particular sound, typical Tim humor ????? The subject of meeting a bear came up a few times during the hike.

We were on top of Ontario's highest point, elev 2264', at 12h00 hrs after a 2 1/2 hour climb, satisfied and happy with the effort. Michael was a super strong 8 year old. We congratulated ourselves as we basked in the glow of our accomplishment. The view is an expansive flat green Ontario full of small hills and lakes..... No snow cap peaks here..... We took a 30 minute lunch break.

We retraced our route for an uneventfull descent, safely back at the TH at 14h30 hrs, 1 hour before the pick up time.
Ian arrived on schedule as his presence brought back the sounds of civilization. He skiied into shore and back out again for another exciting flight back to Temagami.

We had dinner at a chineese restaurant, everyone pleased with the days effort. Tomorrow we will drive back home ,stopping on the way at Don Cherry's restaurant in North Bay.

I was really proud and happy for my grandson, Michael, he was a very strong 8 year old and had no trouble with the climb. An unfortgettable and humorous adventure, all thanks to Tim.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1024 ft / 312 m
    Round-Trip Distance:5 mi / 8 km
    Route:unmaintained trail, TH at N end of scarecrow lake
    Trailhead:TH at N end of scarecrow lake  1250 ft / 381 m
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy

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