Photo: Ishpatina Ridge and peaks

Map: Ishpatina Ridge

Trail length: 3.4 km (2.1 mi)

Trail vertical rise: 317 m (1,040 ft)

  ANDY STEVENS

When standing on Tower Peak, you can feel the almost unrelenting wind as it rattles the relic fire tower. The summit, or Tower Peak, is the highest elevation in Ontario. (The north peak is the third highest and the south peak the fifth.)

The top of the highest manmade structure in the Western Hemisphere, CN Tower in Toronto, is 60 metres lower (approx 633 metres above sea level).

There is no higher point of land for 525 kilometres (326 miles) to the south, 380 kilometres (236 miles)  to the east, 1,430 kilometres (890 miles) to the west, and 1,600 kilometres (994 miles) to the north, above the Arctic Circle.

Getting there is not so straightforward. Almost everyone travels by canoe. Ken Takabe, trekking to the highest points of every province, got there overland in 2001. After his story was published on Ottertooth, his overland route became a staple for highpointers.

                  Highpointing: overland to Ishpatina

The first fire tower, an 80-foot, light-steel structure with guy wires, was built in 1930. Its successor, the still-standing, 100-foot, heavier-steel structure, was abandoned in the late 1960s. The solo towerman spent his days fire watching from the cupola. Each morning and evening he travelled the 3.4-kilometre, 317-metre-vertical-rise trail between the tower and his cabin on the shore of Scarecrow Lake two hours up, an hour and a quarter down. The only contact with others was via the tower radio or, when he was lucky, with passing canoeists mostly from one of the youth camps on Lake Temagami.

Due to its prominence, lightning often strikes. Before widespread aircraft use, fire rangers had to build a trail up the north slope from Smoothwater Lake to cope with frequent fire-fighting trips from their Gowganda base.

Nishnabai translation

Ish-pud-in-ong

highest hill

  PHOTOS: Andy Steven's aerials

          A peaks-all-in-one

  HISTORY: Myth of the highest point

  LIST: Ontario's highest peaks

  DETAILED MAPS: Routes to Ishpatina

  RELATED STORY:

Ishpatina fire tower in deteriorates

POSTED 2.24.06

UPDATED 11.28.10

Despite its rank as the highest peak in Ontario, the more accessible and controversial Maple Mountain is better known.

Ishpatina was only crowned in 1970 as Ontario's highest elevation when the first topographical map was published, the federal 41P/7. Other peaks were thought to be higher. There was a suggestion to call it Mount Coleman after the famed provincial geologist, but Ontario's Geographic Names Board decided to look for a local name.

ALEX BROADBENT

Looking southeast from the base of the tower, September 2003. Pojo is in the foreground.

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Ishpatina Canyon

In the foreground is the 200-metre-deep Ishpatina Canyon. The virtually unknown canyon is twice as deep (though not as long, steep-walled, or narrow) as 100-metre-deep Ouimet Canyon, considered Ontario's deepest. It is not known if Ishpatina Canyon has been explored.

Looking east-southeast, the North Peak is on the left. From miles away, at ground level, it sometimes looks taller. The tower is to the right of the frame.

ANDY STEVENS

Ethno-geographer Craig Macdonald says the Board learned that the First People called it "highest hill."  Author Basil Johnston, a Georgian Bay Ojibway, then affiliated with the Board, translated it into Ishpatina in his dialect. But in the Temagami dialect it is Ish-pud-in-nong.

 

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