Ascent of Mount Desor on 2015-06-15

Climber: Gustav Sexauer

Others in Party:Katrina
Date:Monday, June 15, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Boat
Peak:Mount Desor
    Elevation:1394 ft / 424 m

Ascent Trip Report

June 14th:
From Mt. Ojibway at 7:21am on the 14th, we started along the Greenstone Ridge Trail heading SW. It was still super foggy and damp. Our feet were becoming soaked thanks to our pants grabbing water off of plants that we brushed up on and that moisture flowing into our socks and then moistening our boots too. What made it worse was that when conditions dried up and the sun came out later in the day, our waterproof boots didn't let the water out. The trail was mostly wooded as we passed between Sargent and Angleworm Lakes and we only got a few views of them. The 3.9 mile stretch between trail intersections was our first real taste of the isolation. We did, however, pass some hikers coming up onto the ridge when we were headed downhill and back to the NE as the trail descends towards Chickenbone Lake. We were surprised that the couple didn't seem more friendly. At this point it was still pretty damp out and the mosquitoes were coming out in their numbers. I decided to put on my head net for the first time, but Katrina decided to go without. My neck was getting bit the most, and beyond that I was getting bit through my long sleeve shirt on my shoulders. We wanted to use the pit toilet at the east Chickenbone campground, so we went off course for 0.15mi to get to it. It was 11:17am. After relieving ourselves we went down to the lake and ate some lunch. We had southwest trailmix, a summer sausage, pickels, craisins, and a couple bags of gushers which went away pretty quickly. Back on the trail we continued on a ridge that ran between Chickenbone Lake and Lake Livermore. At one point we dropped about ten feet into a gully where a stream was running between the lakes. There was a trail sign here, but we were a bit confused and decided to use the compass to figure out which way to go. The general map given out by the NPS only shows the Greenstone Ridge Trail and a tiny spur that goes to Chickenbone to the right. We went left and in a few minutes ended up at Lake Livermore where we realized we were on a portage trail. At least we got to see the lake! We backtracked and then took the right at the fork instead, also noticing that the portage trail to Chickenbone was on the NE side of the creek. After an intersection past the lakes, the next stretch was 6.8 miles! The only landmark we could look for was the top of Mount Siskiwit, which was somewhere along the trail. We also passed three other people going the opposite way. At least two of them had mosquito head nets like me. The forest had a nice segment of pines and a creek crossing bridge about here. Once we regained some elevation and made it on to the rockier ridge we had to adapt to afternoon hiking. The weather got a bit hot so I took off my head net. Thankfully the ridge's rocks and tiny meadows were light on biting bugs. We kept most of our warmer clothes on, however, so that they could dry out as much as possible. On this ridge we got some of the best views of the island, with great views of Siskiwit Lake and of Superior on both sides. We thought we topped out on Siskiwit at 3:50pm, although there were many could-be summits and after checking topos once we got home we found that we had not gone off trail to stand on top of the correct summit. That was not of major importance, though, as this trip was primarily about the through hike of Isle Royale, and secondly about finding the top of Mount Desor, with no other firm goals. After that incredibly long stretch of no trail options, we made it to the marker for the Hatchet Lake turn. We were pretty warn out, but we hustled downhill to the campground. There was a considerable drop off the ridge to get there and the trail was steep in some spots. We knew we would have to climb back up here first thing in the morning, too. We also were somewhat forced to camp at Hatchet Lake in the campground because disperse camping is off limits in the sectors around here (at least at this time of the year). To our surprise and content, though, once we got to the campground we found that we were the only party there. It turned out to be almost as wild as a disperse spot, but with a cleared dirt patch for our tent, a couple of logs to sit on and an outhouse. Katrina set up the tent for the first time on her own and we sprayed some bug spray to make our camp more livable. Our feet were pruned up from the wet morning and rest of the day of wet boots, and so we went down to the water. Hatchet Lake was really picturesque and clear. We agreed after getting off the island that this was the best lake on the island. We went for a swim and allowed our wet shoes to soak up a little Sun. Today's total hiking time was 11 hours and 48 minutes, including breaks. Today began at our backcountry camp at 6:41am and finished at campsite #2 at Hatchet Lake Campground at 6:29pm.

June 15th:
We started hiking at 6:59am after a good night's rest. We climbed the hill back up to the Greenstone Ridge Trail through the birch trees and over the muddy spots that were closer to the lake. We were definitely drier that any time the day before and we felt great. Today was also the day we were going for Mount Desor, the park's highpoint. Our first destination was Ishpeming Point which I knew had a lookout tower on it after reading a story on the boat over about how one of the fire tower scouts had met his wife on the island and they came back to work there for a few summers and even had their infant child reside in the fire tower with them for at least one summer. The bugs were out and biting again today, especially on the first section of trail where there were few vantage points. We arrived at the tower at 9:25am, just a minute before another couple arrived from the other direction. What a coincidence! Unfortunately, the tower was constructed when there were no trees in the way of its view, and currently the trees totally block any views from the two-story-high tower. Bummer. It was also locked up and had a fair amount of bees swarming around it so we didn't stay long although we did get out granola bars and chat with the other couple. In the next 3.4 miles we went through some swampy upland, often with boardwalks to help us across the worst areas. We came across a number of boards, though, that were broken in some way or another. We were able to get across them still, but in one spot the water was an unknown depth surrounding the boardwalk and a 10' board was leaning to one side, having torn out some of the pins holding it to the support logs and also fracturing on the same logs on the near side. Katrina went across first and warned me that when she put her full weight on, the plank tilted a bit more. She kind of side stepped it, but made it across. I planned to do the same. I shuffled on sideways and the board tilted more: fine. It was at a steep angle, but I moved my foot to make a step and the plank tilted to an even steeper angle, maybe 40 degrees. I tried to get my balance, and I would have, but my pack lagged behind my motions and threw me off in the other direction. I ended up bending my leg down that was on the plank and I grabbed the sides of it with both hands, my lower knee plunging in to the water and my pack just dipping in a bit. I somehow kept both feet out and was clinging to this board that might as well have ripped out of the supports completely. I crawled over to the next plank and was upset, although pretty thankful I didn't tank my whole pack. As it turned out I just had one wet leg, and I was able to dry it out before lunch time thanks to the hot day. The trail then turned for the better and began on a very scenic and exposed ridge where we were rewarded with views of Lake Desor, Mount Desor, and Siskiwit Bay. We could also see over to the Minong Ridge which we decided that we would hike if we ever make it back. We encountered a man and his daughter checking out one of the vistas. He initially called us "boys" before realizing that Katrina was a female, just dressed in a utilitarian fashion for the trail in her buttoned flannel. The man said that his daughter, who was maybe 17?, just wanted to keep moving and he was getting tired out. The trail continued on to a low spot where we turned to stop at Lake Desor for the outhouse and to eat lunch. It was 11:55am. The lake, however, had a lot of gunk on the surface and we were dissuaded from swimming and were even a bit uneasy about using our life straw. This was our last known point to get water before Windigo, though, so we had to fill up a bottle and hope that our filters were good enough. Following lunch, we got back onto the Greenstone Ridge Trail and I studied my topo carefully (now that we were on the small segment I had with me) so that I would know when we had just crested the steep section that Greg Slayden (on the Peakbagger Mt Desor page) mentions comes just before the highpoint in this direction. Sure enough, we went over the rise near the 1164' spot elevation, then over the 1239' spot elevation. We then crossed a steep and narrow gully which headed north. We then crossed a broad false summit with spot elevation 1319'. We noted the swamp on our right which we skirted around on a narrow ridge among large trees which I think were maple and oak. It was very intriguing to note how different this forest was than that around the top of Mount Siskiwit, or the brushy forest downslope of Mount Ojibway. Here the forest floor was mostly leave colored and the steely brown tree trunks and the fresh light green leaves gave me a much homier feel. We then ascended what was one of the steepest parts of the whole Greenstone Ridge Trail. It was still very manageable, though. That brought us on top of a large flat area, but I noticed that there was a kind of cane shaped mound to the south. It rose up about four feet from the surrounding ground. I looked at the trip reports and no one had previously described what the top looked like. I hoped this was it. We found what we thought was the top of it, maybe 50-100' off of the trail, and took pictures. It was 2:22pm. The terrain following this cane shaped mound is hard to match with the map and we seriously doubted that we had found the summit. We thought other mounds not too far west could have been it and we hadn't stepped on them due to second and third guessing ourselves and our position, waiting for a new Slayden steep section. It never came, and after mentally exhausting ourselves we arrived at the next trail intersection with the trail to Island Mine, definitely past Mount Desor. We then thought that we may have actually done it, but it wasn't until we were back at a computer a week later that we determined we had done it! This was a big deal, because shortly after that next intersection Katrina told me that she had picked out a highpoint list that she herself was seriously interested in persuing. The National Park Highpoint List! What a good list this was and what a relief it was to have hiked this one on our first try.

The real tips for Mount Desor (for those without electronics): If you are coming from Windigo, I don't think you will be able to know where you are until you overshoot and find that steep section beyond it. Once you do that, turn around and it will be that elongated mound/hummock south of the trail. If coming from the northeast, just find that steep section. The top is in heavy trees and there's no chance of a view to give you any reference points.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4041 ft / 1231 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3852 ft / 1174 m
    Grade/Class:Class 1
    Quality:3 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Mud/Swamp
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4041 ft / 1231 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 189 ft / 57 m; Extra: 3852 ft / 1174m
    Loss on way in:3852 ft / 1174 m
    Distance:26 mi / 41.8 km
    Route:Greenstone Ridge Trail
    Start Trailhead:Mount Siskiwit  1205 ft / 367 m
    Time:9 Hours 32 Minutes
Descent Statistics
Ascent Part of Trip: Isle Royale 15 (3 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Mount Ojibway2015-06-14 #11274 ft / 388 m
3Mount Desor2015-06-15 #14041 ft / 1232 m
4Sugar Mountain2015-06-15 #2875 ft / 267 m
Total Trip Gain: 6190 ft / 1887 m    Total Trip Loss: 6255 ft / 1906 m

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