Cutline Ridge And Corral Mountain

Taking advantage of Chinook weather conditions, Andrea Battistel, Peter Henostroza, Zosia Zgolak and I headed out to Alberta's Cataract Creek Snow Vehicle Public Land Use Zone on 21 November 2020 to hike up "Cutline Ridge" and "Corral Mountain" as coined by Bob Spirko who originally climbed them in, respectively, 2015 and 2012.  Vern Dewit recently combined both unofficially-named objectives into a single trip, and we would do a similar loop except in reverse.  Incidentally, the hike up Corral Mountain is also described in Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, but she refers to the objective as "Cougar Hill".  Dewit's "Corral Creek Mountain" is arguably a better descriptive name, but I defer to Spirko's original name since he was the first, as far as I know, to bring it to everyone's attention.

Starting from the bridge along Highway 532 (2WD gravel) twelve kilometres west of the junction with Highway 22, Andrea, Peter, Zosia and I headed west along a road on the north bank of Willow Creek.  For the first few kilometres, this road was pockmarked with numerous hoof prints presumably from cattle, and with the uneven muddy surface hardened by freezing temperatures, I found walking here rather wearisome especially since I was still recovering from a sore left ankle.  About 2.5 kilometres from the highway, we left the main road and hopped across Willow Creek to briefly follow an exploration road along the north bank of Iron Creek.  We soon left this road to ascend a semi-open ridge which led us to a large cut block where we could see an obvious cut line climbing up the east end of its namesake ridge.  After making our way across the cut block, we gained the cut line partway up the ridge and climbed steeply up to the first of three successively higher bumps leading to the highest point of Cutline Ridge.  From the top of the first bump, a reclaimed road turns away from the cut line and drops down to a dip where it essentially peters out at the edge of another cut block.  Despite a lack of well-defined trails, hiking over the next two bumps was still relatively easy, and we had few problems reaching the high point of Cutline Ridge.
The frozen road was rough on my sore ankle!

The group hikes on a road along the north bank of Willow Creek.

Not the time to get cold feet! Peter and Andrea wait for Zosia to hop across partially-frozen Willow Creek.
The beaten path is actually the cut line! Leaving the road along Iron Creek, the group heads for the obvious beaten path rising up the slope ahead.
Veer right! The group tries to figure out the most efficient way to reach the obvious cut line across the intervening cut block.
And slippery too! The cut line is unrelentingly steep.
More ups and downs to come...sigh. This open section of a reclaimed road grants a comprehensive view of the remainder of Cutline Ridge which is mostly forested.
It's interesting how a few trees are always left standing in the middle of a cut block! Zosia descends the penultimate bump en route to the highest point of Cutline Ridge at left.
Like the sweat marks on my jacket? Zosia, Peter and Andrea stand around Sonny on the high point of Cutline Ridge (1862 metres).
No easy way up from this side! Sentinel Peak dominates the view to the west.

Lots of feasible ways to go up this one.

Corral Mountain sits to the north of Cutline Ridge's high point.


From the high point of Cutline Ridge, Andrea, Peter, Zosia and I backtracked for a short distance before plunging down forested slopes into Corral Creek valley to the north.  Peter, our personal Peru Andes Guide, did a great job of route-finding here, and contrary to Dewit's lamentations about this section, I found the bushwhacking to be fairly benign and no worse than what we already encountered on the crest of Cutline Ridge.  After reaching the valley bottom and hopping over Corral Creek, we grinded up the southern slopes of Corral Mountain and eventually worked our way into the obvious broad gully below the impressive summit cliffs.  These cliffs are easily circumvented near the top of the broad gully, and we had no trouble scrambling onto the mildly exposed summit.

For our return trip, Andrea, Peter, Zosia and I traversed over the lower east summit of Corral Mountain before dropping back down into Corral Creek valley.  Some route-finding is required to get through some easy cliff bands here, but we had no serious issues descending to the valley bottom.  We eventually gained an exploration road along Corral Creek and followed it eastward.  Instead of taking Spirko's short cut, we stayed on the exploration road which ultimately crosses Willow Creek and intersects the main road leading back to the highway.  While our chosen route is longer, it saves a bit of elevation gain and eliminates any potential route-finding uncertainties.  Having said that, the walk along the aforementioned pockmarked section of road was just as aggravating the second time around.  In retrospect, I would recommend either skiing the road (need enough snow to do so) or riding a horse (need a horse and buns of steel).
We've endured worse bushwhacking than this! Zosia descends a forested slope on the north side of Cutline Ridge.
Feeling tired yet? The group grinds its way up a rocky section on the south side of Corral Mountain.
If there was more snow, this would be an awesome place to ski! The group climbs up a broad gully below Corral Mountain's summit cliffs.

I wonder if anyone has rock-climbed here...

Andrea traverses along the base of the summit cliffs.


Reminds me of some of the rock formations in US deserts. Zosia approaches the top of the broad gully (out of view to left) where she will be able to circumvent these cliffs.
Not as scary as it looks! The summit of Corral Mountain looks like a sharp pinnacle from this angle.
Don't jump! While Peter looks over the edge of the summit, Andrea wanders over to a lower pinnacle.
Thank you, Zosia, for coming back up here with us! Peter, Zosia, Sonny and Andrea sit on the summit of Corral Mountain (1902 metres).  This is Zosia's second time up here.
I'm glad that we climbed Cutline Ridge first! To the south, Cutline Ridge is visible immediately beyond the lower pinnacle.
If you have sharp eyes, you can also pick out Holy Cross Mountain, Mount Head, and Zephyr Creek Hills. Mount Burke (left) is the most recognizable land feature to the northwest.
We've got a long walk ahead of us still... The group descends into Corral Creek valley from the east summit of Corral Mountain.
My poor ankle took another beating on the long walk out! The hike back to the starting point is straightforward but long.
An outstanding hike regardless of the season. Thank you, Bob Spirko! Total Distance:  18.4 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  8 hours 8 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain:  966 metres

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