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Cutoff Creek Staging Area Bike and Scramble With Ascents of GR856506 "Burnt Peak" and GR 812518 "Grassdome"

Difficulty: 
Moderate Scramble
Elevation [m]: 
2580
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
56.0
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
850
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
1600
YDS Difficulty: 
3
Ascent Time: 
3:30 to 40 Mile Camp + 3:00 to Burnt Peak
Bushwhackyness: 
Sparse But Slippery Burnt Forest
Tripdate: 
Saturday, March 5, 2016

After having spent the previous day up the Ram River at the Hummingbird Staging Area, I met up with Eric to explore another frontcountry staging area, the slightly more southerly Cutoff Creek.  Cutoff Creek is accessed from the forestry trunk road via Rocky Mountain House and the approach road marks the end of winter highway maintenance.  We had been talking about a trio in to the area around what Google calls Forbidden Peak for some time and this seemed to be a good weekend to give it a go.  With the success of a bike approach the previous day Eric brought his bike along too and we set off aiming for the campsite near the 40 Mile Patrol Cabin some 19 km along the trail up the Clearwater River.  Being our first time in the area we didn't really have an objective in mind, just find a good viewpoint to do some scouting for future trips.

 
We opted to take the northern leg of the trail leaving the staging area which proved to be a blend of frozen mud (good biking), ice (not good biking), and packed snow (good biking).  The trail works through a series of straight cut blocks and we were super glad for the fast pace of the bikes (hiking down those cut blocks would be mighty tedious...).  Even just a short way along the trail there are lots of nice looking scramble-able peaks which are tempting enough to leaf to a return trip!
 
 

Quite the parking lot at the Cutoff Creek Staging Area.

 

A wide ATV road makes for good travel on bikes.

 

The first clearing on the trail.

 

Eric biking on the hard packed snow.

 

The only navigational challenge along the approach was to decide if we should take the wood sign pointing to 'River Bypass' at the CCZ point on the trail.  Long story short the bypass works quite well and actually had some pretty fun biking terrain.  There was a short crossing of a creek draining off Scalp Peak, but otherwise we could stay on the bikes.  Further along the trail crosses the forbodingly named Forbidden Creek which was completely dry (and braided enough that is shouldn't be too much of a problem later in the year).  Past the creek the bypass joins up with the main trail and the campground is reached!
 
 

At the junction with the main trail and the 'river bypass'

 

An interesting tower on a nearby unnamed peak.

 

The one water crossing between the staging area and the campground.

 

The bypass is also quite the wide road.

 

The very dry Forbidden Creek.

 

Beside the Clearwater River, "Burnt Peak" is the ridge on the right.

 

Looking at Forbidden Peak from the riverbed.

 

After setting up camp we decided to cross the Clearwater River and head up the burned slopes of the ridge to the north of the campsite.   A look at the topo map said that there were several summits that could be reached so we decided to go as far as we could given daylight and see how it went.  Crossing the river went very smoothly with a helpful tree bridging the deepest part of the crossing.  After reaching the base of the slope there was plenty of steep grassy terrain to ascend while weaving through light deadfall.  A couple short simple cliffbands were bypassed by trending somewhat climbers left.  Once near treeline the wind picked up which was a pleasant change from the toasty temperatures below.  The first peak ended up having a short section of moderate scrambling near the summit which was nice for variety.  Views from the first summit were quite nice with a slew of lower scrambly peaks to the east and some truly impressive looking giants to the west.  Given the broad burn visible from the campsite we reckoned that "Burnt Peak" would be a decent name for the peak.
 

Forbidden Peak is quite the sight.

 

The 40 Mile Patrol Cabin has a pretty decent view.

 

Amazingly this impressive peak is unnamed.

 

Given the burn bushwhacking is not bad at all!

 

Eric looking back down towards the 40 Mile Camp.

 

At treeline and back into the wind.

 

A little bit of scrambling on the left to reach the summit of "Burnt Peak"

 

After the scrambling just easy grass to the summit.

 

Summit pano from the top of "Burnt Peak".

 

After snapping a few pictures we carried in along the connecting ridge westwards aiming for the long grassy slope which we agreed gives the next highpoint the impressive name of "Grassdome".  To reach the summit of Grassdome you have to lose around 150 meters of elevation but the terrain is super easy and it is a very pleasant stroll as you work your way back upwards after.  A brief snow squall tested our resolve ascending the mighty Grassdome, but we stayed true to the quest and soon the squall ended and sunny skies were here again.  The grass ended up extending to within a couple hundred meters of the summit where easy scree awaited us.

 

Looks like much less sunny skies towards the main ranges.

 

Apparently this peak is a survey site.

 

A long grassy ridgewalk leads to the next 'summit'.

 

A burnt patch of trees near the lowpoint gives a very ghostly look to the bush.

 

A brief blizzard descended on us as we plodded on towards "Grassdome".

 

After the blizzard passed the wind picked up again but at least it was sunny.

 

More gentle walking to the summit of "Grassdome".

 

At this point we were toeing the boundary of being able to make it back to camp before dark and reckoned to head to the next highpoint before calling it a day.  This final highpoint was more nice gentle hiking (on scree rather than grass though) and was exceptionally windy!  Before long we got to the top of this highpoint and were somewhat depressed to see that it easily connected to the next (and likely highest) summit along the ridge.  Given the time and the ~30 km we had already traveled today we reckoned it was time to turn around and started our plod back to camp.  Our timing was quite nice in that we managed to get back to camp barely without headlamps after scavenging some nice dry driftwood for a fire from down by the river.

 

Summit pano from the next highpoint.

 

Zoomed in back towards the front range peaks along the Clearwater River Trail.

 

Looking towards the next highpoint along the ridge.

 

Looking up the river towards Mount Willingdon.

 

Back near "Burnt Peak" getting near sunset.

 

Still quite nice views around here.

 

It was quite nice to have a relaxed pace dinner and before long we had a roaring fire going to help dry off our soggy boots.  Given the benches and chairs that had been widdled at the campsite it felt like quite a luxurious place to have to ourselves!  The next morning we got going around 9 ish starting the bike back to the staging area.  We didn't really feel the gradient of the trail on the way in but lots of sections (especially the cut blocks) are just down sloped enough that biking goes really quickly.  It ended up taking only a little over 2 hours to get back to the cars (even with warmer temperatures making for more sloggy mud and slippery re-frozen ice)!

 

Good benches and chairs had been set up at the campsite.

 

Fire below and stars above.

 

Nice night for stargazing from near the 40 Mile Patrol Cabin.

 

Sunrise the next morning.

 

Glow on Forbidden Peak.

 

Packing up our camp before getting back on the bikes.

 

The junction between the regular trail and the 'river bypass'.

 

Back across the creek, all smooth sailing from here.

 

Pretty awesome introduction to the area, lots of good peaks around!

rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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