Thursday, October 6, 2011

Andrews Pk, Ptarmigan Mtn, But No Dead Buck

Ptarmigan Mountain

It's almost time for the high alpine to disappear under its snowy canvas for the year, so I took the opportunity for one last trip up high to accompany my friend Eric in the hunt for a dead deer.

Eric researches mortality rates among deer herds around the state, and part of his research involves collaring deer and tracking how, why and at what rate they die in relation to other variables such as buck to doe ratios among the herd. He was telling me the other day that one of his deer collars had been transmitting a mortality signal from a very remote part of Rocky Mountain National Park and that he was planing on retrieving the collar and conducting a post-mortem on the buck.

Knowing that the running season up there would be closing down any day, I was immediately offering company, but suggested we take the longer way in from Bear Lake rather than driving all the way to Long Lake to save a few miles of running. Eric was game and the hunt was on.

Our route went over the Continental Divide by way of Flattop Mountain from Bear Lake, and then all the way down into the North Inlet and partially up the other side to a big basin below Andrews Peak, which shares a ridgeline with the hugely impressive Ptarmigan Mountain. We retraced our steps coming back but cut the Divide just short of Flattop by way of Andrews Pass for the fun glissade down Andrews Glacier.

All told we were 28 miles on the morning with a whopping 8,500 feet of vertical gain between the elevations of 9,400' and 12,300' on what was an awesome, awesome final outing of the season. Ultimately our mission to track down the dead buck was unsuccessful, which was a bummer for Eric, but for me...well I was just along for the ride.

Pristine alpine tundra at about 12,000' on a very windy Flattop. Early morning view of Hallet.

Fog was moving through quickly on Flattop, but the higher clouds seemed fairly benign so we forged on with the planned route. Hallet behind the fog from Flattop Summit.

Andrews (left), unnamed 12k' peak center, Ptarmigan right. From North Inlet Trail on Flattop.
Chiefs Head through the North Inlet Valley from Lake Nanita Trail.

Flattop and Ottis (I think), from Lake Nanita Trail.

The impressive southeast face of Ptarmigan Mtn.

Ptarmigan Mtn across Lake Nanita.

Eric trying (unsuccessfully) to get a location on the dead buck.

Andrews Peak.

The basin below Andrews Peak. The buck was supposed to be in here, but Eric got no signal so surmised that the aerial location he had been given was incorrect and was in fact on the other side of the headwall. We weren't going over that.

The tarn at the base of Andrews Glacier.


  1. What was your time for this route, and is it an FKT?

    Aaron M

  2. A dead deer is a good enough excuse to go mountain running. Great pictures.

  3. I saw the snow up on the divide this morning and lamented the near-end of the high country running season. After reading this, I'm cursing more my failure to use my vacation time when the whether was better!

  4. I hope you had enough time in Michigan to catch on to the deer hunting scene there (although it's more of a Yooper thing, 'ey?)
    Now, I've heard some whoppers growing up, but the tale of the deer that was *so* elusive, you tracked it over 12,000 foot mountains, you had an electronic signal on it, AND it was already dead -- but it still "got away"-- that has to top them all!

    Seriously, looks like a fun adventure and good work out in the Park!

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