This longer approach is best done as an early morning approach, and the Dead Elk Couloir
is best done as a spring line. The route begins as the Flattop Mt. approach, which you'll follow for about 3 miles before branching south.
In the winter, you can walk straight out of the bear lake parking lot towards flattop without even hiking to the lake. Once you pass the top of Flattop East face, keep going until the incline begins to mellow out. The top of Flattop is often wind-scoured, so be prepared to boot pack.
The two entrances to Dragontail Couloir
come up quickly on the left side and can be recognized by one, mellower line entering westward into the couloir and another past that which enters facing east and is much steeper. Another couple hundred yards along the ridge will bring you around a small hill of scree and to the entrance of Dead Elk. The top part of the couloir may be scoured a little bit and there will be a noticeable choke to the couloir as you look down it.