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A steep, glaciated line that sees much less traffic than the other RMNP glacier descents.


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Map Key

0.2

Miles

0.3

KM

Ski Line

12,144' 3,702 m

High

11,744' 3,579 m

Low

0' 0 m

Up

401' 122 m

Down

40%

Avg Slope (22°)

47%

Max Slope (25°)
Type: Backcountry or Sidecountry

Overview

The Ptarmigan Glacier and basin is an epic area with endless descents. There are several ways down the headwall alone, and afterwards, much like in Tyndall Gorge, a glorious four-mile ski back to the car awaits you.

Description

Skin either Flattop Mountain: East Face via Bear Lake Trail or the Flattop Mountain Approach.

If you're skinning the Banana Bowls approach, you simply keep going north, via the Fern Lake and Lake Helene trails. In winter these should be well established hiker paths / skintracks.

Once at Lake Helene, the glacier, as well as the rest of the endless options in this gorge, lay in front of you. Choose the most efficient line up and ski back down to the TH via the skintrack after your descent.

If coming into the glacier from the top (Flattop Mountain Approach), simply ski down the glacier, to Lake Helene (which you can see from the Divide / top of the glacier), then ski the obvious trails to Bear Lake (Helene/Fern/Flattop).

This glacier, as well as the rest of the gorge, and even parts of the skintrack in and out of the basin, are in serious avalanche terrain. Choose a smart line on the approach as well as the descent, and ski this line and this zone on a day when conditions are friendly. This is a remote and less-traveled area of the park; one must take this into consideration when planning an outing.

Contacts

Shared By:

Jake Albright

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 1 vote

#246

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  5.0 from 1 vote
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Ski Line Rankings

#68

in Colorado

#246

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Photos

Climbing the southern aspect of the glacier (skiers right or climbers left) provides a mellow angle for bootpacking.
Feb 19, 2023 near Grand Lake, CO
Looking down the lower apron of the glacier, and down into Lake Helene and the approach / ski out
Feb 19, 2023 near Grand Lake, CO
Ptarmigan Glacier, in all it's glory, mid-February .. steepness goes easier-to-harder left-to-right (though snow conditions may drive your line more than slope angle).
Feb 19, 2023 near Grand Lake, CO
Halfway down the Glacier, making money turns.
Feb 19, 2023 near Grand Lake, CO
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Feb 18, 2023
Jake Albright
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