Ptarmigan Peak Elevation
Is East Least or is West Best?
Solving Ptarmigan Peak’s Riddle
By Steve Gruhn
I’ve hiked up Ptarmigan Peak many times, but Ross Noffsinger mentioned something to me recently that got me to questioning my perceptions. I had always viewed the USGS map as the authority on the summit elevations of the double-summitted peak. Ross maintained that the east summit was higher than the west summit, despite the USGS map indicating to the contrary.
With Ross’ comment in the back of my mind, I led Theo Hunt, Kristyna Branum, and John Recktenwald on an after-work hike up Ptarmigan Peak on August 9, 2007. The hike up the Rabbit Lake trail was pretty straightforward and, after leaving the trail about three-quarters of a mile southeast of the end of the old road below Ptarmigan Pass, we were soon on the east summit, the one labeled with an elevation of 4880 feet on the USGS Anchorage (A-7) quadrangle. The west summit certainly appeared lower than the east summit from that vantage point. My altimeter read 4960 feet and, because I hadn’t calibrated it beforehand, I viewed the reading as well within the range of acceptable error.
We hiked over to the west summit, which the USGS quadrangle indicates is between 4900 and 5000 feet in elevation. Here my altimeter indicated the elevation was 4920 feet. I used a partially filled water bottle as a level to confirm that the east peak was higher.
We returned to the Rabbit Lake trail and were back at the vehicles before dusk, having had a wonderful trip and having answered a nagging question.
So, having solved the riddle as to which peak is higher, the next nagging question is, “What is the elevation of the east summit of Ptarmigan Peak?” Inquiring minds want to know.
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