Living at 7,100 feet at the base of the Rocky Mountains, I sometimes complain about our cold winters, especially as they stretch into March and April. But imagine spending the winter on top of the Rockies, at 11,000 feet or higher. At these elevations, winter lasts from October to May. The wind howls, blizzards come without warning, and the snow that doesn’t blow away piles deeply over the tundra.
Many species that summer on top of the mountains migrate vertically to lower, more sheltered wintering grounds. Of the few that remain all year, most hibernate. But amazingly, there’s one small mammal—six inches long, weighing a mere six inches—that chooses mountaintop scree slopes as its home: the pika.