Plants densely cespitose. Culms 18-50 cm. Leaves: sheath adaxially white-hyaline, summits U-shaped to rounded, occasionally prolonged to 4 mm beyond collar; distal ligules 0.5-1.5(-2) mm; blades 3-4(-6) per fertile culm, 11-26 cm × 2.8-4 mm. Inflorescences dense, dark brown, 1.5-3 cm × 14-20 mm; proximal internode 1.5-3 mm; 2d internode 1-3.5 mm; proximal bracts scalelike, usually bristlelike, shorter than inflorescences. Spikes (4-)6-12, aggregated, individually indistinct, ovoid, 9-15 × 4.5-6.5 mm, base and apex acute to rounded. Pistillate scales dark brown, red-brown, or red-gold, sometimes with green to gold midstripe, ovate, 3.6-4.7 mm, shorter than and narrower or as wide as perigynia, margin gold-hyaline, to 0.3 mm wide, apex acuminate or acute. Perigynia appressed to ascending, green, gold, or brown, conspicuously usually 7-9-veined abaxially, conspicuously 0-5-veined adaxially, veins shorter than achene, lanceolate to ovate, plano-convex, to 5.3-7.1 × 1.1-1.5 mm, 0.4-0.5 mm thick, margin flat, including wing 0.15-0.3 mm wide, ciliate-serrulate at least on distal body; beak dark brown, sometimes gold-hyaline at tip, cylindric, unwinged, ± entire for 0.9-1.5 mm, dorsal suture inconspicuous or with conspicuous white margin, distance from beak tip to achene 2.9-4 mm. Achenes ovate to obovate, 1.5-1.9 × 0.8-1.1 mm, 0.4-0.5 mm thick. 2n = 84. Fruiting summer. Meadows; 2700-3700 m; Ariz., Colo., N.Mex., Utah, Wyo.