OverviewTom Lopez describes the Southwest Ridge of Altair Peak as a “classic scramble that should be on every peak bagger’s list”, which is high praise considering the number of outstanding scrambling opportunities in the state. I personally found the climb very enjoyable, but probably wouldn’t rank it as a classic (of course I may have dropped too far below the ridgeline and may have inadvertently bypassed much of the fun stuff).
Getting ThereDriving directions to the trailhead located at the Broad Canyon “Recreation Site” are as follows. From downtown Ketchum Idaho, follow Trail Creek Road through Sun Valley, over Trail Creek Summit, to the signed turnoff for Copper Basin and Wildhorse Canyon. The turnoff is about 22 miles northeast from Ketchum, or about 19 miles southwest from US-93 if coming from Challis or Mackay. Once at the turnoff, go right (east) and follow the road for about 12 miles then turn right again (south) on Copper Basin Loop Road. Continue for another 8 miles to the marked fork for Broad Canyon. Follow this road for another half mile to the trailhead, home to several picnic tables and an outhouse.
There are two trailheads at the Broad Canyon “Recreation Center”. The first one you see is the “Jarvis Trailhead”. This is the start of a well-maintained trail that climbs steadily up to Betty Lake in just under 5 miles. From Betty Lake the trail fades, but can be made out in the grass leaving the clearing due east of the lake. Follow the faint but well cairned trail as it winds through boulders and eventually switchbacks its way up to the saddle on the ridge north of Betty Lake. Leave the trail about 20 meters south of the saddle and begin making your way up Alair’s southwest ridge. There are some cliffs that you bypass by leaving the trail prior to the saddle, and the best option is to stay south of the ridge early on to avoid challenges. Later you’ll likely want to cross back over to the north side of the ridge for a short and enjoyable section of stable Class 3 scrambling. The section is soon overcome, and the remaining 400’ of gain is straightforward Class 2. It is roughly 6 miles and just over 4000’ of elevation gain from Broad Canyon’s “Jarvis Trailhead” to the summit of Altair Peak.