Steve Mandella, Bruce Dunham, and I were scouting peaks in Copper Basin when we decided a western loop route of Peaks 10536 and 11039 (Atlas Peak) was possible and shorter, distance-wise, than an eastern approach.
This route is accessed from Muldoon Canyon, which is located west of Star Hope Campground, in Copper Basin. The Copper Basin Loop Road, either direction, will take you to FS 510 (Muldoon Canyon road) at the loop’s southern end.
West-Side Loop Route, Class 3
Take FS 510, which parallels a lush riparian area, to a point of your choosing west of the prominent drainage for Peak 10536 and Atlas Peak. Depending on the season, FS 510 may be a partial stream (from runoff). Where the road crosses the perennial stream is your que to look for both the drainage and a place to park.
Hike to the base of the drainage and contour the north side to stay out of heavy brush in the drainage. Ascend until you see a lush and open slope to the north. Continue up this slope while also moving toward a “ridge” and continue upward on the ridge.
This ridge is more of a higher ridge-like section of slope, but it will feel like a ridge from the climber’s perspective. Though the ridge is steep, the footing is solid.
Skirt a couple of small rock outcrops on your way. Top out on the summit and enjoy the views of the Pioneers in all directions. A number of Idaho’s 12ers in the Lost River Range are viewable from this summit as well.
Descend to the saddle between Peak 10536 and Atlas Peak and begin climbing Atlas’ north-northwest ridge. Below the false summit, where the north-northwest ridge starts to become a true north ridge, is where the Class 3 section of the climb begins.
This section is relatively short but steep with large, relatively stable, rock. We chose to use our helmets from here.
When you reach the north ridge you will be climbing up and over rocky terrain, narrow and loose in places, with significant exposure and fall hazard to your east. Most of this section can be traversed slightly lower on the ridge’s west side.
Continue along the ridge to a point below the true summit and traverse to the small saddle/slot just to the west. Then, climb to the top of the peak’s small summit.
The views of the Pioneers, Lost Rivers, White Knobs and hydrology of Muldoon Canyon are spectacular from both peaks.
The descent route shown on the GPS track isn’t quite what we planned. From Peak 10536’s summit we saw a very clear game trail off of the west ridge that would have brought us back into the drainage where we wanted to re-connect with our approach route. However, in spite of visually noting its location, when we were on the ridge, we could not locate the game trail.
Instead, we followed the open section of the ridge while aiming for an old faint jeep trail off of Muldoon Canyon Road in the valley. Unlike our ascent route, the descent was mostly on non-skiable talus until we reached the valley floor. We will never know if that game trail was an easier way to go. Perhaps you’ll find it and let us know.
Trip Stats: 4.23 miles; 3,206 elevation gain; 5-1/3 hours moving time
USGS Topos: Star Hope Mine and Smiley Mountain
Motor Vehicle Use Map (2017): Salmon Challis National Forest – Lost River Ranger District