Description from Flora of China
Herbs perennial. Roots fibrous, subequally thick. Stems 10--15 cm, brown puberulent only below flower, simple. Basal leaves several; petiole 1.5--3.5 cm, glabrous; blade spatulate, cuneate, or narrowly obovate, 1--2.5 × 0.6--1.5 cm, papery, glabrous, base cuneate, apex 3--5-lobed. Stem leaves 2 or 3, lower ones short petiolate, similar to basal ones or 3-lobed, uppermost leaf sessile, palmately partite, lobes linear-lanceolate. Flowers solitary, terminal, ca. 2.5 cm in diam. Receptacle densely puberulent. Sepals 5, ovate, ca. 8 mm, abaxially densely dark brown puberulent. Petals ca. 7, broadly obovate or obovate, ca. 11 × 8--11 mm, nectary pit without a scale, apex rounded or rounded-truncate. Stamens numerous; anthers oblong. Aggregate fruit ovoid, ca. 5 × 4 mm; carpels numerous. Achene slightly bilaterally compressed, obliquely ovoid, ca. 2.5 × 0.8 mm, glabrous; style persistent, ca. 1 mm. Fl. Jul--Aug.
Collections from scree slopes in Xinjiang (Tian Shan) and Xizang (Zo La), named as Ranunculus nivalis Linnaeus, are clearly related to this species and R. sulphureus Solander. Both R. nivalis and R. sulphureus were originally described from arctic Europe. These collections differ from R. altaicus by the more deeply divided basal leaves and larger flowers, nearly 3 cm diam. They also resemble R. chuanchingensis in habit and flower size, but differ by the wider lobes of the basal leaf blades and dense, brown sepal indumentum. More work is needed to clarify their taxonomy.
Meadows, swamps; 2600--2700 m. N Xinjiang [Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia (Siberia)].