Elevation: 11,612 ft
Climbing and access information for this peak is on Pages 305-306 of the book. Updated December 2019
Table of contents: (1) The first entry below addresses the standard route; it also includes a note from Ken Jones, (2) The second entry addresses a new route, Hells Bells’ Northwest Face II WI3, M3+, put up by Dean Lords and Brian Wood and (3) Additional photos. Also, see the East Ridge/South Face Route which is located on a separate page.
Bell Mountain is one of Idaho’s iconic landmarks. My first view of this impressive peak (and the lack of information about it) convinced me to write the guidebook. Bell Mountain and Diamond Peak dominate the Southern Lemhi Range and are magnets for Idaho climbers. USGS Bell Mountain
The Standard Route
The Standard Route up the West Side of this peak is a long walk by any measure. There are lots of options to reach the peak’s West Face. All of the lower approaches climb through mixed terrains of sage bush, pine and rock. The prominent West Ridge is the most direct approach. I followed the entire ridge the first time I climbed the peak. However, you can start at a higher elevation than the toe of the ridge by driving up either Basinger Creek or Black Creek and then ascending up the flanks of the West Ridge. The West Ridge is only the opening act. The West Face is the star of this climb. It is not as difficult as it looks, but still involves sustained, steep Class 3 climbing. There are several lines on the blocky face that will work at a Class 3 difficulty level.
Ken Jones writes:
Bell Mountain, 11,612 feet (July 28, 2001). Your West Face description says to start about 6,400 feet. This is out on the flats below the base of the West Ridge – is this a typo? We drove up Basinger Canyon to the old mines at 7,600 feet and climbed to the ridge from here. Your description to “climb the middle rib” led my partner to some more exposed sections. I avoided the exposure (and felt the climb could be rated Class 2-3) by moving right into the next chute each time the rock I was on got steeper (2-3 times). On Bell Mountain, I understand that it might be climbed from the mouth of Basinger Canyon. But I’d estimate the starting elevation there as more like 6,650 feet or 6,700 feet than the 6,400 feet you describe. The route we used started near the mapped bend in the road (2-track) at about 7,600 feet. We started up the gully that drains from 10,201 feet, then traversed onto the ridge to its west, which we followed to the main West Ridge of Bell.
We followed this ridge per your description, passing two rocky outcrops (the first had perhaps the toughest – Class 3 – climbing on the route). For the last 600 vertical feet, we headed straight at the peak. On 2-3 occasions, the area I was climbing got steeper and more exposed. In each case, I returned to easier terrain by traversing to the right into another chute. These chutes were basically Class 2-3 climbing; in the Cascades, they would be rated Class 2. On the way down, we took the ridge that heads directly NW from 10,201 feet, traversing right at about 9,400 feet into a gully which we followed to Bell Mountain Creek. The woods on all these ridges appeared to be pretty open, and I expect you can make a reasonable route from wherever you can get your vehicle to up Basinger Canyon.
Hells Bells’ Northwest Face II WI3, M3+
Dean Lords and Brian Wood, June 2002
The Northwest Face of Bell Mountain is cut by two large gully systems, separated by a large steep fin or ridge. Hells Bells ascends the left gully and the upper section of the center ridge to where it connects with the North Ridge. This route is very temporary and requires specific Spring conditions to form. On our ascent, we found ice between 1 and 2½ inches in thickness. Approach via Bell Mountain Creek (Basinger Canyon) or Black Creek Canyon to a point directly below the Northwest Face. Ascend steep snow to the bottom of the left hand gully, which is at this point a very narrow couloir.
Climb a few hundred feet up this lower portion on moderate steps of thin ice mixed with some rock scrambling. A small ledge system is reached at the base of the crux pitch. Ascend a thin flow of water ice and some tricky mixed climbing (WI 3, M3+) and back into the couloir. Climb this winding section of couloir for one and a half rope lengths on thin water ice to where the couloir opens up into a wide bowl. Climb up and right to the crest of the central ridge. The rest of the climb ascends this ridge and includes some fun exposed rock climbing to where it connects with the North Ridge. Follow the North Ridge a few hundred feet to the summit. Descend the Southwest Gully.