Elevation: 11,612 ft
Climbing and access information for this peak is found on pages 305 and 306.
Table of contents: (1) first entry below addresses the standard route, it also includes a note from Ken Jones, (2) The second entry addresses a new route put up by Dean Lords and Brian Wood and (3) additional photos.
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 dominated the massive Lemhi Range and are magnets for Idaho climbers.
Bell Mountain towers over the Little Lost River Valley.
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 and all are climb through mixed terrains of sage bush, pine and rock. However, 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.
The summit comes into view only after a long trudge up the west ridge.
Looking down the west ridge toward the towers. Deb Rose Photo
The west face of Bell Mountain.
Look for two climbers in the center of the photo
Climbing the west face. Deb Rose Photo
Climbing the west face. Deb Rose Photo
Looking down the west face.
There are lots of lines you can follow up to the summit block from the Little Lost River valley. Here is Margo Mandella’s GPS track.
A look at the peak’s west face with early morning lighting. Margo Mandella Photo
KEN JONES OF NEWCASTLE, WA. writes: Bell Mountain, 11,612′ (July 28, 2001). Your west face description says to start about 6,400′. 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′ 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 to 3) by moving right into the next chute each time the rock I was on got steeper (two or three 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′ or 6,700′ than the 6,400′ you describe. The route we used started near the mapped bend in the road (two-track) at about 7,600′. We started up the gully that drains from 10,201′, 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 prominences (the first had perhaps the toughest – class 3 – climbing on the route). For the last 600′, we headed straight at the peak. On two or three 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 to 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′, traversing rightat about 9,400′ 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+
Bell Mountain 11,612
Dean Lords, Brian Wood, June `02
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 1to 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.
Descent is made via the Southwest Gully.
Bell Mountain from Meadow Peak.
Bell looking up Bell Mountain Canyon.
Bell’s north face from The Knoll.
Bell’s north face from Umpleby.
On the summit of Bell Mountain, 1980. Notice the fine climbing pants. I still have the sweater.
Bell Mountain from Bassinger Canyon. Matt Durrant Photo
Mountain Range: Lemhi Range
Longitude: -113.194443 Latitude: 44.236671
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