OverviewThe southeast corner of Idaho’s vast Salmon River Mountains contains the highest peaks of the entire range, and White Mountain, at 10,442 ft. is the highest summit of them all. Regardless of its ranking as a high point of a major range, it seldom sees visitors. All routes to the top involve class three climbing, the most easily accessible of which is the most difficult.
Its name is derived from the beautiful bright white rock found along its North and West sides. However, the USGS quad has labeled White Mountain as being a minor point (pt. 9870) East of the actual peak. This is incorrect and there is absolutely nothing white about that point. While the North and West sides of the peak are brilliantly white, the summit itself is a messy pile of crumbling grayish brown rock perforated by jagged towers here and there.
White Mountain’s East Face is its steepest side, being nearly vertical in places. Below this spectacular face is the Twin Creek Lakes basin containing 7 emerald green alpine lakes.
North and South Twin. Those two peaks are clearly visible but White Mountain is sometimes obscured by foothills. Of those three peaks, South Twin appears to be the highest but it is shorter than White Mountain by about 100 ft. When viewed from the summit or even the South side of South Twin, White Mountain presents all its colors in dazzling splendor. The view from this vantage point is probably one of the most photogenic in Idaho (in my humble opinion). Not only is the beauty of White Mountain visible from here, but the 7 Twin Creek Lakes and the colorful vastness of the Frank Church Wilderness.The rock colors in this area range from white, orange, and green, to black, red and brown. This chromatic variety is due to volcanic activity in the area known as the Challis Volcanics. White Mountain, as well as North and South Twin and the ridge they sit on form the southern edge of a vast caldera formed when a massive ancient volcano collapsed.
The peak sits about 10 miles northwest of Challis, Idaho where its North Ridge forms part of the boundary of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. It is administered by the Challis National Forest.
Getting ThereDespite White Mountain’s location on the edge of the Frank Church Wilderness, the peak is relatively easy to get to. It can be approached from either the North or the South, the Southern route being the longer but easier of the two (climbing-wise but not driving-wise).
From Challis take highway 93 East (towards Salmon) and turn left on Clinic Road. This will intersect with Challis Creek Road after curving around the town’s medical clinic and assisted living center. Turn Right on Challis Creek Road which will eventually enter the Challis National Forest and turn to dirt. This road will split and the left fork will take you to the Challis Creek Lakes where White Mountain’s South Ridge can be accessed. The ridge above the lakes presents no major obstacles but the road to the lakes is said to be pretty nasty.
The right fork will be labeled as Sleeping Deer Road and will take you up Bear Creek Canyon towards the pass between North and South Twin. Beyond the pass the road will continue for 24 miles into the heart of the Frank Church Wilderness, eventually ending near Sleeping Deer Mountain. This road will take you closer to White Mountain than the other fork but it will require you to climb the more difficult North Ridge. Continue up Sleeping Deer road and eventually you will come to some houses. Just before the houses the road enters a pasture where a herd of horses and pack mules are kept. They like to stand on the road so you’ll probably need to coax them out of the way. North Ridge of White Mountain is clearly visible from here.
Also be advised that the forest on West side of the Twin Peaks and White Mountain burned recently and can be subject to flash floods and other rapidly changing conditions.
Also, as with all wilderness areas, motorized travel is restricted in the Frank Church Wilderness. You shouldn’t need to worry about that though since you’re coming to climb.:) Remember, pack it in, pack it out.
No permits of any kind are required.
CampingThere are several good camping spots along Bear Creek. There is one established site with a table and fire ring near the cabins where the road splits. If you continue up the Sleeping Deer Road to the pass there is a large area established on the wilderness boundary suitable for camping. This area has several fire rings and a VERY primitive toilet.
External LinksSalmon-Challis National Forest
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Some info about the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness