At 11,278 ft. Shelly Mountain is the highest summit in the White Knob Mountains of Central Idaho. It is also the 65th highest
mountain in Idaho. Shelly is a beautiful and symmetrical peak formed of gray and orange colored crumbling rock. The mountain sits on the main crest of the range and is the southernmost of the White Knob 11ers. It is most often climbed with neighboring Redbird Mountain which is only 5 ft. shorter, but can be climbed in conjunction with all the range's 11ers. Even as a climb by itself it is very enjoyable and rewarding. Most of the routes to the summit of Shelly are strenuous class 2 climbs with 3-4,000 ft. of gain from base to summit. The rock conditions range from slippery, loose scree to solid blocks in places. This mountain is off the beaten path and is often overlooked as is the entire White Knob range. The main reason for this is that two of the most popular ranges in Idaho lie of either side of it. Everyone sees Shelly from another mountain in the Lost Rivers or Pioneers but few people actually go climb it.
The peak was first climbed in 1915 by T.M. Bannon, the same surveyor who made the first ascent of Borah 3 years earlier in 1912. Shelly has also been climbed in the winter and would probably offer some great backcountry skiing.
The view from the top of Shelly is absolutely stunning. The highest mountains in Idaho can be seen on every side, including all 9 of the Idaho 12ers and the remote eastern Pioneers. On clear days the Albion Range near Burley can be seen across the Snake River Plain to the south. White Mountain
and the North
Twins of the Salmon River Mountains can also be seen to the North.
Shelly Mountain is high, wild, and remote and should be on every Idaho peakbagger's list.
Morning Light on Shelly.
Shelly's east ridge. East Ridge
Even though the peak is quite remote it is not that hard to get to as long as you have a sturdy vehicle. All of the approaches are rough but nothing too gnarly. As long as you've got some good clearance and 4WD you'll be fine.
The quickest approach to Shelly is from the east side via Alder Creek Road and Sawmill Canyon. Follow Highway 93 north from Arco until you reach the microscopic community of Darlington. Turn left on Smith road and follow it towards the hills to the west. Eventually it will turn to the north and become Dove Road. Anywhere the road splits always stick to the left (west). Just past a very remote ranch house it will finally turn into Alder Creek Road and will enter the Challis National Forest. From here on the road gets worse until it deteriorates into an ATV track leading to the 10,000 ft. summit at the head of Stewart Canyon. Before the road reaches the intersection where it becomes the ATV track there will be a signed turnoff for Sawmill Canyon. This road is very narrow steep and rough. Camp soon after you turn off and follow the road on foot. The road will split eventually and you'll need to take the left fork which heads up to a broad sage covered ridge below Shelly's east face. Follow this ridge to the top only dropping off to avoid the large rock towers higher up. Stay to the left and down off the top of the ridge to get by them. After the towers work your way back to the ridge and walk to the summit.
The eastern Pioneers
There are no fees or permits of any kind required to hike here. The only thing to be mindful of is the condition of the road. Once again, make sure you at least have high clearance. A 4WD, while not crucial, would be very wise to have.
Always practice Leave No Trace
Make sure to let the Challis National Forest how disgusted you are with the way ATV riders rip things up.
Because the White Knobs are a very dry range they don't see as much snow as their neighbors to the west. As a result they tend to melt out earlier making snow free climbs possible as early as early to mid June. Conditions of course vary from year to year.
For more climate info check out the main White Knobs
There are plenty of excellent camping places in Sawmill Canyon with several semi-established areas. If you pick one of them and concentrate your use in that area you'll lessen your impact on other pristine places.
Idahosummits Trip Report
Splattski's Trip report
The Idaho Outdoors Forum
. Here you can get climbing and outdoor info from the local climbing community.
Shelly's Summit Ridge