Favorite Climbs, Part One

Story and Photos by Tom Lopez

Editor’s Note: The author, one of Idaho’s premier mountaineers over the past half-century and a regular contributor to these pages, has compiled a list of his twenty-five favorite climbs in the state. In this first of a two-part series, Tom selects five of those mountains in the northern regions of Idaho to describe. In Part Two, he’ll look at six southerly peaks.

There are many reasons to climb a mountain. There is the challenge, and we wonder if we will measure up. There is the lure of exploring the mountain’s wild, remote, and possibly unexplored terrain. We ask, ‘Has anyone climbed that peak?’ There is the promise of stunning vistas from the summit. We wonder about, and long to discover, what might be found up there. And there is the inexplicable inspiration that an attractive mountain plants in our minds. Its shape, height, or remote location might create the desire to unlock its secrets. Perhaps all these factors combined will create a sense of foreboding or mystery that somehow overwhelms our better judgment and draws us upward.

—Tom Lopez, “Bell Mountain Calling,” IDAHO magazine, March 2021.

If you’ve read “Bell Mountain Calling,” then you already can guess that number one on the list of my twenty-five favorite Idaho climbs is Bell Mountain. The following five climbs are curated from that list, but the numeric order in their ranking didn’t figure in my choice. Instead, I based it partly on the stories I have to tell about each climb and partly to present a geographic order that goes from north to south. This month I start at the top of the state and go down through the northern half, while next month I’ll look at six peaks in the state’s southern half, from top to bottom. My intent with this approach is to highlight the diversity of Idaho’s mountains.

Chimney Rock, Selkirk Mountains

Way back in 1984, when I was living in Moscow, I visited a Spokane climbing equipment shop. Staring me in the face was a spectacular photo of Chimney Rock, often referred to as the “Lightning Rod” of northern Idaho, which long has enticed climbers to attempt its vertical walls. It looked challenging. I managed to track down a copy of Off Belay, which was the climbing magazine of its day. The copy contained an article by Ron Klimkow that gave an extensive discussion of Chimney Rock, its geology, and its climbing history. One route, the first ascent in 1934, appeared to be a reasonable test of my then-moderate technical climbing skills.

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Tom Lopez

About Tom Lopez

Tom Lopez is the author of Idaho: A Climbing Guide and the website idahoaclimbingguide.com. In the last fifty years he has climbed more than a thousand Idaho peaks and completed a total of 3,500 ascents across the United States, including several first ascents. His writing has appeared in the Idaho Statesman, Summit, Rock and Ice, and Climbing magazines, among others. He strongly believes that the secret to successful aging is to keep moving ahead, “Otherwise, you’ll fall behind.”

4 Responses to Favorite Climbs, Part One

  1. Jeff Coupe - Reply


    Where’s Leatherman?

    • The Editors - Reply


      Fair question, but bear in mind that this is a ranking of Tom’s favorite experiences on Idaho peaks, not an objective measure of what the “best” mountains are. – The Editors

  2. Tom Lopez - Reply


    Leatherman is an impressive mountain but all routes to its summit involve climbing broken, loose rock so it isn’t one of my favorites.

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