Choose Your Adventure
Sierra Mountain Center
California’s premier guide service and mountaineering school.
Located in Bishop, California SMC offers guided hikes, rock climbing, summer mountaineering, waterfall ice climbing, backcountry skiing, emergency training, summer and winter instruction and custom guiding in the Eastern Sierra of California.
The Snow Keeps on Coming, Coming and Coming
This is indeed turning into a winter to remember and one for the record books. The top of Mammoth has 300 inches of base and overall the ski area has seen 550 plus inches of total accumulation. And more is in the forecast It is seems only a short while ago that the discussion was how we were in the third La Niña winter in a row and predictions were for a low snow winter. But as is said predictions are hard to make, especially about the future.
We are running trips as much as we can but we also want them to be safe rewarding experiences where guests get what they want. We have been adapting as we go but sometimes road closures are beyond our control.
But it does look as if spring is going to be amazing and we are highly suggesting you head out. You might never see this much snow ever again and as we oscillate between extremes we all have to get it while we can.
During the pandemic lots of people invested in backcountry ski gear but then did not get to use it much. This will be the winter to really get out. Winter is a different game to summer with a lot more going on. So do get the skills to know how to take care of yourself and your partners perhaps starting with a Recreational Avalanche I Course or if you have done that already up your skills with the Recreational Level II.
How about getting ski skills over the winter and work towards an Extended Ski Tour into the heart of the Sierra in the spring. Or if a basecamp is more your style then visit us with a Backcountry Hut Trip or our new (So new that we don’t have a page up yet – call the office for details) Snowmobile Supported Rock Creek Basecamps offering the best skiing in the Sierra Nevada.
So many options and so little time.
No matter what get out there and enjoy the mountains in the spring. Don’t delay: call Emma in the office and plan your snowy adventures.
Fly to Bishop!
Yes, after years of waiting, you can finally can fly into the Bishop airport. United is flying from SFO and more flights will be added as the need and demand is determined. Flights have now started up for the winter.
SMC owner and veteran of over 40 years climbing and skiing the Sierra Nevada, SP Parker, will be teaching lecture day of most AVI courses this winter. This is your unique chance to learn from a very experienced instructor who knows the terrain, the curriculum and the most important factors better than most anyone. We hope you show up with tough questions ready!
Start your backcountry education with the Level 1 Recreational Avalanche Course. We aim to demystify avalanche phenomena and evaluation, giving you the skills to head out make better decisions. We have an online format for the class work and now you can fit the two day field sessions into any 2-day weekend. With the new snow we have added early December classes are these are filling rapidly so don’t miss out .
Are you planning to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) or the John Muir Trail (JMT) this year. If so you need to know that there will be large amounts of snow and full fast rivers to cope with. Winter brought record setting snows and these will linger late meaning that this year will not be your usual casual High Sierra experience. To get from one end of the trail to the other will require new tools and the ability to use them. In the past a pair of trail runners and micro-spike might have sufficed. Not this year and crampons and an ice axe will be the tools and our Snow Travel Skills and our River Crossing Skills will give you the confidence to tackle the mountains with proficiently.
Maybe you have the goal of climbing Mt Whitney via the Trail Route or perhaps one of our Southern California peaks such as San Gorgonio or Mt Baldy. These peaks have seen a recent uptick in accidents due to the snowy and icy conditions ans the ability to use crampons and ice axes is now crucial.
So join us to acquire new skills and confidence to deal with new conditions.
This year is one for the record books and we are drawing on our over 40 years of Sierra backcountry skiing to adapt our tours to meet the challenges of the huge snows. Many roads are closed and some on the west side of the range may not open until June. This means that routes such as the Sierra High Route and the Monarch Divide are just not going to be possible in 2023 – but don’t despair we have options and are adapting.
We plan to undertake tours that start and end on the east side; we will shorten some daily distance to deal with the deeper snows and are planning routes have options such as peak ski descents as well.
Currently we are offering
• McGee to Mammoth with a descent of Red Slate Mountain. Intermediate. April 14-18
• White Wing Overnight Loop. Beginner. April 15-16
• Ionian Basin & ski descent of Mount Goddard. Intermediate-Advanced. May 7-12
We believe that the Sierra backcountry skiing is the finest adventure the Sierra Nevada has to offer and one that too few people take of advantage of.
Join us to explore the Range of Light in the snow.
There are other guide services offering trips in the Sierra Nevada.
So why do we believe that you will get the most out of letting us be your guides?
We are knowledgeable and local
We are the oldest, most established local guide service with a continuous history of one owner since the 1990s. The Eastern Sierra has been our home for over 40 years. These are the mountains where we love to climb, hike and ski. There are no working guides who know the Sierra as well as we do, from the popular paths of the Sierra, but also the little-known places where we have been exploring new routes, tours and remote summits. We know the best routes and the small details that make for a successful trip. When you call us and ask what conditions are, we simply look out our office window and give you up to date information. You are not calling someone if a far-off city or state.
Veteran guide SP Parker who has lived and guided locally for over 42 years is at the helm of SMC. He sets the standards required of SMC guides and works to mentor and train them in the long tradition of Sierra Guiding of which we are proud to be a part of and to continue.
We literally help write the books on climbing. “High Sierra Climbing” by Chris McNamara, of Supertopo – “Eastern Sierra Ice” – self-published by us and the “Climbers Guide to the Bishop Area” by Maximus Press.
Our groups are small with low guide to participant ratios
Large groups can detract from the learning process and the wilderness experience. We work to keep ratios as small as practical, and our small groups give you more of what you came for: skiing, climbing and exploring the Sierra.
Our Programs are All Inclusive
Scheduled trip prices are all-inclusive (except for any rental equipment). Overnight backcountry programs include permit fees; group equipment such as kitchen, group technical gear, first aid supplies and avalanche beacons and good backcountry breakfast, lunch and dinners.
We are qualified
We believe in the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) programs and the level of quality assurance that they give you in choosing a guide. Our climbing and mountaineering guides are trained and certified by the AMGA for the terrain they work in. Certified guides have demonstrated before his or her peers high levels of competence and judgment as well as fulfilling technical requirements such as emergency medical certification, rescue training, and snow stability forecasting. Guides certified in rock, alpine and ski gain the international (IFMGA) credential. This IFMGA credential gives us the ability to provide guides to work in other IFMGA member countries such as those of Europe.
We are an AMGA Accredited Business
American Mountain Guides Association Accreditation is a process that reviews operational guidelines, staffing, permits, and insurance helping to insure professionalism by self-evaluation. It is a means of quality assurance and external review that examines such important business practices, compliance with state, federal and local regulations, staff training and professional development, resource stewardship, and adherence to current industry standards. This credential represents a commitment to excellence through exemplary operating standards and an adherence to the highest ethical standards. We are proud to share this credential with some of the nation’s most recognized and respected guide services, climbing schools, and educational institutions. Learn more
SMC is the only locally-based AMGA Accredited guide service.
As an AMGA Accredited Guide Service in 2022 we are bound to hold our staff to the AMGA “Scope of Practice” That sets out the appropriate terrain for a given level of training. Other non-accredited guide services are not bound by this professional standard. We believe in it and hope that you do to in choosing us over those who are not bound by this professional standard
We completed our re-review in December of 2021 and the reviewers concluded:
…. Sierra Mountain Center serves as a model for a small guide service operating in alpine, rock, and ski terrain in the U.S. Documents reviewed reveal not only sound field practices, but also a solid grasp of business operations, including an understanding of and compliance with state and federal labor laws and land use regulations. Feedback provided by field staff was positive overall. Staff were appreciative of the training and mentoring opportunities that are available to them. They stated that they felt respected and that communication with the owner is excellent. They left the impression that Sierra Mountain Center is an outstanding business to work at.
Land/permit managers contacted stated having a very good working relationship with the company owner and guides. Several expressed appreciation for the owner’s input and assistance with updating their agency’s land use management plans.
What Our Clients Say
In 2017 we tried the Mountaineer’s Route, (with another guiding company), and made it to Upper Boy Scout Lake. Coming from Michigan and lacking the time to properly acclimate, we were not feeling well. We decided not to overpush and go for the summit. I said to Whit, we should try this again, but give ourselves more time.
Fast forward to 2020, I booked our trip with SMC and it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve made regarding guiding companies. They guided us through the sign-up process and helped us prepare. They answered every question we had and when Covid came and an earthquake hit 1-1/2 weeks before departure, SMC still found a way to make it happen safely and with the utmost professionalism
I want to thank your Team for a great Climb on Mt. Whitney this past week. Aaron and Luke did a fantastic job for us. These two young men were friendly, knowledgeable and very helpful. It was a pleasure having these two guide us on the mountaineers route. At every step along the way, Aaron and Luke made us feel as if our success, safety and enjoyment was their top priority.
Connie has been extremely helpful and responsive in setting up details of this climb.
I would recommend these guides and your company to anyone wanting a first rate experience. This was an outstanding adventure I will always remember.
Thank you all for helping make it so.
I call and instead of a guide running the company, there is actually an office manager who handles the business side and lets the guides handle what they do best. This woman was phenomenal. This was Tuesday before I left and we talked about the plan, hired the guide, signed the contracts, discussed the gear, and everything within 3 hours. Every question I had was answered within 30 seconds of asking. I was feeling really good about this decision.
We would use SMC again in a heartbeat and recommend your service to anybody looking to do a trip. Thanks again!
It was perfect. Andrew is an excellent guide; I can’t imagine better. I’ve done four trips with SMC, all of them A+.
I want to thank my guides for two awesome mountaineering adventures. Their knowledge, professionalism, and preparedness made both trips a rewarding and unforgettable experience. Please share this email with them and thank them for me.
AMAZING, INCREDIBLE, any variation of adjectives. On a scale of to 10, an 11.
I wanted to email you and tell you how amazing of a time we had climbing Whitney this past weekend! It was one of the most exciting things I have ever done, and I am so glad we had the opportunity to experience such an adventure! Both our guides were outstanding! They really knew what they were doing, I learned so much about climbing and the mountain itself, and I really trusted and felt safe climbing with them. Their leadership really made the trip so fun and do-able! I can’t emphasize enough what an AMAZING, INCREDIBLE, AND AWESOMELY FUN time we had on the mountain!!!
We had a feeling that SMC was a very competent organization from the way you handled your job and we were not at all disappointed.
I just wanted to thank you both for making our climb up Mt. Whitney an absolutely fantastic experience. You guys were terrific and the trip couldn’t have gone any better. I have been talking about it nonstop since getting back and have recommended it and you guys to several friends at home and at work.
The entire group was impressed with Dave’s technical expertise and leadership qualities. It’s a rare combination that lent itself to calming (group) stress, while providing quiet motivation and instilling confidence in the face of challenging conditions. Dave has the unique set of qualities that helped develop trust and support for everyone to reach their goal. I don’t know where you find these guys, but when people are literally entrusting their lives by believing in their leaders’ guidance, capabilities and decisions, it’s a rare talent indeed
Just wanted to say thanks for everything. The climbs were great and so was the service. You handled the scheduling (and changes) quickly, kindly and professionally. Aaron was also great — he is a very skilled guide and also very professional with people and logistics. Thanks again for a great experience.