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.

California Green Business

Summer is Here But Going Fast

Winter has been gone for months now but it has been one to remember and one for the record books. The Sierra backcountry snows have melted back and the trails are open, but up on the high peaks and passes snow is going to persist into the start of next winter. Tioga Pass is now open and we have access to the Yosemite High Country from the east side.

We are now running our usual full slate of programs with backpacking and climbing outings for everyone.

In early season we were unable to run our Packstock Supported Programs but we now have those heading out. The winter snow is assisting in making many peak approaches, such as the Mountaineers Route on Whitney , the Palisade High Peaks and Fourteeeners Ascents easier with the talus and scree being covered. And the Palisades Traverse is ideal this summer with snow at the camp sites and easy approaches and descents.
Our Snow Climbing Skills will open up many options and be essential and on any big peak.

No matter what get out there and enjoy the mountains before winter arrives again. 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 Denver with more flights to be added as the need and demand is determined. Summer flights start June 23 and go through September.

Featured Trips

Rock Climbing on Premier Buttress

Whitney via Cottopnwood

Want to climb Whitney, but don’t want to take the Trail Route with all of the other prospective climbers? Our Packstock Supported Cottonwood ascent is the answer. More than just a climb, it is a wonderful backcountry experience where you can hike for six days with only a day pack as our four legged friends do the hard work. The slow pace allows for acclimatization to the elevation and we find that this improves your chance of making the summit of the highest peak in the lower 48 states.
Call us now to set up the ascent of a lifetime.

Winter Mountaineering Courses in California

Yosemite is the crown jewel of Americas National Parks. But in some ways it is also the most problematic to enjoy with crowds at the entrance stations and difficulty of getting a backcountry permit. We take care of all of the potential headaches and set you up to enjoy the walk from the town of  Mammoth Lakes, past wonderful Thousand Island Lake, over Donohue Pass, through  Tuolumne and down past Half Dome to the incomparable Valley of Yosemite. This year the streams are full and water is everywhere making for a unique experience even in the fall when things are normally much drier. In many ways this is our favorite part of the John Muir Trail and one for you to remember. To quote Kris from an August 2023 trip.

“I knew from *go* I was in the hands of experts—precisely why I opted to sign up for a guided trip. So I wouldn’t, you know, expire on the trail!
Larry & Lauren went one better and brought not only all their knowledge & skills & teachings, backcountry and otherwise—including such particularities as how to best hike through snowfields & snowcliff patches (snowcliff to me, though obviously not to them) and to safely cross streams and how to best shoulder a pack and how to everything, really, including how to keep on keeping the heck on—but also their deep knowledge of weather, flora & fauna, nutrition, snow, campsite selection, geology, landscape, and of course how to manage the myriad psychologies present in the group and imbue each of us with confidence. “

Over the last years the Eastern Sierra has turned into a true climbers destination with visitors from all over the world arriving to enjoy what we have here. Fall is the finest time to get out and climb and it is time to start making plans to enjoy it. We have an unparalleled selection of rocks types – pocketed tuff, superb granite, andestite. We have low angled areas for those starting out and families and then steep strenuous overhangs for those of you with big arms and big ambitions. After 40 plus years here know the best of the best and can put together a custom trip that will up your skill level and get you to new places with new experiences.

Get outside for a learning adventure!

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 support Leave No Trace

SMC staff are trained in and abide by Leave No Trace (LNT) principles on all our programs. LNT is best understood as educational and ethical guidelines, not as a set of rules and regulations. If you are unfamiliar, we will teach you.

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

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.


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

Rick and Whitney
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.
Shawna (on climbing Mt Williamson)
It was perfect. Andrew is an excellent guide; I can’t imagine better. I’ve done four trips with SMC, all of them A+.
We would use SMC again in a heartbeat and recommend your service to anybody looking to do a trip. Thanks again!
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.
Tim & Phil
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.
René and Chris
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.
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!!!

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.

Take the next step and join us in the mountains for a wilderness adventure.