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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.

Sierra Mountain Center

California Green Business

Spring is Here

This has been 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. While winter programs such as avalanche course, ice climbing and winter mountaineering are finished we still have spring season to look forward to.

Roads are slowly opening up but many have large quantities of avalanche debris on them and we expect late openings on many, especially Tioga Pass. For up to date and the latest backcountry info go to our Blog. We are posting new information as it comes in and as we get out. Also look on the Blog and Instagram for the latest backcountry photos including aerials from a trip on 4.27.

And summer will be here before we know it. The snow is going to delay the start of many of our pack stock supported walks so we are bumping these more into later season. But the snow will assist in making many climbing and peak approaches such as the Mountaineers Route on Whitney easier with the talus and scree being covered. So adding Snow Climbing Skills to your bag of tricks will be essential this summer.  If you are  a prospective JMT or PCT do add in a River Crossing Skills Program since there will be high water for an extended time this summer.

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 Denver with more flights to be added as the need and demand is determined. Flights stop in April for the winter but summer flights start June 23..

Featured Trips

Rock Climbing on Premier Buttress

Spring Ski Descents

Spring is the golden time for Ski Descents in the Eastern Sierra. Days are long and warm with cool nights that turn our snowpack into the legendary Sierra Corn Season. And this year we have snow all the way to the valley bottoms ensuing longer than ever descents .
After 40 years here we know not only the best places but also the more obscure lines that will get us away from other skiers.
We have selected dates and also have custom trips available for you and your best ski partners.
Call us now to set up the skiing in a spring of a lifetime.

Winter Mountaineering Courses in California

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.

Our current flagship tour is the little known but exceptional
• 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.

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 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)

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
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.
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 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 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!!!
AMAZING, INCREDIBLE, any variation of adjectives. On a scale of to 10, an 11.
Tim & Phil
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.

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