AVI course field day feedback

Just wanted to drop a note to say thank you once again for the Avi 1 course with SP Parker. It was phenomenal, couldn't have ever expected anything more. Sp's professional insights were a great compliment to the materials. And the instructor to student ratio was amazing. While I didn't get much time with Anouk or Tyler (because I was with SP and Sue), they seemed incredibly sharp and very interesting to listen to. Having Sue along, as a practicing snow scientist, was fascinating - a real treat.   You too can learn about avalanche safety. Check out our Avalanche School web page for more information

By |2022-07-28T15:04:27-07:00July 26th, 2022|What Our Clients Say|

Climbing Boundary Peak with Will and David

At 13,147 feet Boundary Peak is the high point of Nevada and something we guide fairly often. While not hard in a mountaineering sense, it is a hard hike with no defined trail in the upper section, high elevation and lots of talus and rock to negotiate. It requires strength, determination and stamina - not things generally associated with an eleven year old, especially one from the flatlands of Florida. I guided David and his son Will, with help from new guides Heather Shaw and Chris Miller up the peak on May 18 and we all had a great time. David’s knees decided that they had had enough at Trail [...]

By |2022-07-26T16:23:44-07:00June 17th, 2022|SMC Blog|

Mt. Williamson by Shawna Glasser

Williamson #49- The Long Version So the story begins…. When you play sports you are taught to go until the buzzer or whistle. The reason for this is because you don’t know what you can accomplish in that small amount of time. I never wanted my biggest hike to be my 49th hike. How awful would I feel if I couldn’t accomplish that one and I was so close to the finish line? I would have rather it be in the early 40’s and I could have held my head high and walked away knowing I put in a good effort but there was still a lot to be done. [...]

By |2022-07-26T17:06:16-07:00June 17th, 2022|SMC Blog|

Inside the High Sierra

There are a lot of Sierra photographers but none have been more consistent over the years than local Claude Fiddler. I have done a number of trips with Claude in the high Arctic of Alaska and he has watched Claude haul around large format cameras, huge tripods and then see him watch for days until the perfect moment of light and place came together. Along with Claude's images are essays by renowned climbers such as Tom Hornbein, Peter Croft, Dick Dorworth with artists and writers Valerie and Michael Cohen and Claude's daughter Laurel. For those of you who appreciate fine art photography and who have a love for what John [...]

By |2022-07-26T17:06:50-07:00June 1st, 2022|SMC Blog|

Waterfall Ice Climbing in Mid-may?

One never knows what you are going to get. On May 11th, 2022 I had to scout snow conditions up in Bishop Creek. I saw a short steep ice flow that I'd seen before but hadn't got to yet. I rounded up a strong, young guide with better ice climbing skills, and less sense than myself, Braden Downey (photographed). We headed out today before the sun rose, in colder than usual temperatures, to try our luck. Unexpectedly the ice and the climbing turned out to be great. Mixed climbing, steep ice and a detached pillar which was somehow still standing. Maybe this route has been done before, maybe not - [...]

By |2022-07-26T16:28:53-07:00May 24th, 2022|SMC Blog|

Upcoming AMGA Scope of Practice

We all know that when you go to a doctor you expect them to have graduated from Medical School and be trained and certified. Or maybe you see a Nurse Practitioner or intern, but understand they also have achieved certain levels of training and are qualified to help. Plumbers, bookkeepers, auto mechanics, child care providers... we expect most the professionals who help us to have formal qualifications. Can the same be said of the guide who accompanies you out in the mountains? Often not. Over the last 4 decades guiding in the USA has been slowly evolving, becoming more structured and more standards applied. Sierra Mountain Center (SMC) and owner [...]

By |2022-07-26T21:05:44-07:00December 20th, 2021|AMGA Accreditation, SMC Blog|

SMC Renews American Mountain Guides Association Accreditation

Sierra Mountain Center and its owner SP Parker have long been involved with the AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association), certifying guides and supporting guiding in the USA. The AMGA has an Accreditation program which looks at business structure, guide training, and how a business is complying with permitting and legal requirements. It points out actual, or potential issues, and offers solutions to those problems. SMC first underwent this process in 2018 and just had a re-review in November 2021. We are very pleased that the AMGA found no problems and we can do not better than to quote the reviewers. In the opinion of this reviewer, the Sierra Mountain Center [...]

Dispatch from the Eastern Sierra

SMC is still here, surviving a tough year thanks to our wonderful guests, some hard pulls from our team, and our proximity to these amazing mountains. We are very much looking forward to the summer of 2021, and getting outside with you. Keep reading and find out what we've got going on! Snow is melting fast and we anticipate a long hot summer. (Photos above and below taken on one of the winter's rare dumps -- in May!) So if you can, get out early while things are still cool and the creeks are flowing with water. Long term predictions indicate a more extensive monsoon season but like any long [...]

By |2022-07-26T17:09:10-07:00June 3rd, 2021|AMGA Accreditation, Condition Reports, Our Environment, SMC Blog|

AVI 1 with SP Parker

Just wanted to drop a note to say thank you once again for the Avi 1 [avalanche] course. It was phenomenal, couldn't have ever expected anything more. Your professional insights were a great compliment to the materials. And the instructor to student ratio was amazing. While I didn't get much time with Anouk or Tyler (because I was with you and Sue), they seemed incredibly sharp and very interesting to listen to. Having Sue along, as a practicing snow scientist, was fascinating - a real treat. As I've said, thanks again, and you'll definitely be hearing from me again when the snow comes for some backcountry touring, and a companion [...]

By |2022-07-28T16:29:18-07:00February 23rd, 2021|What Our Clients Say|

Ice Climbing with Braden

I wanted to reach out and let you know that I had a really, really good time with Braden, super nice guy. Learned a ton, got some really good climbing in and the weather was perfect.  I'll definitely be coming back to build on what I learned. Maybe shoot for an alpine ice or mixed climbing route. I appreciate you guys taking me out. Cheers, Chris A. Want to get out and learn ice climbing. Visit our Ice Climbing School webpage for more information.

By |2022-07-26T16:45:06-07:00February 18th, 2021|What Our Clients Say|

How to Find your Public Lands

Currently there are lockdowns preventing local lodging from hosting guests coming to the area to recreate. At the same time public lands are open. Without getting into the politics of it, we’d like to show you an easy way to ensure that where you are camping for the night is… copacetic. This is handy information for any time -- not just when there are lockdowns! The Eastern Sierra is a delicate ecosystem, and is the watershed for most our participants coming from the South. So please, read below about how to properly go to the bathroom (poop) outdoors when there is no toilet. Local land agencies have been having particular [...]

By |2022-07-26T21:06:16-07:00January 18th, 2021|SMC Blog|

Covid-19-related Operational Changes

The governor of California has put in place a stay at home order for residents. (Learn more) SMC complies with any closure orders, so regrettably we are not able to operate in-the-field (in person) programs until the orders are lifted or changed. This applies to all ski, backpacking and climbing programs. Locally, the Inyo and Mono County Health Departments are asking that visitors from outside of the county refrain from visiting and instead stay very close to home, wear masks, and limit contacts. SMC Avalanche Courses Avalanche courses have been very popular this winter and most courses are full. We are asking people who registered for field programs before Christmas [...]

By |2020-12-08T13:21:38-08:00December 8th, 2020|Avalanche, SMC Blog|

Whodunnit in the Nevada Desert

What do the the Polar Bear, the Pika, the Sierra Nevada Red Fox and Thiem’s buckwheat all have in common? At first glance they don’t have much at all in common, but all four could be listed as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (or what tattered remains are left of it). Polar bears and pikas suffer from habitat loss due climate change. The Sierra Nevada Red Fox suffers from reduction in quiet habitat by relentless human intrusion. Thiem’s buckwheat? Might just be human ignorance. It’s easy to get excited about saving large charismatic animals such as the polar bear. While Thiem’s buckwheat could be considered furry, it’s not [...]

By |2020-10-05T13:49:01-07:00October 4th, 2020|Our Environment, SMC Blog|

Rick and Whitney Climb Mount Whitney, At Last!

My daughter Whitney (27) and I recently spent a week backpacking with a group from Sierra Mountain Center (SMC) out of Bishop, CA. For several years we had been thinking about Mt. Whitney. 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 [...]

By |2022-07-28T16:28:26-07:00August 3rd, 2020|What Our Clients Say|

Heart Set on Whitney?

On June 24th, a strong 5.8R earthquake struck near the foot of everyone’s favorite California 14er, causing massive rock falls and naturally, road and trail closures. Even without road and trail closures, getting permits by lottery to climb Whitney is difficult. Sometimes Whitney… just isn’t an option. SMC wants to know: are you heart-broken because you were set on climbing Mount Whitney? Can we help? […]

By |2022-07-26T21:08:57-07:00June 30th, 2020|Hiking, SMC Blog, Whitney|

My Favorite Climb: Bear Creek Spire

Now I understood why the party ahead of us had been so slow on this pitch. I gasped for air while inching my way up the steep, strenuous crack. The spike of my ice axe stuck out of my pack and scraped against the granite, creating fitting background noise for my struggling. Upon reaching a spacious belay ledge, I congratulated my partner on his challenging lead. “How could that pitch be 5.8?!” we wondered. It would be weeks or even months before I would learn that we had been off route due to our lazy, follow-the-party-in-front-of-you mindset on a popular climb, taking a 5.10 variation by mistake. Luckily, one pitch [...]

By |2022-07-26T16:44:33-07:00June 29th, 2020|Alpine Climbing, Rock Climbing, SMC Blog|

My Favorite Climb: The Incredible Hulk

Alright, so it's pretty obvious what this post is going to be about: my little affectionate history with a piece of rock in the mountains. Our guides want to gush about their favorite routes in our backyard this summer in the same vein as our online Adventure Presentation Series Spring 2020. We want to keep you all--our readers and guests--motivated to get back into the hills as soon as it works for you during COVID-Era. There's no rush--we want you all to feel safe, healthy, happy, and go when you're ready. In the meantime, I'll try not to wax poetic about what is ultimately just a geological anomaly. When Sierra Nevada climbing [...]

By |2022-07-26T16:46:56-07:00June 11th, 2020|SMC Blog|

COVID and Summer 2020

Hi all, I just wanted to give a little update on how things have been going for Sierra Mountain Center so far with our new procedures as we have been slowly restarting operations this summer. First of all, please visit our home page for a complete list of our new policies and procedures.  If you do book a program, we will send you additional information specific to how we will manage COVID-19 risks during your visit to the Sierra Nevada. Our biggest changes are these: We are requiring the use of masks at any time that we cannot maintain 6 ft. of distance between folks. This means that shared belays, rope [...]

By |2020-06-13T09:42:57-07:00June 9th, 2020|SMC Blog|

BLM Plan to Burn and Chemically Treat 40 million Acres of Great Basin

Here at Sierra Mountain Center we care very much about our local outdoor environment. Despite everything we and our friends have been coping with lately, the government persists in adding yet more strain to our day: they want to torch the Great Basin because piñon and juniper trees are growing back where they were once cut down. This planned activity will affect portions of California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. We see this as misguided, extremely dangerous, and devastating for our beautiful natural environment which has only been recovering since miners and settlers cut down most the forest in the 19th century. Please join us in resisting such destructive [...]

By |2022-07-26T21:08:17-07:00June 2nd, 2020|Our Environment|

Adventure Presentation Series Recordings

Hey everyone, Thank you all so much for your interest in and support for this presentation series.  As we've said, our goal with these was pretty simple--keep our friends and guests engaged and excited about future adventures during the uncertain and locked-down times of the COVID-19 pandemic.  I think it became a pretty special way for the Sierra Mountain Center community to come together once a week to support each other and escape from our living rooms, and I know our guides got a lot out of digging up some old memories and looking back at our personal and professional progressions over the years. A couple of videos are downloaded [...]

By |2020-06-01T07:01:53-07:00May 19th, 2020|SMC Blog|

Sierra Mountain Center Avi Presentation Followup

Greeting to all Avalanche students, those who did the online program, and those who wanted to but couldn’t. Here we are at the beginning of May and while restrictions are starting to loosen up, it seems as if the snow will melt a lot before we can get back into the mountains and do the field work as we had hoped. The plan was to use the Tioga Pass area, but the road is not open yet. So, it looks as if that will have to wait until next winter. But we will get it done. We have lists of everyone who did the online session and that will count [...]

By |2022-07-26T21:12:17-07:00May 5th, 2020|Avalanche, Backcountry Skiing|

What We Want You To Learn  On An Avalanche Course

The New York Times recently published an article by Heidi Julavits entitled “What I Learned in Avalanche School.” The article provides valuable insights that could help avalanche educators better teach skills for safe enjoyment of the mountain world. As educators it is often difficult for us to have clear insight into what preconceptions students bring, and what skills and knowledge they hope to gain. The history, bias, fear, and prejudices which participants carry to avalanche programs further muddle the curriculum and goal. Julavits was frightened and thus, did not have the desired takeaway we would have hoped. The purpose of avalanche education is not fear, but respect. Educators’ end goal [...]

By |2022-07-26T21:14:06-07:00March 4th, 2020|Avalanche, Backcountry Skiing|

How to Prepare for a Whitney Summit

We often get asked how a person should get ready to climb up the high peaks of the Eastern Sierra, especially Mount Whitney. This can be a tricky question to answer, because each person has factors which influence how well they will do, and their own judgement on what is comfortable or "acceptable." Nobody can predict what will happen at elevation where the air is thin. Sometimes fit hikers fail to summit, while less fit hikers do well. Such a difficult endeavor lays open to surprises. There are things a person can do to plan ahead and prepare, and head off some surprises. Obviously if a hiker has never hiked [...]

By |2022-07-26T21:14:36-07:00December 20th, 2019|Alpine Climbing, Hiking, Whitney|