The Sierra Nevada is our home and we know it well. Home to a number of 14,000' foot peaks, including
Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the Lower 48 states, the Sierra is an amazing range.
After spending much of our careers traveling the world we love returning to what we consider to be one of the finest places in the world to pursue our passion for the mountains. This is especially true in the snowy season. The phenomenal snowfall of the Sierra, the long ski season and the best spring snow anywhere make winter and spring a time of year we eagerly look forward to. And winter here offers the mountaineer a very different experience than summer and once the snow falls the Sierra Nevada becomes a truly deserted wild wilderness.
Whether you are a backcountry skier looking for a grand adventure, a summer mountaineer looking to expand your season to include the snowy months, or an aspiring mountaineer, Sierra Mountain Center can help you explore and enjoy California’s "Range of Light.
Our Commitment to Excellence
SMC staff have been involved in the AMGA, American Mountain Guides Association, guide training processes since their inception in the early 1990s.
AMGA certification examines the guiding skills of an individual guide in rock, alpine and ski disciplines. We are committed to the AMGA certification process and all our guides are either certified or well on their way to being certified. Once certified in all three disciplines a guide is awarded the international IFMGA credential. But in addition to these technical qualifications our guides are fun and caring people who enjoy working with others and sharing their experience and love of the mountains.
We’re proud of the reputation we have earned over the years for great trips and we look forward helping you explore the Sierra Nevada. Our objective is to make every trip a great one and to do our best to fulfill your highest expectations. By any measure we are the most comprehensive and experienced guide service in the Eastern Sierra and offer the best and highest quality guided mountain experience possible.
We strive to make your entire Sierra Mountain Center trip a safe, enjoyable, and successful experience without simply rushing to the goal; to demonstrate, teach, and encourage environmental and mountain leadership while offering our staff the potential to have a sustainable, respected career in guiding by meeting or exceeding modern standards for guide training and professionalism. We're not doing our jobs if we don't give you the skills to be self-sufficient in the mountains - thus maybe making our selves obsolete! We recognize that not all our clients pursue this as a goal but should you have it as an objective we are experienced instructors who love to teach and look forward to helping you find your own safe way in the mountains.
Our philosophy and how we do our trips
We think the Sierra is one of the most wonderful places we have ever been. The skiing and climbing are great and opportunities for solitude abound. Why rush through it? You could go a bit lighter and faster than we go on our tours, but you'll be hard pressed to have a better time. We pack very carefully for these trips, only the essential come with us. But we don't compromise on comfort and safety. We usually use top of the line four season tents, as opposed to the floorless "pyramid" style, which can take quite a bit of time to set up and seem to always drift full of snow if it storms.
We'd rather spend our afternoon soaking up the rays, or taking a run or two, than digging snow walls for a floorless tent, or fighting off the bugs. Similarly, we plan food very carefully and we eat well on these trips. Breakfasts are often instant oatmeal, toasted bagels, and other easy to prepare meals. We often joke that "lunch begins shortly after breakfast and lasts until dinner". The point is to eat a little, often, to keep energy high. We'll snack our way through the day, stopping for a lunch of bagels, cheese, cookies etc. A typical dinner consists of a round of hearty soup, a pasta course, dessert, and hot drinks. On our “Take a load off your Back” trips it all goes on a mule or porter and you hike with a day pack – what could be better?
Small Ratio Programs
We pride ourselves on safety and a personal touch on all our trips. A small group size is not only safer but allows for more one on one instruction and attention, and more time spent climbing, rather than belaying. Obviously the ratio or group size that we can guide affects our prices. You may find organizations willing to take parties of three clients, or even more up technical routes, at a lower cost, but we certainly recommend against climbing in that situation.
Our Wilderness Philosophy
An important part of our program is to help others learn about and experience Wilderness. The Wilderness Act of 1964, and subsequent legislation, set aside large areas of public land for both preservation and recreation. At SMC we strive to recognize both these objectives by giving you a memorable mountain experience while treading lightly upon the land. Remembering that we are but visitors to these wild areas we strive to leave little or no evidence of our passage, helping to ensure that future generations will also find a near pristine wilderness and that species making these areas their home can have the best chance at survival. We keep our group sizes small and abide by Leave No Trace attitudes and practices. Our guides are Leave No Trace Trainer certified and Todd Vogel is a LNT certified "Master Trainer".
Although California has a wealth of protected Wilderness areas the struggle to preserve wild areas is not over yet - many of California's last roadless areas are still unprotected and at risk of development. We urge all of you who care about wild lands to become involved in the California Wildlands campaign, and The Wilderness Society.
Meet the SMC Staff