Choose Your Adventure

I want to
I have

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

Winter is here.

Fall has suddenly vanished and it is now winter. Snow has fallen over the Sierra Crest and down to the valley floors. The lifts are turning on Mammoth Mountain and ski season is here – and it is only November. The long range forecasts are for a La Niña winter but that is only one of the factors that go into determining how the winter plays out. Without going into all of the variables the bottom line remains “We will wait and see.” and so far we are seeing snow.

During the pandemic lots of people invested in backcountry ski gear but then did not get to use it much. This might 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.
So many options and so little time.
No matter what get out there and enjoy the mountains in the winter. Don’t delay: call Emma in the office and plan your winter 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 are now paused for the fall but will resume in December.

Featured Trips

Rock Climbing on Premier Buttress

Learn Avalanche Evaluation Skills

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 .

Winter Mountaineering Courses in California

Waterfall Ice Climbing

Ice climbing has grown so popular – because it’s a fun and magical way to keep climbing in the winter!
In California the best place to go is in our own backyard – Lee Vining. As soon as the falls freeze, let SMC help get you out there! We loan you the tools, teach you the techniques and set up climbs for you to practice on.
Too cold? Nah! Once you are out the door, the winter world is not as bad as you might imagine it to be with warm clothing and a thermos of hot beverage. You’ll open a new world of climbing. If you have flexibility we suggest mid-week dates when there are fewer other climbers.

Backcountry Skiing

If there was ever a year to ditch the ski resort, get away from people, and visit untouched terrain, 2022-23 is the year.
SMC makes it easy to move off the groomed slopes and into the mountains – skiing untouched lines, fresh tracks and beautiful solitude.
If you’ve never experienced the winter wonderland then we have our  Introduction to Back Country Skiing to get you started. We take your downhill skills and help you translate them into the more variable backcountry environment.
If your goal is to get out and travel longer distances and experience the best the Sierra has to offer, then consider our Introduction to Touring program.

Contact SMC

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.

AMGA IVBV Logos

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

Rick and Whitney

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.

Brian
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 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.
Angelo
We would use SMC again in a heartbeat and recommend your service to anybody looking to do a trip. Thanks again!
Steve
It was perfect. Andrew is an excellent guide; I can’t imagine better. I’ve done four trips with SMC, all of them A+.
Peter
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 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!!!
Kirsten
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.
Jim

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

Karl
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.
Bob

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

Register Today!