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Sierra Mountain Center

California’s premier mountaineering school and guide service.

Located in Bishop, California SMC offers 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


It is the end of January and winter has arrived like a lion. Some NINE FEET of new snow on Mammoth Mountain and the the Sierra in blanketed in white all the way to the valley floors. The new year was a pretty frustrating start to things but now we are full on and running all programs with more snow in the forecasts.
The ice has formed up in Lee Vining Canyon and at June Lake and it is only going to get better.
Do come adventure with us and make the most of what is looking like a great snow year. We are so excited!
Take a look at some of our fun programs to join us on.
Sierra AVI I instruction

Avalanche Courses

SMC owner and veteran of 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 AVI Course. We aim to demystify avalanche phenomena and evaluation, giving you the skills to head out make better decisions. As part of our adaption to Covid-19 we have transitioned to an online format for the class work and now you can fit the two day field sessions into any 2-day weekend. Classes are filling rapidly so don’t miss out.

Sign Up for an AVI Course
High Sierra Backcountry Skiing

Death Valley Backpacking and Exploring

We have been exploring and hiking in Death Valley National Park for many years, and are now offering you the chance to experience this remarkable yet little-known area.

Our first offering for this winter is a 3-day, 2-night, 28-mile backpack though Cottonwood and Marble Canyons.

Our second offering of a 3-day campground-based program we have 7 different destination options to choose from, depending upon the wishes of the group including hiking to some remote and little visited slot canyons or hikes to Telescope Peak and Mount Perry.

Join us and get hooked on this uniquely expansive and compelling landscape.

Come Explore Death Valley with Us!
High Sierra Backcountry Skiing

Rock Creek Ski and Board Basecamps

In a normal year we would be using our hut at North Lake as a ski basecamp. But 2020 and this winter has been anything but normal! Covid-19 complications shut down the hut. But we got special approval from the Forest Service to operate a snowmobile-supported basecamp in Rock Creek Canyon. This canyon has long been know as a mecca for backcountry riders.

Here’s how it works: we haul supplies and your pack to a tent basecamp at a select location off the snow-covered road 5 miles from the road’s end. From here it is daypacks out and back to your “socially distanced” camp. These trips are on a private basis: you choose the date, your bubble of friends and family; for how long you want, and when.

We are super excited about this option to get you into one of our favorite areas of the Sierra.

Call or email and discuss setting it up.

Sierra Mountain Center & Covid-19

Inyo County Covid business compliance

We reopened on 5/27/20, taking procedures seriously doing it correctly to protecting our staff and you as well. This has involved a lot of discussion and interaction with other professionals to feel our way down the best path.

Please read more about our precautionary measures and know that we are doing our best to protect our clients, staff, and community.

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. 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.

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.

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. 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.

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 are an AMGA Accredited Business.

AMG 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.


Leave No Trace (LNT) logo

Leave No Trace is best understood as an educational and ethical program, not as a set of rules and regulations.

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

Register Today!