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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

Summer is here.

We are well into summer in the eastern Sierra now. Temperatures in the Owens Valley are hot but up in the High Sierra is is cool and perfect climbing and mountaineering weather with cool nights and warm days. Now is the time to get out and while we certainly don’t hope for it, but there is also the potential for late summer forest closures due to fire and smoke as we had the last two years. This will be the perfect time to undertake a climb of Mt Whitney via the Mountaineers Route or to get skills for climbing peaks on our ever popular Mini Mountain Camp.
We have had many successful climbs out including Half Dome, North Palisade, The Third Pillar of Dana and Temple Crag.
Our backpacking trips are heading out and and pack stock supported sections of the JMT are proving popular as is the Mammoth to Yosemite Valley segment of the JMT hike. Or head out for over three weeks guided on the full John Muir Trail.
We are anticipating a stellar summer with a full slate of programs. So don’t delay: call Emma in the office and plan your summer 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.

Featured Trips

Level 1 AIARE Avalanche courses California

JMT Section Hikes

The JMT is truly one of the worlds great hikes. But not everyone can take the full three to four weeks to do it so we offer sections of the trail ranging form seven to twelve days. These can be self supported backpacks or we can ease the load by using packstock and mules to do the heavy load carrying and take supplies to give a comfortable nights camp. No matter how you want to do it we can help get you into the mountains.

Cottonwood to Whitney
Mammoth to Tuolumne
Mammoth to Yosemite
Bishop Pass to Mammoth
Women’s Cottonwood to Whitney

Winter Mountaineering Courses in California

Half Dome

Is there a more iconic peak than Half Dome? Is there anyone who cannot recognize this Yosemite feature?
While the ascent is certainly demanding, even more demanding is the arduous process to get a wilderness permit. The SMC office does this hard work for you and we still have a couple of spots for an early season ascent starting from wither Cathedral Lakes or Sunrise Lakes. We take three to four days for this journey and don’t just rush to get the top ticked off but savor this classic ascent and hike.

Mini Mountain Camp

For 2022 we are revamping our ever popular Mini Mountain Camp to take advantage of new routes and locations we have scouted over the years. We want to give you an even better opportunity to get into the mountains and learn the skills to take you higher into the peaks and onward to bigger mountains world wide. We have a day on rock, a day on snow skills and then a day climbing a peak putting it all into use and allowing you to “own’ the skills not just learn them. A perfect stepping stone program.

Contact SMC

Get outside for a learning adventure!

Sierra Mountain Center & Covid-19

Inyo County Covid business compliance

We continue to take Covid mitigation measures seriously. We always want to do things correctly to protect our staff and you as well.

Please read more about our current 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 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

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

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 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)
We would use SMC again in a heartbeat and recommend your service to anybody looking to do a trip. Thanks again!
Steve
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
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
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
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

The entire group was impressed with Ryan’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 seems to share the same 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

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