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 range forecast we will believe it when we see it. Keep in mind there are fire bans in the Eastern Sierra. No campfires, no fireworks, no smoking, no chainsaws… nothing but fun is allowed. For numerous obvious reasons and some personal reasons, this ban is very important to Sierra Mountain Center and staff. Also, our area has been very well-loved during the pandemic, and Nature has suffered quite a bit. Please help us by leaving no trace, packing it out, and spreading the word.

Winter Mountaineering Course participants in upper Rock Creek Canyon

Guide Tyler Logan on Lookout Peak May 2021

Fun times in Rock Creek Canyon from our Mini Mountain Camp at Ruby Lake and on Mt Abbot, mid-May

Take yourself out — you deserve it!

Folks are keen to get outside this summer, and we get it. We really do! Trips are booking up fast. We’d love to keep booking and booking, but there are limits. For example, we avoid overbooking and operate within our staffing limits to give clients a higher quality experience. So if you are interested please don’t wait to contact us.

We somehow still have a few popular trips that have openings. Some are perfectly last-minute! We also have spaces available for private programs, in case you have other ideas. Take advantage, get outside, meet some new friends, and fill your skull with jaw-dropping scenes and fresh ideas.

Hikers having a chat on the John Muir Trail

The John Muir Trail (JMT)

There is space on every John Muir thru-hike trip we have going out in 2021. This leaves us a little confused, because normally these trips are extremely popular. They leave our guests with lifelong friends and memories of magical times, and permits are hard-to-get. Seeking backpackers who need weeks outdoors. July 13-August 3, August 9-31 and September 3-25.

HIKE THE JOHN MUIR TRAIL

Boundary Peak Nevada High Point

High Points: Boundary Peak

Collecting tall mountain ascents? This is Nevada’s high point, just barely over the border from California. No plans for the Fourth? We got you covered!

July 3-4 Boundary Peak

Women hikers on top of Mount Whitney

Ladies Only Backpacking!

Ditch the guys and have a “ladies week out” in the mountains. Not just any mountains, this trip leads to the summit of the great Mount Whitney, and is pack-supported to boot. Ladies truly have the most fun.

August 23-29 Women’s Cottonwood-Whitney

Other Openings:

Mammoth to Yosemite

Extends our popular Mammoth to Tuolumne all the way into Yosemite National Park. A wonderful John Muir Trail section hike with spectacular sights around every big turn. Several of our guides call this a favorite. This is another one we cannot believe isn’t booked full already! July 13-18 and August 10-15

Mount Whitney via Cottonwood

Whitney summit trips are always popular and filling but we still have space. These trips are pack-supported (mules carry your heavies!) August 2-8, 23-29 and September 6-12

Multi-Pitch Climbing Weekend

This program continues our Rock II course and gives you more practice on longer multi-pitch routes and will really get you into the swing of being high off the ground as one pitch flows into the other. June 19-20

Mammoth to Tuolumne Hike

This is our favorite part of the Sierra, four days along the John Muir Trail/Pacific Crest Trail. June 24-27

Whitney East Buttress

The best climbing to the high point of the lower 48. The East Buttress is a “must-do” for the alpine rock climber, a little harder and steeper than the more popular East Face. July 9-11

Extended Mountain Camp

Skills and thrills in the Palisades! Covers the same basic skills as the “Mini Mountain Camp” but then has you put them to use. July 11-17

Charlotte Dome

Charlotte Dome is a large granite dome rising out of the Bubbs Creek drainage, a tributary of the Kings River, in Kings Canyon National Park. Simply the best moderate route in the Sierra Nevada. August 6-8

Backpacking II

Are you a beginnger backpacker looking for something a little more “next level?” This itinerary includes some of the most spectacular but fairly-easy-to-reach High Sierra terrain, with vast views and time above treeline. Backpacking II: Stepping Up & Stepping Out September 10-12

SMC Staff and Alumni

We were very sad at the end of the year to see Connie Morrison leave to take on the mammoth task of homeschooling her grandkids. Her family got in a whole lot of time together on the mountain this winter though; and we are happy for her.

We are pleased to announce Emma Gasman has joined SMC as Program Director. Emma began learning the ropes in the office in February. Despite having to “drink from the firehose,” she has been able to learn an astounding amount of information and keep trips rolling — with a smile on her face. Emma is a truly wonderful young lady, and a blessing to us. And Connie approves!

We have also hired several new guiding staff who we are excited about: Paloma Farkas, Julia Wilson, Dakota Robarge and Matthew Hoffman. They are enthusiastic, friendly, fun, and most-importantly, skilled in their areas. SMC works to “keep it real,” which means hiring American Mountain Guide Association-trained (AMGA) guides and adhering to the AMGA “Scope of Practice for Guides” so as to maintain our AMGA accreditation credential (we are the only local business to have this credential).

Emma G on Mount Hood

Emma Gasman on her circumnavigation of Oregon’s Mount Hood.

The 2021 Sierra Mountain Center team

The SMC crew, June 1 2021. L-R top: Braden, Caroline, Paloma, Larry, Dakota, Dave, Michelle. Second row: SP Parker, Louie, Julie, Emma.

Covid Precautions for 2021

Covid is not gone, but we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel, especially since we’re outside! The latest guidance from the CDC confirms our cautious outdoor activities in 2020 were appropriate: in an outdoor environment the chances of contracting the airborne virus are slight. While we cannot ensure that everyone on a trip is vaccinated, our staff are vaccinated and most of our guests will be as well, holding to our demographic and published statistics.

When out on the trail and around camp, we will not require masks. (Yet we don’t mind when people choose to wear masks anyway.) We are also not pairing up tent mates who don’t know each other. For everyone’s comfort, guests will need to wear masks while shuttling, even with windows down. Please understand that some people will take longer than others to feel comfortable with proximity and contact after a traumatizing year+ of pandemic. Let’s just have fun together.

We are easing back into our food preparation, but we are not doing group meals the way we used to. Preparation is not the problem, but serving it can be. We are giving out individual servings to people of things such as bagels, cheese, salami, snacks etc. We will avoid anything that involves putting a hand in a bag. If you still have any concerns we suggest that you bring your own food supplies and we will provide boiling hot water to reconstitute with. Questions about what food you need to bring? Please contact the office:

These changes come on recommendation from our physician consultant, Alan Orem M.D.

See You in The Mountains,

SP, Emma and everyone at SMC


Since the only predictable thing is unpredictability we strongly suggest you purchase travel insurance before trips. That way you are covered when things go sideways. “Cancel for any reason” insurance is best, but basic policies also cover unexpected cancellations due to events such as wildfire. SMC will try to reschedule your trip for you, but our cancellation policy disallows refunds in most cases. You can find a list of companies who can cover you and your investment on our website. Thank you.