Blog

Dispatch from the Eastern Sierra

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 [...]

By |2021-06-03T08:49:27-07:00June 3rd, 2021|Condition Reports, Our Environment, SMC Blog|

AVI 1 with SP Parker

Just wanted to drop a note to say thank you once again for the Avi 1 course. It was phenomenal, couldn't have ever expected anything more. Your professional insights were a great compliment to the materials. And the instructor to student ratio was amazing. While I didn't get much time with Anouk or Tyler (because I was with you and Sue), they seemed incredibly sharp and very interesting to listen to. Having Sue along, as a practicing snow scientist, was fascinating - a real treat. As I've said, thanks again, and you'll definitely be hearing from me again when the snow comes for some backcountry touring, and a companion rescue [...]

By |2021-03-14T20:50:45-07:00February 23rd, 2021|What Our Clients Say|

Lee Vining Ice Climbing with Braden

I wanted to reach out and let you know that I had a really, really good time with Braden, super nice guy. Learned a ton, got some really good climbing in and the weather was perfect.  I'll definitely be coming back to build on what I learned. Maybe shoot for an alpine ice or mixed climbing route. I appreciate you guys taking me out. Cheers, Chris A.

By |2021-02-24T17:51:29-08:00February 18th, 2021|What Our Clients Say|

How to Find your Public Lands

Currently there are lockdowns preventing local lodging from hosting guests coming to the area to recreate. At the same time public lands are open. Without getting into the politics of it, we’d like to show you an easy way to ensure that where you are camping for the night is… copacetic. This is handy information for any time -- not just when there are lockdowns! Especially north of Bishop, California, there is quite a bit of public land to park on. Whether you are headed up in an RV or with a campervan or simply wish to put up a tent or even sleep in your car, here is how [...]

By |2021-02-15T07:25:19-08:00January 18th, 2021|SMC Blog|

Covid-19-related Operational Changes

The governor of California has put in place a stay at home order for residents. (Learn more) SMC complies with any closure orders, so regrettably we are not able to operate in-the-field (in person) programs until the orders are lifted or changed. This applies to all ski, backpacking and climbing programs. Locally, the Inyo and Mono County Health Departments are asking that visitors from outside of the county refrain from visiting and instead stay very close to home, wear masks, and limit contacts. SMC Avalanche Courses Avalanche courses have been very popular this winter and most courses are full. We are asking people who registered for field programs before Christmas [...]

By |2020-12-08T13:21:38-08:00December 8th, 2020|Avalanche, SMC Blog|

Whodunnit in the Nevada Desert

What do the the Polar Bear, the Pika, the Sierra Nevada Red Fox and Thiem’s buckwheat all have in common? At first glance they don’t have much at all in common, but all four could be listed as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (or what tattered remains are left of it). Polar bears and pikas suffer from habitat loss due climate change. The Sierra Nevada Red Fox suffers from reduction in quiet habitat by relentless human intrusion. Thiem’s buckwheat? Might just be human ignorance. It’s easy to get excited about saving large charismatic animals such as the polar bear. While Thiem’s buckwheat could be considered furry, it’s not [...]

By |2020-10-05T13:49:01-07:00October 4th, 2020|Our Environment, SMC Blog|

Rick and Whitney Climb Mount Whitney, At Last!

My daughter Whitney (27) and I recently spent a week backpacking with a group from Sierra Mountain Center (SMC) out of Bishop, CA. For several years we had been thinking about Mt. Whitney. 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 [...]

By |2020-08-03T17:53:20-07:00August 3rd, 2020|What Our Clients Say|

Heart Set on Whitney?

On June 24th, a strong 5.8R earthquake struck near the foot of everyone’s favorite California 14er, causing massive rock falls and naturally, road and trail closures. Even without road and trail closures, getting permits by lottery to climb Whitney is difficult. Sometimes Whitney… just isn’t an option. SMC wants to know: are you heart-broken because you were set on climbing Mount Whitney? Can we help? […]

By |2020-07-03T08:26:38-07:00June 30th, 2020|Hiking, SMC Blog, Whitney|

My Favorite Climb: Bear Creek Spire

Now I understood why the party ahead of us had been so slow on this pitch. I gasped for air while inching my way up the steep, strenuous crack. The spike of my ice axe stuck out of my pack and scraped against the granite, creating fitting background noise for my struggling. Upon reaching a spacious belay ledge, I congratulated my partner on his challenging lead. “How could that pitch be 5.8?!” we wondered. It would be weeks or even months before I would learn that we had been off route due to our lazy, follow-the-party-in-front-of-you mindset on a popular climb, taking a 5.10 variation by mistake. Luckily, one pitch [...]

By |2020-06-30T18:39:43-07:00June 29th, 2020|Alpine Climbing, Rock Climbing, SMC Blog|

My Favorite Climb: The Incredible Hulk

Alright, so it's pretty obvious what this post is going to be about: my little affectionate history with a piece of rock in the mountains. Our guides want to gush about their favorite routes in our backyard this summer in the same vein as our online Adventure Presentation Series Spring 2020. We want to keep you all--our readers and guests--motivated to get back into the hills as soon as it works for you during COVID-Era. There's no rush--we want you all to feel safe, healthy, happy, and go when you're ready. In the meantime, I'll try not to wax poetic about what is ultimately just a geological anomaly. When Sierra Nevada climbing [...]

By |2020-06-13T10:43:57-07:00June 11th, 2020|SMC Blog|

COVID and Summer 2020

Hi all, I just wanted to give a little update on how things have been going for Sierra Mountain Center so far with our new procedures as we have been slowly restarting operations this summer. First of all, please visit our home page for a complete list of our new policies and procedures.  If you do book a program, we will send you additional information specific to how we will manage COVID-19 risks during your visit to the Sierra Nevada. Our biggest changes are these: We are requiring the use of masks at any time that we cannot maintain 6 ft. of distance between folks. This means that shared belays, rope [...]

By |2020-06-13T09:42:57-07:00June 9th, 2020|SMC Blog|

BLM Plan to Burn and Chemically Treat 40 million Acres of Great Basin

Here at Sierra Mountain Center we care very much about our local outdoor environment. Despite everything we and our friends have been coping with lately, the government persists in adding yet more strain to our day: they want to torch the Great Basin because piñon and juniper trees are growing back where they were once cut down. This planned activity will affect portions of California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. We see this as misguided, extremely dangerous, and devastating for our beautiful natural environment which has only been recovering since miners and settlers cut down most the forest in the 19th century. Please join us in resisting such destructive [...]

By |2020-06-02T13:00:48-07:00June 2nd, 2020|Our Environment|

Adventure Presentation Series Recordings

Hey everyone, Thank you all so much for your interest in and support for this presentation series.  As we've said, our goal with these was pretty simple--keep our friends and guests engaged and excited about future adventures during the uncertain and locked-down times of the COVID-19 pandemic.  I think it became a pretty special way for the Sierra Mountain Center community to come together once a week to support each other and escape from our living rooms, and I know our guides got a lot out of digging up some old memories and looking back at our personal and professional progressions over the years. A couple of videos are downloaded [...]

By |2020-06-01T07:01:53-07:00May 19th, 2020|SMC Blog|

Sierra Mountain Center Avi Presentation Followup

Greeting to all Avalanche students, those who did the online program, and those who wanted to but couldn’t. Here we are at the beginning of May and while restrictions are starting to loosen up, it seems as if the snow will melt a lot before we can get back into the mountains and do the field work as we had hoped. The plan was to use the Tioga Pass area, but the road is not open yet. So, it looks as if that will have to wait until next winter. But we will get it done. We have lists of everyone who did the online session and that will count [...]

By |2020-05-14T14:03:35-07:00May 5th, 2020|Avalanche, Backcountry Skiing|

What We Want You To Learn  On An Avalanche Course

The New York Times recently published an article by Heidi Julavits entitled “What I Learned in Avalanche School.” The article provides valuable insights that could help avalanche educators better teach skills for safe enjoyment of the mountain world. As educators it is often difficult for us to have clear insight into what preconceptions students bring, and what skills and knowledge they hope to gain. The history, bias, fear, and prejudices which participants carry to avalanche programs further muddle the curriculum and goal. Julavits was frightened and thus, did not have the desired takeaway we would have hoped. The purpose of avalanche education is not fear, but respect. Educators’ end goal [...]

By |2020-09-26T09:44:47-07:00March 4th, 2020|Avalanche, Backcountry Skiing|

How to Prepare for a Whitney Summit

We often get asked how a person should get ready to climb up the high peaks of the Eastern Sierra, especially Mount Whitney. This can be a tricky question to answer, because each person has factors which influence how well they will do, and their own judgement on what is comfortable or "acceptable." Nobody can predict what will happen at elevation where the air is thin. Sometimes fit hikers fail to summit, while less fit hikers do well. Such a difficult endeavor lays open to surprises. There are things a person can do to plan ahead and prepare, and head off some surprises. Obviously if a hiker has never hiked [...]

By |2020-12-28T15:45:48-08:00December 20th, 2019|Alpine Climbing, Hiking, Whitney|

Continued avalanche hazard along the PCT/JMT – in June!

2019 is turning out to be a very… different year. Above average snowfall, late snowfalls, high water runoff, delayed runoff; and now an avalanche hazard to take into consideration. On June 4th we had our annual staff training up in Rock Creek Canyon and found evidence of recent avalanche activity. The type of avalanches we saw were “wet slabs” and of up to a D3 plus size, on North and East facing aspects at 11,500 feet. With concern for backcountry travelers, we are offering a few warnings and pieces of advice, but first, a little more about D3 plus wet slab. D3 wet slab avalanches from Mt Starr, Rock [...]

By |2019-06-06T12:25:41-07:00June 6th, 2019|Condition Reports, SMC Blog|

Snow and more Snow

This is turning into a very atypical spring in the Sierra Nevada with extensive periods of snow and rain. Mammoth Mountain is reporting 29 inches of snow for May which is an all time recorded record, beating the last high in 2015. The ski area is now proposing to stay open until August. This has happened only twice before, in 2017 and 1995. Looking at the high country snow sensors the snow is very slow to melt and snow depth is gradually but slowly decreasing. Current run off forecast predicts maximum runoff for Kings River June 7 San Joaquin River June 10 Tuolumne River June 10 Merced River June 10 [...]

By |2019-06-06T10:37:56-07:00May 29th, 2019|Condition Reports, SMC Blog|

Update on Runoff in the Sierra

The Department of Water Resources has updated the predictions for run off. The maximum runoff dates have been pushed back and later due to cooler temperatures in the Sierra and unsettled weather with small storms moving through and frequent thunderstorm activity that seems to be ongoing. Kern River at Isabella, May 17 PCT mile approx. 690 Kaweah River May 14 To West of PCT Kings River May 17 PCT mile approx. 774 San Joaquin at Millerton, May 21 PCT mile approx. 880 Merced River at Happy Isles May 20 On the JMT Tuolumne River May 31 PCT mile approx. 917 East Walker River June 10 PCT mile approx. 978 If [...]

By |2019-06-06T10:38:06-07:00May 5th, 2019|Condition Reports, SMC Blog|

Spring and Early Summer in the Sierra Nevada for JMT/PCT Hikers and other Backcountry Users

  The winter of 2018/19 is on its way out and spring is here. Despite the media hype, this was not the biggest snow year ever. But looking at monthly totals from Mammoth Mountain, where the snows came early — February was the biggest February on record Nov 55 inches Dec 26 inches Jan 93 inches Feb 207 inches March 68 inches April 7 inches up to 4/11/19 Total: 456 inches Although winter has not yet fully gone, compare this to winter of 2016/17 where Mammoth reported 617 inches and 2010/11 with 668 inches. What is different is where the snow fell. This winter there has been more snow at [...]

By |2019-06-06T10:38:15-07:00April 24th, 2019|Condition Reports, Hiking, SMC Blog|

AIARE Pro 1 Avalanche Course: A Guide’s Experience

Since our regional avalanche forecasting center, Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center (or ESAC), started issuing its advisories on the first of January, we have seen “considerable” to “high” danger ratings more than fifty percent of the time, with more than a dozen days so far receiving the latter rating. For some, this might seem unusual for the Sierra considering its reputation for stable snow conditions. But consider the facts: there have been problems with our snowpack since the beginning of winter due to a prolonged dry and windy spell after our first real snowfall last Thanksgiving. We have even seen multiple instances of buried surface hoar, which is rare for these [...]

By |2020-06-01T07:48:57-07:00February 23rd, 2019|SMC Blog|

Kalymnos

It was late one night in July of this year, I was messaging a few friends and tossing around an idea for this year’s off season “retreat”.  Some may say that my job is a retreat or a sort of vacation already. I now have numerous arguments against such claims, but this story is not about making that point and trying to establish the legitimacy of a career in outdoor pursuits. I just want to share with you a vacation of my own, the places I dream of when the temperature starts dropping and snow fills the mountain passes. This idea began last year when I organized an “alumni” trip [...]

By |2020-06-13T10:54:09-07:00December 30th, 2018|SMC Blog|

The Titan

The book, 50 Classic Climbs of North America, came out in the early 1980 and was then, and still is now, a collection of the great climbs from a classic era. Some of the climbs are not so great and there are climbs that are better, but these all have history behind them and are a great tick list for any modern climber. In the 1980 there were few guidebooks and the descriptions were short, vague and sometimes wrong. But I started using the "50 Classics a guide to the best climbs in the USA" and slowly got to some 35 or so out of 50. Problem is that the [...]

By |2019-06-06T10:38:35-07:00December 30th, 2018|Rock Climbing, SMC Blog|

Technical expertise and leadership qualities

I just wanted to mention 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

By |2016-09-29T20:43:29-07:00June 2nd, 2015|What Our Clients Say|