SMC Blog

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|

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|

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|

Mount Patriach – Kauhurangi National Park New Zealand

I (Sp) am back in New Zealand for a few weeks and filling it with some hiking, climbing and enjoying the country.The great thing about NZ "tramping" is that there are lots of tracks, fantastic views and a great hut system. The bad thing is that there are lots of biting sandflies, rain and nothing is easy. But sometimes rewards are directly proportional to effort.With my brother-in-law Martin I did a two day hike up to kiwi Saddle hut, up Mount Patriach and down to John Reid hut and out down Chummies track. The huts here are small 6 bunk ones, basic but shelter and no need to carry a [...]

By |2016-12-23T19:52:38-08:00January 15th, 2014|SMC Blog|

Hokitka on West Coast in New Zealand- Jan. 2013

The Wet West Coast West side of the South Island has always had a reputation. Annual rainfall here can be up to almost 60 feet of water. The forest is rainforest and often a battle to get through. Rivers come up and people are stranded for days. A bridge on the main highway washed out here three weeks ago after over two feet of rain in six hours. So getting around is a problem. With a flight to catch in a few days I could not afford to get stuck so I took a short hike up to the Mt Brown hut, a short but steep four hour hike. In [...]

By |2016-12-23T19:52:38-08:00January 16th, 2013|SMC Blog|

Tapuae-o-Uenuku You don’t have to pronounce it to climb it.

Tapi is the highest point in New Zealand outside of the main Divide and I have wanted to climb it for over 40 years. So I connected with an old friend Penny, from the old days of university back in the 1970s, and she flew down from Auckland and we made a quick trip since the forecast was fine for a few days. It is in the Kaikoura Mountains on the east side of the northern part of the South Island and in the rain shadow of the biggest peaks so although a dry environment there are sill rivers to deal with and the approach is 22km up a river [...]

By |2016-12-23T19:52:38-08:00January 8th, 2013|SMC Blog|

Boundary Peak 9.2.12

Boundary Peak is the high point of Nevada and we get a number of people who are doing all of the high points of the 50 states wanting to do it. This was the case with Jayme and Don Holcomb. This was a warm up before Whitney, but with no good  trail and the dry desert air this might actually be harder. We stayed at SP's Nevada place just on the other side of the highway the night before and got a dawn start up the trail, watching the sun come up over the ranges tot eh east. We were 4.5 hours up and 2.5 down which is a great [...]

By |2016-09-29T20:43:29-07:00September 3rd, 2012|SMC Blog|

Mt. Emerson 13, 225′ July 4, 2012

Some of the Sierra Mountain Center team went out on July 4, 2012 to check out Mt. Emerson 13,225'.  There are several different approaches.  We decided to climb the SE Face.  Short approach for this fun alpine route on solid rock.  Leaving the Piute Pass trail before Loch Leven Lakes-  Route climb the 5.4 crack ( great hand holds) then continue up class 3-4 to the traverse up high.  The traverse is amazing, every 10-20 feet you move the scenery is different, miles of mountains and lakes.  This is a great day climb.   Mt. Emerson is a good climb to challenge your skills, learn new skills and take [...]

By |2016-12-23T19:52:38-08:00July 6th, 2012|SMC Blog|

Clarence King and Gardiner Basin Ski Tour

Seems like this year spring comes and goes, with a day of spring followed by a day of winter. But it is ski tour season so Sp and Chris set off with John Miller, His son Rob, Pascal Poignard, Chrixx Finne and Dan Silverberg on May 6th from Keasarge Pass. Our route took us over the Pass the first day and down towards Charlotte Lake where we camped the first night. The next day we ascended to Glenn Pass and then dropped to the Rae Lakes drainage. From here three passes (we called them small ridge crossings before we did them and passes afterwards) and into Gardiner Basin to a [...]

By |2016-09-29T20:43:31-07:00May 16th, 2011|SMC Blog|

Snowskills with SMC

A lot of people think that winter is the time to learn ice axe and crampon skills. Not so; when the snow is deep and soft ice axe and crampons will not add a lot of safety and security and it is better to be on skis. But now that we have hard snow, cold nights and good cramponing conditions spring is the time to pick up these skills. We did our first skills course up at Rock Creek Lake on Sunday April 30th and conditions were perfect. We covered, cramponing, ice axe work, step kicking, belaying, self arrest and talked about a host of other things - such as [...]

By |2016-09-29T20:43:31-07:00May 3rd, 2011|SMC Blog|

Mini Mountain Camp June 27-29

Dave Meyers put together a custom trip with his sons Grant and Nick after climbing Whitney via the Trail Route a little earlier. The boys were tired after all of that exertion and after a day of rock climbing at Benton Crags Nick decided that his body and feet were sore so SP, SMC's 2010 intern Aaron, Dave and headed up Rock Creek Canyon to camp at Mills Lake. Summer really hit the Sierra over the last few days and temperatures were hot. We spent the afternoon of Day 2 working on snow skills above Mills Lake. Still lots of snow out there and the uppper lakes ares till frozen. [...]

By |2016-12-23T19:52:38-08:00July 6th, 2010|SMC Blog|

Middle Palisade, Norman Clyde and the Thumb with Robert Miller

The South Fork of Big Pine Creek is far less used than the North Fork, which gives access to North Palisade, Starlight and Thunderbolt peaks. But the approach up the south fork is shorter, has fewer people and great climbing. So SP and Robert Miller from Albuquerque spent six days there climbing peaks. First up was Middle Palisade at just over 14,000 feet. The route here is mainly 3rd class, but it is continuous climbing. There are none of the usual areas of talus and scree often found on this type of route and while easy it is not somewhere to make a mistake. The glacier is already showing exposed [...]

By |2016-12-23T19:52:43-08:00July 12th, 2007|SMC Blog|

New Routes with Matt Compton

Think that the Sierra Nevada is climbed out? We have spent enough time out there to know that this is no where close to the truth and there are many routes that we have had our eyes on for years. So when Matt Compton called a while ago wanting to do some new routes and we were more than happy to oblige. Matt is taking a year of work and traveling with his wife and young child climbing, biking and having fun so this was a part of a longer time off work and enjoying what we consider to be the “real world” – the Sierra backcountry. First up was [...]

By |2016-12-23T19:52:43-08:00June 24th, 2007|SMC Blog|

Match Maker for Climbing Partners

Looking for a cheap date? Post your dates and destinations here to see if there are others out there looking for the same trip to reduce your expenses for a guided climb. Just click COMMENTS below.

By |2007-06-20T17:13:29-07:00June 20th, 2007|SMC Blog|

Whitney East Face with Joe and Candy 6/14-16/07

            Over the years we have done a lot of trips with Joe Maher and Candy McNulty from Reno. each time Joe pushes Candy a little more and she comes through with style and aplomb. We did the Venusian Arete on Temple Crag a couple of weeks ago and this time it was off to Whitney for the east face. We decided to make this three day trip. it is possible to climb and hike out in the same day, but it makes for a long day with no time to relax. So we hiked in on Day One and camped at Iceberg Lake. Climbing day was a [...]

By |2016-12-23T19:52:43-08:00June 20th, 2007|SMC Blog|