Courses & Skill building
Of all the world’s mountain ranges the Sierra Nevada has got to be one of the most pleasant in which to climb. The weather is generally predictable (we do not worry about the daily thunderstorms that affect the Rocky Mountains) and the rock is generally good solid granite. These factors make the Sierra the perfect training ground to learn the basics and then to move on to honing your skills on the high peaks.
We divide our programs into two types: “Acquiring the Skills.” These are programs that get you started with the fundamentals. “Applying the Skills” These are programs that get you out using the skills you acquired in the initial courses and putting them to use, solidifying them and practicing them.
Acquiring the Skills
To get around safely in the mountains you need to have a good solid base of skills. Belaying, safe movement, terrain assessment, cramponing and ice axe work are all important tools to enable you to move through the backcountry efficiently and easily. These skills will also ensure that your mountaineering career spans your entire lifetime and our camps are the first step in acquiring them
Snow Travel Skills
1 Day — Introductory
The use of an ice axe and crampons is fundamental to not only the mountaineer, but also to anyone who wants to be able to move with comfort and safety in the mountains under any conditions. For the backcountry hiker this course gives the skills needed to safely cross passes and to deal with the mountain snowfields often encountered in summer, especially after a heavy winter. Those mountaineers with ambitions of climbing the world’s higher peaks will also gain confidence as we work through skills such as self-arrest, crampon use, and belaying on snow.
Mini Mountain Camp
3 Days — Introductory
Perhaps you have done some hiking and peak scrambling in the past and found yourself wishing that you had more of the skills needed to get up more challenging peaks, across those unexpected snow slopes or up technical rock sections. Or maybe you have done some rock climbing but wish to expand your skills to include mountaineering. If so this three-day program will give you the basics to move easily in the mountains.
Extended Mountain Camp
7 Days — Introductory
This camp starts with the same basic skills as the Mini Mountain Camp but then expands further and gets you out putting them into use. This application of the skills is highly important and as the saying goes perfect practice makes perfect. Our first camp on this trip is near Third Lake, in the Palisades region. Here we work on rock skills for a day and a half and a peak ascent before shifting camp to the Palisade Glacier to work on snow, ice, and glacier techniques. Once familiar with the fundamentals we put those skills into use on the high peaks. If you are serious about getting experienced in the mountains this is the program for you.
Alpine Ice Climbing Seminars
3 Days — Introductory
Come summer and fall the snows of the past winter have melted off and repeated freeze and thaw cycles have transformed the snow to firm neve and water ice, often offering straightforward ways to the summits of many a Sierra peak. For this program we work on skills in the Bishop Pass area and then apply them on ascents of Mt. Thompson or Mt. Gilbert.
Applying the Skills
Once you have learned the skills you still need to learn how to incorporate them into your climbing. Until you use them and discover for yourself how they work you do not truly “own the skills.” These peak ascents and camps are designed to take you to the next level under the tutelage of an expert guide and instructor. You will push your limits in a learning environment, expanding your skills and becoming more comfortable in the mountains and along the way have fun and enjoy the splendor and beauty of the mountain world.
Mt. Conness North Ridge
1 Day — Introductory
Sitting on the border of Yosemite National Park Mt. Conness is the high point of the Saddlebag Lake region, just north of Tioga Pass. It has a great view of all of the eastern part of the park, as well as eastern California. The North Ridge offers a fun route to the top with a huge variety of climbing and a fun approach and descent.
If you’ve done some multi pitch climbing and are fit this climb is a good way to “put it all together” on a longer route, but without having to spend a night out.
Matterhorn Peak Ascent
2 Days — Introductory
The southern end of the Sawtooth Ridge, Matterhorn Peak bears little resemblance to its Swiss namesake, but for the climber it has a bit of everything: a snow approach, a rock arete with great climbing, and an outstanding view of northern Yosemite’s high country. For literary trivia fans this is also the peak that defeated Jack Kerouac and is chronicled in his book “The Dharma Bums”.
Ritter and Banner Camp and Ritter and Banner Parents and Kids Camp
5 Days — Introductory
These two peaks dominate the Sierra Skyline near Mammoth and offer a perfect introduction to the pleasures of Sierra Peak climbing. Pack stock will carry gear to camp near Ediza Lake while we strike a leisurely and comfortable hiking pace. Along with the climbing there is plenty of instruction time to relax and enjoy one of the most beautiful areas of the Sierra making this trip is ideal for those simply wanting to get out and enjoy being in the mountains in a beautiful and friendly environment and location.
The Fourteeners Camp
4 Days — Intermediate
There are fifteen peaks in California that exceed fourteen thousand feet in height. We won’t try to climb them all in the course of these four days, but we will certainly ascend the most technically difficult of them, namely those along the Palisade Crest. We set up camp high above beautiful Palisade and Dusy Basins. From here we will choose between Thunderbolt, Sill, Starlight, North Palisade, or Polemonium peaks and ascend two or three of these over the next two days. This is a fairly busy schedule and while not technically difficult it does require stamina and fitness.
Temple Crag Classics Camp
4 Days — Intermediate
One of our most favorite things to do in the mountains is to set up a comfortable camp and to climb as much as we can from there. We invite you to join us for four days of fine alpine cragging in the Palisades area. We’ll place camp above Third Lake, in the shadow of the alpine rock climber’s paradise – Temple Crag with it’s unique and outstanding the Celestial Aretes. These four days will be filled with as much climbing as you can handle and will certainly be a “dream trip” for the rock aficionado.
Palisades High Peaks Camp
5 Days — Intermediate
The Palisades region of the Sierra is home to some of the most highly coveted summits in the range and is known for its fine mountaineering and as a great training ground for alpine ranges of the world. With five peaks over 14,000’ accessible from one high camp (Sill, Polemonium, North Palisade, Starlight, and Thunderbolt) the cirque at the head of the North Fork of Big Pine Creek has much to offer the mountaineer. This trip is similar, but at a higher technical level than the Fourteeners Camp with an east side approach.
The Third Hulk Linkup
3 Days — Advanced
If you have done the classic hard routes on Temple Crag and are ready for the next step up in difficulty this is it. The Third Pillar is one of the most aesthetic and difficult Sierra climbs – perfect granite high above Mono Lake, with spectacular views out into the Nevada desert. This route has an almost European feel to it, with an easy hike to the top where extra gear is cached before the climb. But this is only the appetizer for the main course – the Red Dihedral on the Incredible Hulk. Ten pitches of stellar cracks, mainly 5.7 to 5.9 with a short 5.10b section that is over before you even start to get pumped.