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Sierra Mountain Center

California’s premier mountaineering school and guide service.

Located in Bishop, California SMC offers 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

Learn to Climb with SMC


Winter is here. The ice climbing is forming up. But we don’t have good snow yet but are hoping and scanning the forecasts obsessively. We are abiding by the California governors mandate to stay home and hunker down to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. So we have suspended all programs until Christmas and we will then re-evaluate what the situation both with Covid and snowfall is. We certainly hope to be running a full slate of programs after January 1 2021.
Meanwhile, we can just dream and plan with  some fun programs to start start off the new year.:
Sierra AVI I instruction

Avalanche Courses

Online sessions are running; field are suspended until after Christmas

SMC owner and veteran of 40 years climbing and skiing the Sierra Nevada, SP Parker, will be teaching lecture day of most AVI courses this winter. This is your unique chance to learn from a very experienced instructor who knows the terrain, the curriculum and the most important factors better than most anyone. We hope you show up with tough questions ready!

Start your backcountry education with the Level 1 AVI Course. We aim to demystify avalanche phenomena and evaluation, giving you the skills to head out make better decisions. As part of our adaption to Covid-19 we have transitioned to an online format for the class work and now you can fit the two day field sessions into any 2-day weekend. Classes are filling rapidly so don’t miss out.

Sign Up for an AVI Course
Ice Climbing at Lee Vining

Ice Climbing

Programs are suspended until after Christmas

Ice climbing has grown so popular – because it’s a fun and magical way to keep climbing in the winter!

In California the best place to go is in our own backyard – Lee Vining. As soon as the falls freeze, let SMC help get you out there! We loan you the tools, teach you the techniques and set up climbs for you to practice on.

Too cold? Nah! Once you are out the door, the winter world is not as bad as you might imagine it to be with warm clothing and a thermos of hot beverage. You’ll open a new world of climbing. If you have flexibility we suggest mid-week dates when there are fewer other climbers.

Learn how to Ice CLimb
High Sierra Backcountry Skiing

Backcountry Skiing

Programs are suspended until after Christmas

If there was ever a year to ditch the ski resort, get away from people, and visit untouched terrain, 2020 is the year.

SMC makes it easy to move off the groomed slopes and into the mountains – skiing untouched lines, fresh tracks and beautiful solitude.

If you’ve never experienced the winter wonderland then we have our  Introduction to Back Country Skiing to get you started. We take your downhill skills and help you translate them into the more variable backcountry environment.

If your goal is to get out and travel longer distances and experience the best the Sierra has to offer, then consider our Introduction to Touring program.

Come Ski with Us!

SMC Covid-19 Procedures

We reopened on 5/27/20, taking procedures seriously doing it correctly to protecting our staff and you as well. This has involved a lot of discussion and interaction with other professionals to feel our way down the best path. Our current measures to deal with the pandemic are:

• New background information and exposure information gathering
• Lowering ratios and working with small groups
• Guides will only heat water and not cook for the group. Guests will bring their own quick-cook foods.
• Practicing social distancing. This is pretty easy on trails but less easy on technical climbs. We have procedures for this.
• Wearing appropriate PPE when necessary and upping our hygiene and sanitizing techniques
• Being prepared to change our thinking as new information becomes available.
• We are abiding by state, county and federal guide guidelines and are relying upon advice from our medical advisor.

Inyo County Covid business compliance

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. 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.

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.

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. 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.

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 are an AMGA Accredited Business.

AMG 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.


Leave No Trace (LNT) logo

Leave No Trace is best understood as an educational and ethical program, not as a set of rules and regulations.

Take the next step and join us in the mountains for a wilderness adventure.

Register Today!