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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

Juneuary is here.

We never know what we are going to get. After gloom and doom in the fall with a La Niña weather pattern expected with dry conditions nature proved to forecasters wrong and dumped up to 7-15 feet of snow on the Sierra. Now the skies have cleared and while temperatures are cold no big storms are in the forecasts. But long range predictions look to a return of the storminess towards the months end.

We are operating our avalanche courses and have perfect conditions for these. ice is forming in Lee Vining and now the approach is snow covered making for better access. We have several Winter Mountaineering Programs and Whitney Winter Ascents booked.

Fly to Bishop!

Yes, after years of waiting, we can finally can fly into the Bishop airport starting December 2021. United will be flying in daily with flights from LAX, SFO and DIA. American will be flying from Burbank, Carlsbad and Hawthorne in Southern California. So increase your fun to travel ratio with a quick flight. Flights will also be extended into the summer as the need and demand is determined.

We are anticipating a stellar winter with a full slate of programs. So don’t delay: call the office and plan your winter adventures.

John Muir Trail Section Hikes

Level I Pro Avi Course

For 2022, Sierra Mountain Center is proud to have partnered up with the Silverton Avalanche School to offer a Pro Level I course.

This course is designed for avalanche workers just starting in the field and takes someone from being a recreational evaluator onto the path to becoming a snow professional. The course covers the fundamentals of understanding and managing avalanches in an operational setting. Students learn how to become snow weather and avalanche observers and work in an operational setting.

Level 1 AIARE Avalanche courses California

SMC owner and veteran of over 40 years climbing and skiing the Sierra Nevada, SP Parker, will be teaching lecture day of most 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. Continuing our adaption to Covid-19 we will be doing our online format for the class work and now you can fit the two day field sessions into any 2-day weekend. Classes will fill rapidly so don’t miss out.

Winter Mountaineering Courses in California

Winter Mountaineering

Winter is a different beast to summer. Short days and cold temps but also fewer people and a different world of chilly beauty. Our four day Winter Skills Program gives you a day on snowy rock, a day an waterfall ice and then a two day trip into the high country above Mammoth to learn winter camping skills and to ascend a peak.

If you have dreams of climbing some of the worlds bigger snowy peaks then this is a great starting point and a perfect stepping stone to climbs such Whitney in the winter. With the right gear and the right attitude this world is not quite as difficult as you might think.

Ski Basecamps in Eastern Sierra

Rock Creek Ski Basecamp

We know Rock Creek Canyon well – SP has skied there since the 1980s. It is the perfect basecamp location and this year we have special approval to make supported basecamps at Rock Creek Lake or Mosquito Flats. We move our supplies in via snowmobile and you ski the road with a day pack to camp. We make this our home and choose from any of the amazing run and places to explore in the upper canyon. We can tailor the program to your specific ski goals and desires.

Talk to us and let’s ski the Eastside’s best terrain together.

Contact SMC

Get outside for a learning adventure!

Sierra Mountain Center & Covid-19

Inyo County Covid business compliance

We continue to take Covid mitigation measures seriously. We always want to do things correctly to protect 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.

Please read more about our precautionary measures and know that we are doing our best to protect our clients, staff, and community.

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.

Veteran guide SP Parker who has lived and guided locally for over 40 years is at the helm of SMC. He sets the standards required of SMC guides and works to mentor and train them in the long tradition of Sierra Guiding of which we are proud to be a part of and to continue.

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.

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 support Leave No Trace

SMC staff are trained in and abide by Leave No Trace (LNT) principles on all our programs. LNT is best understood as educational and ethical guidelines, not as a set of rules and regulations. If you are unfamiliar, we will teach you.

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 for the terrain they work in. 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.

We are an AMGA Accredited Business

American Mountain Guides Association 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. Learn more

SMC is the only locally-based AMGA Accredited guide service.

As an AMGA Accredited Guide Service in 2022 we are bound to hold our staff to the AMGA “Scope of Practice” That sets out the appropriate terrain for a given level of training. Other non-accredited guide services are not bound by this professional standard. We believe in it.

We completed our re-review in December of 2021 and the reviewers concluded:

…. Sierra Mountain Center serves as a model for a small guide service operating in alpine, rock, and ski terrain in the U.S. Documents reviewed reveal not only sound field practices, but also a solid grasp of business operations, including an understanding of and compliance with state and federal labor laws and land use regulations. Feedback provided by field staff was positive overall. Staff were appreciative of the training and mentoring opportunities that are available to them. They stated that they felt respected and that communication with the owner is excellent. They left the impression that Sierra Mountain Center is an outstanding business to work at.

Land/permit managers contacted stated having a very good working relationship with the company owner and guides. Several expressed appreciation for the owner’s input and assistance with updating their agency’s land use management plans.


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

Register Today!