Extended Sierra Mountain Camp

We cover the same basic skills as the “Mini Mountain Camp” but then expand further and have you put them to use. This application of the skills is very important; until you know how to use the newly acquired techniques you do not really “own” them. Perfect practice makes perfect, as the saying goes. The entire duration of this trip is in the backcountry.

The Palisades area is the place for Sierra mountaineering. Five 14,000 foot peaks are clustered above the largest glacier in the Sierra Nevada – aptly named the Palisade Glacier. If you are serious about getting experience in the mountains, this is the program for you.


For more information about these routes and the Palisade area, you can get our unpublished guide to the Palisades here.

Day 1

After meeting up, introductions and gear checks, we hike in to our first camp near Third Lake. The trail is well maintained with a steady gain. There are a number of small crags and cliffs here where we will work on rock skills for a half day after setting up camp.

Distance: 5 miles, 2550 feet of gain, 100 feet of loss

Day 2

Rock climbing skills: knot tying, belaying, equipment selection/use, movement skills, and rappelling.

Day 3

Now we start to put skills together with an ascent of one of the arêtes of Mt. Robinson. We have three arêtes to choose from: the Lichen, Friendship or Fornication Aretes (We owe the latter two names to the irreverent group from the 60’s known as the Armadillos who included local climbers Doug Robinson and John Fischer). This will be a day outing, with a planned return to camp near Third Lake after our climb.

Day 4

We shift camp to the Palisade Glacier. This is a half-day walk and on the way we will stop and cover snow travel techniques including self-arrest and ascending and descending snow, all in a high mountain setting surrounded by dramatic peaks.

Distance: 3.8 miles, 2550 feet of gain, 325 feet of loss

Day 5

A full day of snow skills includes plenty of practice in the prior days’ topics, as well as new skills like anchoring on snow, use of crampons, and snow belays. We will also cover the rudiments of glacier travel, though the Palisade glacier is small and not the ideal place to learn glacier travel skills.

Days 6

We get out climbing the high peaks and put those skills into use. Potential climbs include Mt. Gayley, Mt. Sill or Thunderbolt Peak. This day will include a lot of on-the-route instruction and coaching to get you applying the right technique at the right time.

Day 7

Depending on how the group is feeling and how conditions are, there is possibility for a morning climb before we hike out to the trailhead.

Program Prerequisites:

No prior climbing experience is necessary but can be helpful. Prior backpacking and wilderness travel is beneficial. Prior experience hiking and climbing at altitudes above 10,000’ is recommended.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding, permits, group climbing gear, tents, kitchen gear, breakfasts, lunches and dinners (you bring hot/cold drinks and snack items). Scheduled dates include USFS trail fees. Private programs do not.

Local accommodation is not included.

Please Read before you go

We feel the following information is essential... (links open as PDF in new window)

  1. Details, itinerary, and equipment list for your trip
  2. SMC Cancellation Policy
  3. Suggestions on preparation - get the most out of your trip!
  4. Tips on physical training for your trip
  5. LNT - Let's work together to protect our precious mountain environment.

PDF Maps:

Extended Mountain Camp Map

Rental Equipment:

Need to rent equipment for your trip? We can help.

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