River Crossing Skills

Many years the Sierra is a  relatively benign range with a bridge over most of the larger creeks and streams. Some years however after a big snow winter things change, and even a small creek that other times might be insignificant can offer a substantial problem to the hiker not only on untravelled routes, but even on well popular trails such as the PCT or the JMT.

Even to the well seasoned mountain traveller a creek crossing is not something to be trifled with and to be treated with respect, but to the unversed person they can become a lethal danger and in some years deaths due to flooded rivers are not uncommon. Indeed, falls on snow and river crossing constitute the biggest danger in the spring Sierra Nevada

This course aims to give the backcountry traveller the skills needed to assess a river before crossing and the techniques to safely cross from one shore to the other.


SMC will provide any group equipment required. You need your basic backcountry clothing and footwear. Food and lodging are not included in the course.  Please refer to the equipment list for more information.

For background reading we recommend the classic bible “Freedom of the Hills” written and published by The Mountaineers.

You will be getting wet so bring a towel and extra warm clothing to change into.

There are many lodging options in the Mammoth and Lee Vining area, including hotels and camping. Check campground opening dates online, or call ahead if you are not sure; openings vary each year due to differing snow levels and conditions.

We highly recommend that you spend at least one night at moderate altitude (higher than 8,000) just prior to the trip. Though we are not hiking far, we will be constantly active during the day. Being acclimatized will help you feel better during the day, allowing you to learn and practice the skills more efficiently. Spending a night in Mammoth would do the trick or better yet, camped at an even higher trailhead or campsite.  Please refer to our Planning for Success info sheet for more information.

Return to Summer Mountaineering Programs

We will conduct this course where we find the most appropriate water levels. This might be Rock Creek Canyon, Bishop Creek or Pine Creek out of Bishop

During the day we aim to cover, discuss and practice the following skills:

  • Assessment of creek conditions and reading the river
  • Location of good crossing locations
  • Single person crossing
  • Group crossings
  • Use of a rope for crossing – or not
  • Use of a rope to get gear and equipment across

Program Prerequisites:

No prior backpacking experience needed. You should be fit and prepared to spend the day getting wet.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding, permits, all necessary group gear . Local accommodation is not included in the program.

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.

Rental Equipment:

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