Operating a summer camp can be tough. Factor in the current Covid-19 pandemic and it becomes an exponentially bigger headache.
Clay Tyson is 56 years-old and first came to Mammoth in 2004. Tyson had previously owned a climbing gym and in 2010, he officially became a climbing guide for a local business. After seven years, Tyson decided to start his own company called, “Ground Up Climbing Guides.”
“We wanted to address the folks that were coming in and visiting Mammoth Lakes,” said Tyson in a conversation with The Sheet, “We have been experiencing consistent growth year over year.”
For the last six years Tyson and one of his guides, Forrest Schwab, have been running Mammoth Lakes Climbing Camps in the summer. This was in partnership with the Town but they also had their own business to support. Tyson estimated that about a 20-30% of his business comes from the summer programs offered through the Town of Mammoth Lakes (TOML).
The business is growing. Ground Up Climbing Guides serves many people throughout the year, both tourists and locals, but in the summer, the company offers an outlet to the local youth throughout the Eastern Sierra.
So when the TOML temporarily suspended all recreation programs Tyson was disappointed. Not just because his business was affected, although that was a negative, but mostly because the children of the Eastern Sierra would have no outlet.
Tyson was determined to figure out a plan to fill at least part of the gap that the suspended Rec programs created. “I knew all the reasons we had to suspend the town programs, so I just looked at each issue and eliminated or lowered the risk,” he said.
Just like that. The biggest issues were transportation and group sizes. Tyson worked with Kat Kelly, Recreation Manager for the TOML, to come up with a plan to be presented to Tom Boo, the Mono County Public Health Officer.
Kelly told The Sheet that as of now, there are not many competing recreation programs offered but every day this changes. Kelly is “hopeful and optimistic,” that as new orders come in the Town will have a clearer picture of what they can and can’t do.
Ground Up Climbing Guides was simply the first to adapt.
Normally group sizes are around 16-20. This year the groups will be no bigger than eight people.
Regarding transportation, parents will need to give their children rides to the trailheads.
There were many minor alterations, such as sanitation and proper distancing, but enough of the risks had been looked at to submit a request for approval to Boo.
Boo approved the alterations and Tyson began nailing down the details.
The first camp will be offered on June 24. After that, there will be two camps a week. One two-day camp on Monday and Tuesday. And one three-day camp Wednesday-Friday. These camps will run for five weeks.
According to Tyson, the changes will benefit the children. “Having smaller groups just means more attention is paid to each individual kid,” said Tyson, “If enough kids sign up, we can group them by ability and age and get them on the terrain that best suits them. Similar to ski instruction, getting kids on the right terrain helps make the most of the day. If a couple things go right, the summer season will be every bit as busy as last year, It will just look different.”
For parents who might still be wary of sending their kid to a summer camp, Tyson told The Sheet, “They’re smart to be cautious. I would encourage [those parents] to read our operations manual on our website. But if you want to recreate, the best place to do it is outside with a smaller group.”
The climbing guides are used to this type of risk-assessment. “At the end of the day, guides are in the business of analyzing the risks and attempting to mitigate them,” said Tyson, “My main message is that I am really excited about this. It is an opportunity to offer a service to the Town. Kids in Mammoth Lakes are not used to being cooped up.”
For more info: Call Clay Tyson at 609-647-4787 or visit