Mt. Desire, East Ridge
North America, Canada, Coast Mountains
On July 17, with the support of the American Alpine Club and the McNeill-Nott Award, Brianna Hartzell, Eric Dalzell, Mike Pond, and I made our way to the Bella Coola Valley. Our objective was the unclimbed east ridge of Mt. Desire, 15 miles southeast. The brief glimpse we got of the route as the helicopter landed was our only beta. With a stellar forecast, the following morning we descended the crevassed glacier, downclimbed a 50° snow slope to a small band of rock, and climbed a ramp to the ridge proper. We began simul-climbing along the crest, occasionally pitching-out short sections of 5.7. We skirted an imposing gendarme to its north, returned to the ridge, and followed a beautiful knife-edge snow arête with amazing exposure.
Our first glimpse of the headwall gave us a collective sense of “Holy Shit!” As Mike and I studied the rock, we saw weaknesses and became enthusiastic. Brianna and Eric were less optimistic and descended, while Mike and I continued.
Mike and I descended into a notch in three rappels, bringing us to a rock bridge and the base of the headwall. We mostly simul-climbed, up 5.8. The climbing stayed engaging, the rock quality improved, and our position kept improving. The final section gradually steepened to just shy of vertical, with a final snow mushroom mantle. This was our introduction to first ascents (1,200', III+ 5.8), making for a special moment. We found a cairn on top, which we presumed was from John Clarke, who arrived in 1993 from the west and south [CAJ 1994, p. 78]. Our descent to the west began by a scramble down to a small col, then rappels down a steep snowfield and bergschrund, which put us within a hundred yards of our camp.
Mike and I climbed another two new routes, on unnamed peaks along the south ridge of Desire. Menergy Ridge ascends the west ridge of Gayle Needle (III 5.8, optional 5.9+ variation on summit block). The Wanderlust Traverse bags Wanderlust Peak (south of Gayle) via a three-pitch rock and snow climb (5.10) that gains the north ridge, climbs to the summit, then continues along the east ridge over two smaller peaks.