Mount Dido, first ascent of South Ridge. During a SAR training exercise in February 2002, Thai Verzone and I had the opportunity to make the first ascent of the South Ridge (IV 5.9) of Mt. Dido (1,976m) in the Olympus Range of Victoria Land’s Dry Valleys. The first half of the route was straightforward and primarily low to mid 5th class climbing. The second half required careful route finding with two crux sections of 5.9. The ridge ended before the summit, and the final three pitches were on the exposed south face.
In total, we climbed 12 pitches in plastic boots on sandstone of varying quality. According to our best research, the tower had seen only one ascent previously, via the north ridge by a New Zealand party in the early 1980s. Before then, only a helicopter-born survey team had touched the summit. Descent involved rappelling and down-climbing our line of ascent.
The Dry Valleys have an immense amount of climbing potential, with rock climbs like ours and other climbs more alpine in nature. Access is tremendously challenging, and the commitment factor is extremely high. This is also an area of high scientific interest, so special care must be taken with the environment.
Chris Simmons, AAC