Climbing Washington, DC’s High Point

I’ve lived and worked in America’s capital city region for almost a decade. As a repressed mountaineer – alpinist in particular – that would prefer to live in a mountain setting, I deride it as Peaklessburg, though there are many peakless towns we live and work. But not in my whole time here did I consider climbing the city’s highest point.

I am not referring to Reno Hill (409ft./125m.,) Washington, DC’s natural high point. If I was I would be significantly lowering my standards of what classifies as a climb and I might start to hate myself. I’ve casually driven passed Reno Hill before but hardly gave the thought of “hiking” to the “summit” consideration.

No, I’m talking about the mountaineers smearing on the city’s highest point of all, the Washington Monument (555ft./169m.). You have probably heard that the August 23, 2011 east coast earthquake damaged several Washington landmarks, including the monument. Last week the National Park Service, which manages the facility, hired climbers from Colorado, Massachusetts and other locations to scale the exterior of the obelisk in order to inspect and document all of the damage.

This has made me wonder whether it’s possible that I’ve been missing out of the climbing potential of my hometown. Perhaps we should send the Capitol Building rotunda (from the exterior rather than the interior staircase via the “architect’s tour.”) Maybe the Jefferson Monument by the Tidal Basin offers decent “bouldering” problems that I haven’t considered. Maybe the Access Fund ought to get involved here. Of course, none of these features ice over with waterfall ice except every few centuries… and I’m hoping this winter is the time!

Artificial mountains and routes though are just substitutes for the purpose of practice in lieu of the natural ones, in my opinion. But I cannot discount their value too much. So if we started climbing more buildings (be it the Washington Monument or the CN Tower), would they be in the same class as climbing walls at gyms or would they be in a separate category? What about the proposed artificial mountain being talked about in the Kingdom of the Netherlands for skiers and climbers? Will we start crafting mountaineering routes the way golfers design fairways?

I do want to point out before I sign off today that the climbing going on at the Washington Monument is primarily involving rappelling and not ascending. So it’s not quite being climbed. Of course, if one of these monument inspectors were to climb to the summit, I wonder what he or she would name the first ascent route? If you’ve got a suggestion, leave me comment below.

Thanks again for dropping by. If you enjoyed this post, please consider following the Suburban Mountaineer on Facebook or Twitter. Happy reading and carpe climb ’em.

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