Engineers to rappel Washington Monument

Some extremely awesome engineers will be rappelling down the side of the Washington Monument today, to inspect it for any structural damage that may have happened during last month's earthquake.


  1. “When I grow up, I want to be an awesome engineer. It’s like regular engineering, but with more things like rappelling, diving, and jumping out of planes.”

  2. Jealous!

    However, I’ll still tout my semi-awesomeness as an engineer. This is me less than two weeks ago hanging high above the mean streets of Baltimore on the side of an industrial building from the late 19th century that was converted to condos a few years back (not very well, which is why I’m there). It’s a particularly cool building ’cause it’s one of the few in the area that survived the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904.

    I’m in exactly the same business as the people doing the Washington Monument. Wish it was me.

      1. Yes, yes (swimming pools count, right?), no (I’m game), and definitely no. In that order. That’s why I went with “semi-awesome” instead of the full blown version that GeekMan and I both aspire to.

  3. “awesome”?  Really?  It’s just flippin’ rappelling.  Rappelling isn’t super-rad-o-gnarly.  I groan a bit every time I see a “look at the outdoor recreation opportunities there are in our state” tourism commercial that shows people totally-awesome-rad-o-gnarly rappelling.

    It’s the hard, scary thing you have to do (and do right!) after beating the hell out of yourself climbing a multi-pitch route.  I’d much rather teleport, get picked up by helicopter or just plain old walk off after a climb than rap off.  blech.  Too many raps down slippery, dirty, wet notches, too many raps in the dark, too many stuck ropes.

    I guess the opportunity to ride an elevator to the top of the monument, and do a continuous single rope rap down the side would be cool.  But these poor schlubs are going to have to use a caving rig, in an OSHA 5-point harness, and probably will have to use a backup static line, dragging an autolocking device down with them.  Rather un-awesome, and un-fun.

    Now, dot the monument with glue-on holds and bolts, creating a multi-pitch climbing tower, where you can top out and ride the elevator DOWN, and I’m there!

    1. Poor schlub. Yep, that’s me. We’re engineers, or did you forget?

      As for the rest (5-point harness, secondary line, etc.) you’re spot on. We needs hands free for work stuff and often have our attention on things other than the wall so those back-up safety measures make me happy.

      Remind me what your day job is?

  4. CC – when I was poopooing the association of “awesomeness” with rappelling, I was solely poopooing Maggie’s use of the term, not referring to you!  Sorry about my not-so-clear-ness there!

    I’m an architect, and the son of a globe-trotting EE (If you’re somewhere in the developing world and you have a remote power generating facility like a hydro dam and you need to deliver that power to a city over a seismically active mountain range via high voltage transmission lines, he’s the guy to design them.)  So I’m very well aware of the unassuming semi-awesomeness of engineers!

    Regarding going hands-free – yes, all that OSHA stuff is good to have when you’re “on the job” as opposed to out having fun.  But when rappelling as part of rock climbing, you need to go hands free pretty often, freeing stuck ropes or getting gear out of cracks.  For quick tasks, we typically wrap the brake rope around a leg, and for long involved gear-freeing struggles, there are a couple of different ways to tie knots to stop the rope that are pretty bombproof.

    That’s “for fun” – it’s much better to greatly reduce your risk of injury or death when it’s for work.  (Although there are a whole set of critiques of the OSHA set-up safety-wise.  Amazingly, the European equivalent standard is LESS bulky, and more like a rock climbing setup.)  But back to my original point – rappelling in general, and rapping the Washington Monument for work in particular is more like dangerous grunt work, rather than “awesome”.  

  5. As an aside, I actually know a genuinely “awesome engineer”. He’s a geological engineer here in British Columbia. Early on, the firm he works for learned that we was an avid rock climber. Naturally, this instantly made him the best candidate for scaling cliff faces to pull samples out of the rock. It’s pretty awesome. 

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