George Washington was a surveyor and military man, known for his physical stature. You may need to summon some physical stamina to tackle the 227 spiral stairs to the top of Baltimore’s Washington Monument, but it’s worth the climb to survey the city from this rare vantage point.
In honor of Washington’s birthday, come along for my spontaneous climb up the column in October 2015, just a few months after the monument reopened after much needed renovations.
The reopening marked the monument’s bicentennial, Baltimore had the nation’s first monument to George Washington, with construction beginning in 1815.
I had seen the monument for years, but never contemplated climbing to the top, and I think if I had time to contemplate it, I might not have done it – this monument with a Doric column is more than 178 feet tall.
I was attending a nearby event, where there would be a limited opportunity for some people to climb. Work kept me late, so I knew I had missed my chance, but when I checked in, they said there might be one spot available right then – right then, as in, you have to go right now (I didn’t even have time to text my friends that I have arrived). I entered the monument and in under a minute, I was ascending through the tight spiral.
Again, it’s a good thing I didn’t have time to think. I later read that the monument is about 13 stories high and I had terrible climbing shoes – work heels. There are signs along the way to keep you posted on your progress. Let’s get climbing.
The brickwork inside the monument is impeccable – so smooth, even as it circles around. Remember it was built 200 years ago, you can even see some dates in a few places. While the stairs are numerous, they are not steep. They seem uniform in their height, another nod to the amazing craftsmanship.
I kept a steady pace, stopping only occasionally to take pictures of the markers on the walls, which really do help break up the climb, even if it feels like they are kind-of mocking you. (Again, I was trying not to think about how far I was going to climb).
I could hear people ahead of me, and I was pleased to catch two of them. They were talking so it probably slowed their progress. While my heart rate was up, I was not panting nor overly sweaty when I arrived at the top, which took several minutes.
The monument is a very tight and narrow spiral, which can be a bit challenging in itself. I just kept climbing. The views at the top are spectacular.
At the time, I thought the climb up was really not that bad, probably because I didn’t have time to think about it (I was sore for a couple of days afterward though). Coming down as actually a lot scarier, I will tell you more about that in my next post, where I will have more details about the monument itself, including the ground floor exhibitions.