Conquering the Washington Monument

This is a note to let you know what’s new on 

First, I’ve added another section to the story “Compatibility” under WRITING A STORY. This is a short story I’m writing with commentary on the writing process along the way. Feel free to comment (bottom of this post) and I’ll post appropriate comments with the story.

Second, I’m starting to put some of the stories I published forty years ago up on the blog. The first of these is there, “The Conquest of the Washington Monument” written by an avid monument climber. You’ll find it under STORY ARCHIVES. Here is its first paragraph.

Among technical monument climbers the ascent of the Washington Monument has always been recognized as the penultimate challenge in sheer purity of execution. The monument offers a straight 555 foot Class 7 climb on a hard marble face with artificial aids for direct assistance required all the way. As it has never been scaled, I have long cherished the thought of attacking the monument. I had studied the records of the ill-fated Harkins expedition (See Washington police blotter May 7th 1971) who were forced to turn back at the 42 foot mark on The North Face. Their failure, I felt, was due to their negligence in not disabling the flood lights at the base of the monument to prevent police detection. We would not make that mistake, but other difficulties that I could not anticipate would confront us.

Read the rest under STORY ARCHIVES on

And finally, I’ve had another couple of stories accepted for publication. “Playing Out the Deck” has to do with pushup poker, the Appalachian Trail, the war in Afghanistan and how friends help each other when things get tough. The second “Trouble-Free Driving” describes a hit man’s encounter with an over-friendly state trooper. Both of these will be published in September and I’ll let you know when and where when they are available to read.

2 thoughts on “Conquering the Washington Monument

  1. Loved the Conquest of the Washington Monument story. Hilarious with a funny twist at the end of almost every paragraph (and even in the footnotes).


  2. Dear Mr. Dryer,

    I read your short story “The Conquest of the Washington Monument” back in August 0f 1974 when it appeared in Playboy magazine. I enjoyed the story then, and I remembered it. I looked for it online for a long time. I could not remember what month or which issue of Playboy it had appeared in. I finally found it a couple of nights back when I did a Google search for “Washington Monument explosive bolts” – so I had remembered the details of your story after all these years. I very much enjoyed rereading your story just now, fourty six years later.

    And now I have a story for you. In the summer of 1977 I attended a writer’s conference that Saint Lawrence University held at the University’s retreat on Saranac Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of Northern New York. I was twenty one years old at the time and a junior at Saint Lawrence. I was studying creative writing and got to work with Tess Gallagher for two semesters my freshman year. I wasn’t much for poetry, and I wrote a couple of short stories after that at SLU, but nothing really came out of that and that’s another story.

    Among the instructors at the writers conference there were Joyce Carol Oates and the late Robie Macauley who was at that time the fiction editor at Playboy magazine as you well know. And, as you also no doubt know, in the spring of that year, before the SLU writers conference, George Willig climbed the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

    Your story had stayed with me. So when I met Mr. Macauley on the first night of the conference I had to ask him if he felt at all responsible for George Willig climbing the South Tower of the WTC. He asked me what I meant. I said to him that he had published that story in the magazine a while back about the guy climbing the Washington Monument so didn’t he see the connection.

    Macauley was a little bit bowled over by my question. Not that my question was an amazing question to ask. He had been astonished that no one had asked him about it or even mentioned it before. He said that they had not received a single letter or inquiry about the coincidence and that nobody at the magazine had mentioned the connection. He was flabbergasted by that. We had a drink and a nice chat together. He said that when there was dirt on a playmate’s foot or something else was wrong with the centerfold they would get a hundred letters. I told him that I found it hard to believe there were any mistakes like that with the centerfold pictures what with all the retouching and airbrushing of the photos. He insisted that there was no retouching or airbrushing as was popularly believed at the time. That was not his department, but I did not press him on the point. At one point he said that the episode had him wondering if anyone read the fiction.

    Well I read the fiction and I also read the interviews. And I very much enjoyed your story then, and again now.

    All the best!
    Chris Harris


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