Team of Two Men and Two Women Inspect Washington Monument

A team of two men and two women descended the four faces of the Washington Monument Wednesday to search for cracks in the landmark's marble.

The National Park Service released photos from the project and video of Emma Cardini before she began to make her descent.

Cardini, 32, of Melrose, Mass., said Thursday
that the job is the highlight of her career. She said she got the opportunity to learn how to climb up and down
buildings several years ago and loves it.

Cardini said being up-close to the building is the best way to conduct an inspection. She said the team has seen some open mortar joints and cracks.

The team of two architects and two civil engineers descended in unison after noon, checking each stone individually for damage and turning tourists' and residents' heads on the National Mall.

Their mission is expected to last for five days, but the progress of their work hinges on the weather. 

“We fully intend that the Washington monument will be restored to its full grandeur and will reopen to the public,” National Parks spokesperson Bill Line said Wednesday morning.  “What we cannot tell you is any sort of reliable time frame.”

Line said the climbers had to remove the lightning rods from the top of the monument so they are not damaged by the climbers' ropes.

The four climbers are all employees of the WJE architectural firm contracted to perform the survey of the Monument’s damage.  They will all ascend to the top of the pyramidium, and then slowly descend their ropes in unison, checking for damage to the stone.

The Park Service documented the condition of each stone between 1999 and 2000, when scaffolding went up around the Monument.  The climbers will carry iPads in order to check the conditions of the stone against the previous records.

In addition to iPads, climbers are equipped with masonry tools, a soft mallet to perform inspections, digital cameras and two-way radios.

Carol Johnson, a spokesperson for the National Mall, said that the climbers would take 1 hour to gear up before performing the inspection.  She said the team was “chomping at the bit to get on the wall.”

The team can conduct their survey during rain, but will come down if lightning or winds over 20 mph threaten.

The ropes for the climbers are anchored to a beam inside the monument.  The Park Service was careful to emphasize that no holes had been drilled into the exterior of the monument.

The four climbers performing the survey are: Erik Sohn, 33, architectural engineer, Emma Cardini, 32, a civil engineer, Daniel A. Gach, 35, architect, and Katie Francis, 27 a civil engineer.

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