That One Time: A Night to Celebrate on Washington Column

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Illustration by Sam island

Illustration by Sam island

It was August 1974. I was 18 and a virgin. I’d met a pretty girl in the Camp 4 parking lot and convinced her, a climbing virgin, to come up a wall with me. She was 19 or 20; she had the allure of an older woman and the look of John Lennon if he were a chick. The next day I brought her up to Dinner Ledge on Washington Column. We were lying back together, and it was getting dark. I guess that’s considered romantic.

The whole thing only lasted a few minutes. It was enough for me, but she wasn’t all that happy. As soon as the sinful act was over, we heard cheers ring out across the valley. Not two or three people, but hundreds of people below were hooting and hollering. We didn’t know what to think. Could we be seen from the valley floor?

The next day, to my surprise, she wanted to continue up the route. I led each pitch, back-cleaning every piece because she didn’t know how to clean gear. Eventually I started getting tired, and I was little lost. We’d stay at a small ledge with a tree, I explained, I had a hammock for us. Realizing that I was no longer a virgin, I hoped I’d be able to last a little longer on this night, at least another 30 seconds.

She climbed into the hammock, and I followed—then the hammock ripped. Our bodies fell through, and clothes went flying. I helped her back onto the ledge and we spent a miserable night up there.

The next morning we assessed our wardrobe. Her clothes were safe. I had shoes, socks, shirt, and hat, but no pants. I had to finish the climb and hike out sans bottoms. As we made our way back, some excited hippies told us the source of the cheers: Nixon had resigned. While many people happily forget their first time, I will always remember that I lost my virginity on August 8, 1974.