U.S. Naval Academy Freshmen Take Part In Annual Herndon Monument Climb

Real Slick, Plebes: The Herndon Monument Climb

Photos from the U.S. Naval Academy's slippery, annual rite of spring.

Hundreds of Naval Academy freshmen marked the end of the school year by taking part in a slippery tradition: climbing a 21-foot monument slathered in 50 pounds of vegetable shortening in the annual Herndon Monument Climb at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Here, energetic scenes from this year's ascent on May 21, 2018.

AND THEY'RE OFF! Alex Wong/Getty Images AND THEY'RE OFF! According to tradition, the Naval Academy's academic year is officially over once the freshmen class (referred to as "plebes") replace the previous year's "dixie cup" sailor cap perched atop the monument with an upperclassman’s hat. ULTIMATE TEST Alex Wong/Getty Images ULTIMATE TEST Naval Academy students lock arms and form a human pyramid around the monument, hoisting up their tallest comrades and using t-shirts to try and wipe off the grease. The climb is seen as a test of the very same values of teamwork and determination taught to freshmen during their first year at the prestigious military school.
Plebes climb the Herndon Monument at the US Naval Academy
Plebes climb the Herndon Monument at the US Naval Academy
The Washington Post/The Washington Post/Getty Images ALL FOR LOVE Alex Wong/Getty Images ALL FOR LOVE Named for Cmdr. William Lewis Herndon, the monument was erected in 1860 along a pathway appropriately named "Love Lane," a place freshmen were not allowed to frequent as they were forbidden to socialize with women. According to historians, the freshmen class of 1907 ended their first year by rushing around the monument to celebrate gaining access to the romantic spot. THE CLIMB Alex Wong/Getty Images THE CLIMB In 1940, the freshmen class decided to climb the structure, aiming to perch a student at the top. In 1947, placing an officer's white cap atop the monument became the goal, and in 1949, in a diabolical stroke of genius, upperclassmen made the feat even more challenging by greasing the monument. TOWER TIME The Washington Post/The Washington Post/Getty Images TOWER TIME This year, with hundreds of spectators cheering them on and thousands watching online, the freshmen class managed to cap the monument in just two hours, nine minutes, and 35 seconds. Not bad timing, considering it took the class of 1998, for example, four hours, five minutes, and 17 seconds to finish. The fastest recorded time technically goes to the class of 1972 who finished in just one minute and 30 seconds, but that was without the added element of grease. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED Alex Wong/Getty Images MISSION ACCOMPLISHED An upperclassman's hat rests atop the U.S. Naval Academ's Herndon Monument after the annual freshmen climb of the obelisk. BACK IN THE DAY The Washington Post/Washington Post/Getty Images BACK IN THE DAY Midshipman Joshua Stewart, 19, places a hat atop the Herndon Monument on May 18, 1998.

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