ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ/AP) — One of the more memorable events leading up to the Naval Academy graduation is the annual Herndon Climb. It’s a race to climb a greased monument and replace a freshman’s hat with a midshipman’s hat.
Jessica Kartalija was there as first year students scrambled to get it done.
On this hot and humid day in May, a Naval Academy tradition dating back to the 1940s is held.
“Thirty-five years ago I did it and I still remember it to this day,” said USNA alum, Mike Kennedy.
One thousand members of the academy’s freshman class make a human pyramid around the Herndon Monument covered in lard.
“It’s really hot and sweaty so when you start climbing, I got up pretty far but you just start slipping and people start pulling you back. But it’s fun,” said one student.
There was a little bit of controversy over last year’s climb when the superintendent did away with the lard. This year there’s a new superintendent and all that lard is back.
“It’s the grease. You can’t get ahold of anything, including your classmates, so you’re just sliding the whole time,” said one student.
It is dangerous. One student was taken to the hospital. She was treated then released. The climb is voluntary.
Monday’s climb was on the longer side. At 2 hours, 41 minutes and 32 seconds, they beat the time of 1995. Their time was 4 hours, 5 minutes and 17 seconds.
Matt Dalton, of Safety Harbor, Fla., replaced the first-year student’s “dixie cup” hat with a midshipman’s cover on top of the Herndon Monument.
Students began the yearly event in 1940. They added the symbolic placement of the cap on its tip seven years later. In 1949, upperclassman began smearing as much as 200 pounds of lard on the monument to make it more difficult.
Records are incomplete on how long the climb has taken each year. The longest time is believed to be in 1995, when upperclassman glued down the hat. The shortest on record is 1 1/2 minutes in 1969, another year the monument wasn’t greased. Last year, it took about 2 minutes.