ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — It’s an annual rite of passage at the U.S. Naval Academy: the Herndon climb. Hundreds of plebes scramble to climb a greased up monument to replace a freshman’s hat with a midshipman’s hat.

Marcus Washington has more on how long it took.

The day is set at the U.S. Naval Academy for a 60-plus year tradition to continue–the Herndon Monument climb.

“Our daughter Leann Marquez is finishing her plebe year, and I’m trying to see if she’s got the guts to get up in all that mess,” her father, Dan Marquez, said.

And with a bang, they’re off. Standing at 21-feet tall and covered in 50 pounds of vegetable shortening, the plebes must knock down the dixie cup hat, replacing it with a midshipman hat.

“So much fun. Most fun I’ve had here at the academy by far,” said Tara Sirfert, midshipman.

Washington: “Do you think you’re going to get back in there?”

Sirfert: “Oh, I’m going to go right back up there right after this. I’m a fighter.”

“I was trying to get one of my bigger boys to get up there and get on his shoulders, but everybody keeps falling,” said Justin Norton, midshipman. “It’s not really coordinated, so it’s chaos.”

As the minutes tick by, they fall–and they fall again, and again–but they never give up.

As we reach the 1 hour 30 minute mark, we see a change–plebes close to a victory.

And at 1 hour 38 minutes and 36 seconds, they just do it.

“It feels pretty awesome not to be a plebe anymore. It’s been a long year,” said Midshipman 4th Class Javarri Beachum, who placed the midshipman hat on top of the Herndon Monument. “I’m just really excited, not only for me, but for all of my classmates.”

The shortest time was in 1975. Those plebes did it in 20 minutes. The longest time was in 1998. It took them 4 hours and 5 minutes.

With the tradition, the plebes remove their shoes before starting the climb. Many of those shoes are being donated to various charities through the Midshipman Action Group.

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