U.S. Naval Academy first-year students climb Herndon Monument

They slipped. They fell. They cheered each other on.

For more than two hours Tuesday, 1,000 first-year students at the U.S. Naval Academy stormed a 21 foot, lard-covered obelisk, working together to replace a first-year student''s hat with that of a midshipmen.

The first to the top is given a pair of admiral's shoulders boards.

First-year-student Joseph Toole says, "I think everyone just kinda packs in, and the small guys just climb to the top.

Matthew Benner, also a first-year student, adds, "Oh, it's hot, it's wet, it's cold if you get sprayed with the water. But, it’s just all kinds of body heat."

It's a symbol that the plebes have finished their first year and will now become respected midshipmen.

"It’s totally gain of respect, and they finally recognize us as students here, not plebes," first-year student Sam Himlin says.

Alumus Nick Diorio watched his son climb into a new era.

"I did it 35 years ago. I think my shoes are still stuck in the dirt. It's eye watering pride to see him walking through the same thing," Diorio says.

Himlin adds, ”It's just such a great feeling to finally be accomplishing something.”

This year's winner, Andrew Craig of Tulsa, Oklahoma, took over two hours to get to the top.