Naval Academy freshmen slide their way to the top in 2018 Herndon Monument Climb

Freshmen slide their way to the top in the 2018 Herndon Monument Climb, Monday, May 21, 2018. (WJLA)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJLA) - In a slippery climb to the top, Naval Academy freshmen fought their way up the Herndon Monument in this year's epic challenge!

The event signifies when "plebes" (freshmen) officially become 4th class midshipmen, after surviving a grueling and intense first year at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

It all started in 1940 when plebes convinced classmates to sit on top of the monument as a metaphor of their first year's survival and it's been a tradition ever since. In 1946, upperclassmen thought it looked too easy, so they added grease.

"It is hot, sweaty and uncomfortable at the bottom of the pile and up against the monument," said Stephen Pimpo, class of 1985.

Legend has it that the person who replaces the Dixie cup at the top of the monument with the midshipman cover will be first in their class to make admiral. The cap must be placed on the top, and it must not be thrown.

The fastest completion time was done by the class of 1972 when it was completed in 90 seconds (without grease) and the slowest time was the class of 1998 when it took four hours five minutes and 17 seconds (Dixie cup glued and taped).

Last year, it took the class of 2020 two hours and 21 minutes to complete.

Students say the keys to victory are:

  • Build a human pyramid quickly before getting too muddy and greasy
  • Place larger people on the bottom with the lighter people climbing up

Click here to read more on the history and tradition of the climb.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off