Naval Academy freshmen climb greased Herndon Monument in annual tradition

The U.S. Naval Academy’s plebe class has capped a greased-up Herndon Monument, as about 1,000 first-year students took part in the unusual annual tradition Monday afternoon.

With teamwork and perseverance, the students formed a human pyramid to help classmates climb the slippery monument and replace the hat known as the “Dixie cup” from the top of the monument with a midshipmen’s hat, marking the end of the plebe year.

Peter Rossi of Phoenix capped the 21-foot obelisk slathered with vegetable shortening. It was done in 2 hours, 9 minutes and 35 seconds.

Last year’s class accomplished the feat in exactly two hours, 21 minutes, and 21 seconds while the previous class completed it in one hour, 12 minutes and 30 seconds, Fox 5 DC reported.

The class of 1962 climbed up the obelisk in 12 minutes — the first recorded time, reported The Washington Post. The class of 1972 has the fastest time at 1 minute 30 seconds — but no grease was used that year. The class of 1998 has the slowest time, taking 4 hours, 5 minutes and 17 seconds to finish because upperclassmen glued and taped the Dixie cup hat to the top.

Plebes began climbing the monument at the academy in Annapolis, Md., in 1940. The original goal of the climb was to have a member of the class perch on top of the monument, The Post reported. The placement of an officer’s white hat started seven years later. In 1949, upperclassmen began smearing lard on the monument to make the climb more challenging. They placed a plebe Dixie cup on top of the monument starting in 1962, according to The Post.

According to legend, The Post reported, the plebe who sets the upperclassman’s hat at the monument’s peak is destined to become the first admiral in the class. So far this legend has yet to become reality.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.