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Plebes finish off challenging first year at Naval Academy with annual 'Herndon Monument Climb'

At the end of their Plebe year, the Midshipmen try to climb a greased 21-foot monument.
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Posted at 5:29 PM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 17:29:33-04

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Herndon Monument Climb has been going on for decades.

It’s something you need to see to believe.

At the end of their Plebe year, the Midshipmen try to climb a greased 21-foot monument. The Herndon Monument Climb started in 1959 and it's still going strong.

This is the last official act of the Naval Academy freshmen, called Plebes.

The event starts with the famous quote from Admiral Farragut, "Damn the torpedoes."

Then, it was full speed ahead for these Plebes.

The idea is to remove the Plebe cover on the 21-foot monument and replace it with a Midshipmen's hat.

All this while their upper classmates smear nearly 200 pounds of vegetable shortening on the monument.

The longest time was in 1995, that only took 4 hours and 5 minutes.

Plebe summer starts off with the haircut and it's followed by a grueling summer of physical training.

These Plebes come from all over the United States to Annapolis, and when they get there, that heat and humidity is quite a surprise.

“For me, I got super tan and also couldn't really cool down over the summer,” one Plebe said.

“Coming into Plebe summer, you're fielding all the information from the weather to the adjustments to the environment. You gotta take every day one step at a time," another Plebe said.

Plebe James Thomas, from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, is proud he pushed himself through the year.

“This is surreal, it's been really a tough year, but we got through it,” Thomas said. “So, I'm just thankful to God, really just push me through it and helped me through this whole time.”

The Herndon Monument Climb is most likely to toughest task in the toughest year of their lives.