The Herndon Climb is a the U.S. Naval Academy tradition. It’s a thing.
The “plebes-no-more” ceremony is where the plebes (first year students) work together to climb the greased (phallic) monument and replace a plebe “dixie-cup hat” on the top. The midshipman who replaces the hat will be given a pair of admiral’s shoulder boards. Legend says that he or she will be the first of his or her class to make Flag Rank, although in reality this hasn’t yet happened.
The Herndon Monument is a 21-foot-tall granite obelisk, erected in memory of Captain William Lewis Herndon, who decided to go down with his ship and the men left aboard rather than save himself on September 12, 1857.
The climb goes back to 1959 and the record was set in ’69, when Midshipman Larry Fanning made the climb in 1 minute and 30 seconds. However, the monument was not greased that year.
In ’75, Midshipman Michael J Maynard scaled the monument in 20 minutes in 1972, believed to be the fastest time since the tradition of greasing began.
The previous superintendent ordered not to slather the monument with lard but his successor reinstated the tradition in 2011. The climb serves as a useful event in reinforcing teamwork, organization and leadership. And has other obvious visual perks, as well.
This year the winner was Midshipman Chris Bianchi in an hour 12 minutes and 30 seconds. Congrats! Happy Memorial Day.
(T/Y Kevin Sessums; Photos, Scott Henrichsen)