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Naval Academy celebrates slippery tradition

U.S. Naval Academy plebes climb on each other\'s shoulders to try and swap hats at the top of the 21-foot monument Monday. The annual event is known as the Herndon Monument Climb. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Imagine being told you and your buddies have to climb a 21-foot tall monument that looks like a smaller version of the Washington Monument.

Now imagine the monument is covered with a thick layer of slippery lard.

That’s the challenge plebes, or freshmen, must face every year at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis during the Herndon Monument Climb, a tradition that’s been going on for decades.

A plebe hat called a “dixie cup” is placed at the very top of the monument, and the plebes’ goal is to knock the hat off, and replace it with a midshipman’s hat.

On Monday, the Class of 2016 took on the challenge.

Plebes encircled the monument and shoulders were used as steps to get men and women higher off the ground.

Some plebes took off their socks and T-shirts and tossed them at the monument where they stuck in place and were used as rags to wipe the grease from the stone.

Water hoses were sprayed at the climbers to try to keep them cool, and at times piles of climbers came tumbling down and were caught by the crowd waiting below.

This year, the job was finished in 1 hour, 32 minutes and 43 seconds.

Midshipman 4th Class Patrick Lien of Orlando, Fla., was the lucky one who, with the help of his classmates, was able to reach high enough to place a midshipman’s hat on the very top of the monument.

If legend holds true, his accomplishment means Lien will be the first in his class to become an admiral.

Watch the beginning of their mission:

And more than an hour later, success.

Follow @mbaschwtop and @WTOP on Twitter.


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