Every year, cadets at the United States Naval Academy have to do the most homoerotic thing ever: climb a giant phallic obelisk covered in lard. Well, actually vegetable shortening. It’s call the Herndon Monument Climb and thankfully for us, this year’s just took place.
The Herndon Monument Climb is an annual tradition where the freshman class, lovingly knowns as “plebes,” have to climb a the Herndon Monument. The term “plebes” is a throwback to the roman term plebian referring to the low working class.
A Facebook Live video of this year’s climb went viral:
The Herndon Monument is a 21 foot tall stone obelisk that was erected in honor of Captain William Lewis Herndon who went down with his ship in 1857. Every year in mid-May, Herndon is greased up with vegetable shortening by the upperclass man, and 1,000 freshman try to get to the top. On top of Herndon sits a paper cup which they must replace with a cadette hat. Once this has been completed, a cannon fires and they cry out, “Plebes no more,” marking the end of their challenging first year at the USNA.
Per strategy, the plebes take off their shirts to use as giant towels to wipe the lard off. Then, while being hosed down with water, they begin to make a human pyramid. Their wet bodies link up to create a foundation so that other students may climb them getting near the top. From there, they try to place the hat on top.
The first recorded Herndon Monument Climb was in 1962 and took 12 minutes. The difficulty was increased in subsequent years, as cadettes began greasing the monument with lard and spraying participating plebes with hoses as they climb to the top.
The fastest recorded time was by the class of 1972: 1 minute 30 seconds with no grease.
This year’s freshman class did it in 2 hours and 21 minutes.
It’s moments like this when we realize how much we love our jobs.