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Herndon Climb Under Review: Too Greasy...or too Gay?


The Herndon climb, the annual decades-old Naval tradition wherein dozens of plebes attempt to get to the top of a greased-up 21-foot granite obelisk, is in danger of being tossed out because of "danger" to the first-year midshipmen. The climb takes place while upperclassmen soak the plebes with a garden hose.

Herndon2Said the Naval Academy's public affairs office in a statement: "Similar to how our Navy looks at all traditions in the Fleet, we are evaluating the Herndon Monument Climb to ensure the event remains a valid part of our heritage but it is conducted with professionalism, respect, and most important, safety in mind." A spokesperson for the Academy said she could not recall "any serious injuries" resulting from the climb.

The Washington Post reports: "Alumni scoffed at the risk of someone's getting hurt, especially given the school's mission to prepare officers for combat. 'It's not dangerous. That's a lame excuse,' said Dwight Crevelt, who made it to the top of the monument in 1976. Crevelt never graduated from the academy, because his eyesight went bad after two years at the school. But his memory of scaling the mud- and lard-spattered obelisk -- and the week of glory that followed as he was feted like an admiral -- remains strong. 'It's the wrong move to make,' Crevelt said. 'You're trying to build team spirit, camaraderie, and that's the ultimate in team effort. . . the team going after that.' Herbert McMillan, a 1980 graduate who became an airline pilot and Annapolis politician, also opposes a change. 'We're going to send these guys to war but they can't climb a monument because they might get hurt? Come on,' he said. 'It just seems like a solution in search of a problem.'"

Herndon3Or might the ritual be under review for a different reason? Since the rise of blogs it has received much more exposure — on gay blogs in particular, and not just this one. No mention was made in the article of the fact that the muscled, shirtless event ends up looking, to outside observers, more like an Abercrombie & Fitch Quarterly photo shoot than an exercise in military rigor.

Might the U.S. military be worried that the event is gaying up its image a bit too much?


Naval Academy Rite Might Slip Away [washington post]
(thanks tyler)

You may have missed...
The Herndon Climb: It's That Time Again [tr]
2006 Herndon Climb: Greasing Up the Pole [tr]
Smells Like Team Spirit [tr]
Wetter, Greasier, Fleshier [tr]

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  1. "i like it on top", i'll bet you do honey, how about a safer and much more pleasurable for me alternative, why don't i grease my big, thick 10 inch pole and have those beautiful studs climb over it.... whooo baby, pass the poppers...

    Posted by: the queen | Jan 18, 2008 1:30:59 PM

  2. Damn, look at those waistlines! Why can't these idiot scientists invent a way to let you drink as much booze as your liver can stand without you gaining blubber around the belly. Why must beauty be wasted on the youth, athletes and military boys?

    JORDAN, please, don't stop here. There are other topics for you to comment on today, darlin'.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Jan 18, 2008 1:39:42 PM

  3. The Navy is the best nationally-funded gay organization in the United States.

    Posted by: phil | Jan 18, 2008 1:49:45 PM

  4. If the Naval Academy cancels it, they can always do it off site. In fact, my backyard would make an excellent location.

    Posted by: JJ | Jan 18, 2008 2:00:12 PM

  5. They canceled the Princeton nude "Olympics" for much the same reason.

    Posted by: anon ( | Jan 18, 2008 2:56:15 PM

  6. It’s a nice safe way for the Navy boys to express their homosexual tendencies “an army of lovers can never be defeated”. And the homos are invited to watch, what could be more patriotic?

    Posted by: ggreen | Jan 18, 2008 3:36:56 PM

  7. Hot!
    Looks like guys I see in class every other day now (yes, I'm back in school now...hard to believe I know)...or ones I randomly do on the weekend.

    Love the t-shirt...prolly very true!

    And DERRICK, thanks for the love, but you know I couldn't resist stopping by here.

    Posted by: Jordan | Jan 18, 2008 3:53:58 PM

  8. The US military is so stupid. Here they are passing on a golden opportunity to make some needed money. You tape this event and put it on a website and someone will spend $29.95 a month to watch it. Do I have to think of everything?!

    Posted by: junior | Jan 18, 2008 5:15:50 PM

  9. boys will be boys. looks like good clean fun to me.

    Posted by: Joe Jr. | Jan 18, 2008 10:00:10 PM

  10. I went to the Naval Academy and I can tell you first hand that the Herndon Monument climb is the highlight of the year for plebes (freshmen). And, it doesn't have anything to do with sex or sexuality. It's about tradition, cooperation, and team spirit. It would be crazy to take it away. And, just as crazy to make a gay issue out of it. Why must we (the gay community) always try and force an issue to have a gay or anti-gay slant when there just isn't one?

    Posted by: Geoff | Jan 19, 2008 2:10:15 PM

  11. "When there just isn't one." Ay, there's the rub. Even the best argument falls flat when its premises don't obtain. Dozens of buff and/or shirtless men, climbing a greased-up phallic symbol, hardly stand in support of a position that there "just isn't" a gay issue. ;-)

    Also, military guys are hot (it's just what happens when you do all that training); can you even imagine the Navy canceling a long-standing tradition because photos of it gave straight women the grins? The chance that this sort of discriminatory mindset *may* be driving decisions is what makes the story a legitimate "gay issue" (though I prefer "gay topic of discussion" because, at this point, for outside observers, any homophobic intent is still purely a matter of conjecture).

    I agree that gay pr0n isn't the ONLY way to see the matter (I'm not trying to denigrate the tradition behind the climb, which of course is exactly what the Navy would be doing if it abandoned the practice). I'm just saying it shouldn't be *surprising* when a few of us homos do take that approach and, well, find our "anchors" aweigh.

    Posted by: The Cub | Jan 19, 2008 2:38:29 PM

  12. They have waited all school year to get their hands on one another and homophobia ruins it for everyone.

    Posted by: DC Arnold | Jan 19, 2008 7:38:14 PM

  13. I find it kind of surprising that my site may be one of the reasons for the ending of this ritual :-0

    Standing back and assessing the ritual in and of itself though, one has to admit, the Nave officers are in fact climbing what is essentially a phallic symbol. And they're doing so shirtless and sprayed with water. One has to make what they will of it, looking in from the outside.

    But then again, what is the Navy without tradition. Such irony that a military filled with gays (who can't say they're gay out loud), fears homosexuality. I'll never understand it.

    Posted by: Eric | Jan 20, 2008 2:00:01 AM

  14. You people are pathetic! You're so gay-brainwashed, it's really sad. I'm betting that for all the declarative comments thrown out here, not one of you has ever actually been to the ceremony in person. You see a few pictures, filter it through your all-knowing gay filters, and come out with some simple, "well, it's obvious it must be this or, it's obvious it must be that."

    It's really sad what our gay community has to offer in the way of intelligent commentary. Everything said here is pure supposition, with a biased filter, I might add. And, it doesn't matter that one of your own, who has been there, who has participated in the climb, tells you that you've got it wrong. Of course, you all know better.

    Eric, your last sentence says it all. You WILL never understand it.

    Posted by: Geoff | Jan 20, 2008 5:50:19 AM

  15. I think this does look quite dangerous. These virile young seamen would prove so much more by crawling into a well greased hole.

    P.S. Tradition does not always = good. This does seem like quite a silly asinine ritual. Couldn't the seamen "team build" by building a house for habitat for humanity, work at fixing crumbling infrastructure, repair crumbling VA care facilities, or some other activity that actually did something for someone?

    Posted by: Timothy | Jan 22, 2008 7:37:25 AM

  16. Sir, don't speak to me of Naval tradition. The only Naval traditions that matter are rum, sodomy, and the lash!

    Posted by: Winstom Churchill | May 17, 2008 12:37:59 AM

  17. Winston, you beat me to that one. LOL. Good job.

    Posted by: Vi Agara | May 17, 2008 8:48:51 AM

  18. Geoff, I think people on this blog ar ejuts having some fun. There's plenty of commentary on important social issues posted by the same folks who have posted here on this ritual.

    I think Timothy has a point, it's hard to imagine how such behavior can be promoted when there are so many opportunitis to have fun, bond with one's comrades, and actually do some good. I guess I'll never understand. In the meantime, I'll enjoy the pictures.

    Posted by: Ted | May 17, 2008 11:43:23 AM

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