Just under two hours after they started, Sci ’18 climbed the Grease Pole and captured the tam, improving on the previous year by five minutes.
Sci ’18 reached the tam on their second attempt at the directed climb, clocking in at one hour, 59 minutes and 58 seconds. The first was cut short by a “break” call, used by the water team and climb director to signal safety problems, when a girl had to be helped out of the pit.
An annual frosh week tradition, first-year Engineering students gather in a water-filled pit to a pole covered with lanolin, known as the Grease Pole. For the first hour, frosh climb on their own, with upper-years wading in every so often to splash them with mud and keep them from their goal.
After the first hour, first- and upper-years alike join forces in a directed climb, where the water team and climb director guide them to the tam.
So far, Sci ’16 is the only year to have reached the tam during their first attempt at the directed climb, and made it in one hour, 30 minutes and 48 seconds. Last year, Sci ’17 reached the tam after two hours, five minutes and 32 seconds, and three attempts.
Johann von Tiesenhausen, Sci ’18, was chosen to climb over the group and reach the tam, otherwise known as the “Tam Frosh”.
“There was four of us and they just made the choice based on weight and height,” he said.
He said the trip to the top, where he climbed over three tiers of people before grabbing the tam, wasn’t difficult.
“I climb, so … it was easy,” he added.
Graham Wright, Sci ’18, said before the climb that he was hoping his year would get in and get out.
“We just wanna get in and get it. We don’t wanna stay for too long. We know it’s gonna take us a couple hours but we wanna get out as soon as possible,” he said.
Kailey Beckwith and Gabrielle Stadler said they were disappointed by the cold, rainy weather.
“I guess it’s all part of the fun though too, there’s music bumpin’, like it’s still hoppin’ over here,” Beckwith, Sci ’18, said.
“The spirit just makes me really happy ‘cause engineers are so pumped up and just dancing and stuff,” Stadler, Sci ’18, added.
Stadler was also nervous about being cold.
“Apparently the upper-years come in and like, splash us around, they just come and they mess things up,” she said.
According to alumni, today’s Grease Pole climbs are easier than ever. Susan Seliga, Sci ’90, and John Seliga, Sci ’89, said that upper-years used to throw frozen tomatoes at climbers.
The Seligas have two children in engineering, a daughter in second year and a son in first.
“People would party at the pole the night before, and there were things floating in the water…it probably wasn’t too sanitary,” Susan said.
“And no upper-years got in. You climbed that pole until you were done. No upper years allowed in, ever.”
She added that the tam was nailed down with upside-down beer bottle caps, and that climbers had to pry it off with their teeth.
In John’s year, the pole took four or five hours to climb.
“It’s a much kinder, gentler pole now than it was back then. No projectiles, no floating animal parts,” he said.
Another alum, James Fleck, remarked on the changes in the pole. Fleck, Sci ’84, came to his first Grease Pole in decades to witness his son, a chief FREC, participate.
“It actually takes me back. It’s really similar. Some things are different, but, you know, it’s a big pit full of dirty water and the pole’s up and it’s wonderful, it’s exciting.”
He corroborated the Seligas’ mention of frozen tomatoes and animal carcasses.
“It was a lot more violent. But you know, that was—it wasn’t sustainable, it wasn’t gonna stay that way. But yeah, it was crazier,” he said.
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