By Mekialaya White

GOLDEN (CBS4) — More than 1,000 incoming freshmen at Colorado School of Mines woke up early on Friday to conquer the much-anticipated “M Climb.” The climb is a tradition to mark the start of the fall semester.

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This year’s hike kicked off just after 7:30 a.m., and while many arrived at the school’s South Intramural Fields bleary-eyed, the growing excitement was palpable.

“I’m a cross country runner, so I’m up before this normally,” freshman Paul Slayback told CBS4’s Mekialaya White with a smile.

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The group took its first steps into a new adventure at Mines with a three-mile trek up Lookout Mountain Road as part of the climb.

“We’ve been hearing about the M Climb for so long so we’re excited to do it,” said Esme Conkright, who is also a freshman at the college.

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The climb is also designed to be a team building exercise, as students endure the walk together with anticipation.

“Meeting people and feeling the vibes, hopefully making some new friends this morning,” said fellow student Alex Brunson.

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“The stronger sense of the community and getting to know other people and seeing who else is making the climb with me,” added Slayback.

Each student also carries a 10-pound rock from their hometown as part of the tradition. They then lay their rocks down upon concluding their journey up Lookout Mountain Road. Those rocks then fill the iconic “M” atop Mount Zion.

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That’s just the beginning. As part of the annual climb, that emblem gets a fresh coat of paint with five 55-gallon drums of whitewash. The students take care of that part, by dousing each other in it. And they don’t hold back!

Completing the climb also helps prepare them for the biggest challenge of their lives yet: taking on college life.

(credit: Colorado School of Mines)

“I’m excited, I’m ready for the school year to start,” said Varada Pothera.

The annual climb will take place again in 2020. Traditionally, it’s the day after move-in day.

Mekialaya White