Urban climbing is trendy in some quarters of the climbing world, and whilst not as old as the hills, climbers have been climbing man-made structures since the 19th Century (if not before) and still are, even if your name isn't Alain Robert. The seminal volume about this art, was The Night Climbers of Cambridge, first published in October 1937 with a second edition rapidly following in November of the same year.
Nares Craig atop the Wedding Cake of New Court, St John's in 1937
Jon Gifford of Oleander Press, publisher of the new edition, writes:
"It was reprinted in 1952, but since then the book has been unavailable and has built up a cult following with copies of either edition becoming increasingly rare. Authored under the pseudonym Whipplesnaith it recounts the courageous, or foolhardy, nocturnal exploits of a group of students climbing the ancient university and town buildings of Cambridge.
These daring stegophilic feats, including such heights as the Fitzwilliam Museum and the venerable King's College Chapel, were recorded with prehistoric photographic paraphernalia carried aloft over battlements, up chimneys and down drain-pipes. The climbers all this while trying, with mixed results, to avoid detection by the 'minions of authority': university proctors, Bulldogs and, of course, the local 'Roberts'... The result is a fascinating, humorous and, at times, adrenalin-inducing adventure providing a rare glimpse into a side of Cambridge that has always been enshrouded by darkness. The tradition, known now as urban climbing, buildering, structuring or stegophily and followed all over the world, started long before publication of the first edition and is sure to continue for generations after the arrival of this one.
This edition celebrates the 70th anniversary of the original and features the complete text and over seventy digitally re-mastered images, half of which have been reproduced from the original negatives.
The guy standing on that pinnacle (in the pic) is Nares Craig who is 90 now and coming to the launch next week. He was sent down from the University for climbing King's Chapel with an effigy of George VI in 1937!"
The launch is being held Heffers book shop, 20 Trinity Street, Cambridge on Friday 26th October at 6.30pm (next week). Tickets are free but best to reserve by Emailing, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01223 568568.
More anecdotes and photographs at nightclimbers.blogspot.com
You can purchase the 70th Anniversary Edition of this classic work from 26th October 2007 at www.oleanderpress.co.uk
There is also a very worthwhile and detailed article, entitled, "Nocturnal Missions" at www.timesonline.co.uk