The NIght Climbers of Cambridge

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Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 27, 2007 - 06:57am PT
For most of us, "The Night Climbers of Cambridge" (1937) is unknown. It is a very rare book and would have been destined to disappear completely, most likely. But here is a site that has transcribed the whole thing!

http://www.insectnation.org/projects/nightclimbers/html/

stevep

Boulder climber
Salt Lake, UT
Aug 27, 2007 - 07:10am PT
Cool. Thanks for posting. I spent most of a year at Cambridge, and never saw a copy.
TwistedCrank

climber
The banks of reality
Aug 27, 2007 - 07:25am PT
Once again those Brits were way ahead of their time. I've spent time at 4 different American universities - each with their own after-dark buildering circuits. Nothing compares to the highballs those Cambridge boys were putting up.

I like this 5 foot death fall.

PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Aug 27, 2007 - 09:22am PT
Thanks Peter, cool post. I haven't seen this book in years! This book inspired my brother to put up "routes" on our house in So Cal.
Cheers
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Aug 27, 2007 - 10:23am PT
Thanks, Peter! That's awesome. I once skimmed a copy of Night Climbers that a friend has, but didn't have a chance to read it. For those interested:

Table of Contents

1. Multum In Parvo
2. Chiefly Padding
3. On Climbing In
4. For Beginners Only
5. Drain-Pipes
6. On Chimneys
7. The Old Library
8. Here and There
9. St. John's'
10. St. John's Chapel
11. Pembroke
12. Trinity
13. King's and Clare
14. The Chapel
15. The Chapel Again
16. Saying Good-bye
LongAgo

Trad climber
Aug 27, 2007 - 05:16pm PT
Peter,

Many thanks for the find. I recall reading this book way back when, but can't recall where or when (it may be Chris Jones has or had it in his library). What a pleasure to read ye old British telling the climbing tale. Talk about a way with words. Don't you love, for instance:

"A clumsy party sometimes causes a petulant old head to come to a window to see what all the clatter is about ..."

How many times does one see the beautiful descriptors "clumsy" or "petulant" or "clatter" for that matter, all making for a rich, pleasurable read.

Wonder if UC Berkeley library has a copy. I might look.

Thanks again,

Tom Higgins
LongAgo
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Aug 27, 2007 - 06:16pm PT
Quite simply the finest climbing bookever written. From page 2:

"This absence of literature on the subject can be easily understood. The college authorities, acting presumably on purely humanitarian motives, have set their offical faces against roof-climbing, and no one would have it otherwise. It may lop off many a would-be climber who cannot risk being sent down [= "rusticated" = expelled], and keep many an adventurous spirit from the roof-tops, drain-pipes and chimneys, but this official disapproval is the sap which gives roof-climbing its sweetness. Without it, it would tend to deteriorate into a set of gymnastic exercises. Modesty drives the roof-climber to operate by night; the proctorial frown makes him an outlaw. And outlaws keep no histories."
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Aug 27, 2007 - 07:53pm PT

Priceless!


Who would have thought that fleeting electrons would preserve

what on the printed page would doubtless

be lost

forever.

Or, at least lie forgotten.

Wasted!
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 27, 2007 - 08:19pm PT
Great observation, TGT, thanks---yeah who would have thought......and here it is, 2007, seventy years later..... I remember this book for sale at The Ski Hut, back in the early sixties then under the tutelage of magician Al Steck; it was put even in their catalog. I never bought it then; I was just a kid and it seemed arcane and stuffy, hard for me to access. And yet, what they did back then, was what we immediately continued to do at UC Berkeley, the downtown, and onwards at our respective colleges. It pointed out the real nature of our art---utterly useless, really aesthetic, nearly violently rebellious, and thus deeply satisfying, even to the point that we ventured to die doing this kooky stuff. Kind of what we see today in Parcour. I think the belief is that inside of physical movement, lie the biggest secrets. A position that has drawn us all upwards, regardless.

Yeah Tom/LongAgo and Dougie/DR, truly wondrous writing, isnít it. Thank god this character put it up on the Web. He went on to write a work of fiction, based on this book. There is even a video of him discussing it. Clever. Havenít read it though. Thanks Ourom;/Mighty Hiker for posting the TofC. Certainly revealing isnít it.

best to you, Ph.
steelmnkey

climber
Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Oct 4, 2007 - 12:30pm PT
Check this out. I spotted this at at bookstore today.
Synopsis below...



From Publishers Weekly
British author Stourton's ambitious debut paints a complex, if often predictable, portrait of collegiate hedonism and friends bound by a terrible secret. As an awkward first-year at Cambridge's Tudor College, James fears he'll never join the ranks of his privileged classmates. But when a chance encounter introduces him to a close-knit group of friends devoted to scaling the college's buildings in the dead of night, James finds himself drawn into a world of excess and adventure. Francis, the group's charismatic leader, is adored by the beautiful but aloof Jessica, on whom James harbors a secret crush. The group is rounded out by Lisa, with her eye for shady business deals, and Michael, the blustery jock. After Francis's father, Lord Soulford, cuts off his son's monthly allowance, the friends hatch a plan to maintain their lavish lifestyle that will have disastrous consequences for years to come. With undeniable echoes of Donna Tartt's The Secret History, the novel juggles too many story lines to sustain the suspense needed for such a complicated tale. Still, Stourton is a name to watch. (Sept.)
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Feb 25, 2009 - 12:58pm PT
Bump for another of Peter's fine threads, literature, and climbing.

(Note that the book "Night Climbers" is a relatively recent mystery. "Night Climbers of Cambridge" is from the 1930s.)

We could have a thread just on climbing on buildings at colleges and universities. Anybody here done that?
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Feb 25, 2009 - 01:10pm PT
Dang...another book to go and find!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Feb 25, 2009 - 01:11pm PT
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Night_Climbers_of_Cambridge

"A new authorised edition of The Night Climbers of Cambridge was published on 26 October 2007 by The Oleander Press, Cambridge, to mark the 70th anniversary of the original edition."

http://www.amazon.com/Night-Climbers-Cambridge-Whipplesnaith/dp/090667283X/

$24.52 new at amazon.com
MH2

climber
Feb 25, 2009 - 01:30pm PT


Oxford had its builderers, too. There is brief mention in Raymond Greene's Moments of Being. Greene would have been a student in the 1920s. To give the flavor of his writing:

"The ascent of the Martyrs' Memorial had become unpopular in my undergraduate days because the Oxford University Mountaineering Club believed, like all reputable climbing clubs, in a reasonable respect for human life, especially one's own..."

"Counsell liked the human race and about its individuals he formed his own opinions..."


There was a student at Brown circa 1970 who modeled himself after the Night Climbers, going out in black clothes and blacking his face. He discovered that one of the buildings housing incunabula had vibration-senstive alarms in its windows, but he himself was not discovered, having got to the roof before security arrived. He also once climbed the dome of the state legislature in Providence, the second-largest unsupported marble dome in the world after St. Peter's. For that he chose a night when the lighting on the dome had failed.

Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 25, 2009 - 02:20pm PT
That's good news Clint, thanks.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Feb 25, 2009 - 02:26pm PT
Wonderful news - I'll order a copy asap.

"There was a student at Brown circa 1970 who modeled himself after the Night Climbers, going out in black clothes and blacking his face. He discovered that one of the buildings housing incunabula had vibration-senstive alarms in its windows, but he himself was not discovered, having got to the roof before security arrived. He also once climbed the dome of the state legislature in Providence, the second-largest unsupported marble dome in the world after St. Peter's. For that he chose a night when the lighting on the dome had failed."

Maybe not the kind of thing you'd want to try nowadays, what with homeland insecurity and such around.
scuffy b

climber
just below the San Andreas
Feb 25, 2009 - 03:02pm PT
The last apartment I lived in as a student at UCSB,
we used a flue as summit register, had about 4 contrivances
up the building.

UC Berkeley has lots of climbs. I suspect there's little
continuity over the years, with some climbs completely unknown
to climbers of an earlier or later time.
Ihateplastic

Trad climber
Lake Oswego, Oregon
Feb 25, 2009 - 03:03pm PT
Another book I sold in a fit of stupidity.
klk

Trad climber
cali
Feb 25, 2009 - 03:18pm PT
I was in Cambridge last summer and the Whipplesnaith re-issue was a surprise bestseller. They had it on the front table in the bookstore, along with stacks of postcards, so the tourists could grab a copy and then walk out into the street at look up at the summit of King's Chapel.

The authorities have installed anti-climber battlements on all of the most desireable towers-- typically rows of sharp wooden stakes at key crux passages. They look like hell.

Geoffrey Winthrop Young's Roffclimber's Guide to Trinity College (1899) was the first. Here's a contemporary review:

http://gdl.cdlr.strath.ac.uk/smcj/smcj032/smcj03207.htm



And here's a complete bibliography just for the guides to Cambridge:

http://cucc.survex.com/archive/jnl/1983/roof.htm
cintune

climber
the Moon and Antarctica
Feb 25, 2009 - 05:44pm PT
University of Enschede, Netherlands, 30 meters, 2,500 holds. Not too shabby.


http://totonko.com/2008/12/escala-hasta-tu-cuarto-arons-gelauff-architects/
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