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The Night Climbers of Cambridge (The Cult Classic Bible of Buildering, Bouldering, Climbing, Free Running and Parkour) Kindle Edition
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In general this book is not only of interest to those in Cambridge but also those interested in general city climbing history, it explains some basic techniques and also some basics of routes about Cambridge. Personally the best thing about the book is the amazing effort that went into the photography which is stunning.
Whipplesnaith was actually Noel Howard Symington. He describes a sweetly innocent, if dangerous, hobby. Repeatedly, Whipplesnaith insists on respect for the buildings. Black gum-shoes, for instance, are recommended rather than the usual shoes of mountain climbers, which have nails in them to "scratch and damage the stone-work which is not consistent with the night climber's ideal of leaving no trace where he has been." Whipplesnaith from time to time hints at non-defacing traces; describing the climb up St. John's, he says, "From the window ledge a climber in a playful mood may leave his gown or surplice on the statue in the middle. This would probably cause considerable surprise to the authorities." The authorities are not so much the local constabulary, or the dons (who may have had their own climbs in their day), but the college porters. "The dismay felt by a climber descending a drain-pipe outside a college, with a porter inside shouting `Police!' at the top of his voice, is an emotion never to be forgotten." There was danger, too, simply in being on walls and roofs. The photographs of the climbers at work, atop chapel spires or clinging to drainpipes or gargoyles four stories up, are enough to document the risk, but it was all taken in stride by the climbers. Indeed, much of this volume describes the sensible steps needed to reduce any risk, not just of being caught, but of unexpected descent.
The good-humored instructions are likely to produce mirth in readers who have no intention ever of duplicating the feats described here. The enthusiasm and fun of the jaunty writing makes a nice parallel to the derring-do described. When, for instance, remarking upon a particular chimney (not the appliance above a fireplace, but, as in mountaineering, a narrow vertical passage between two walls which the climber may ascend with his back against one wall and feet against the other), Whipplesnaith advises, "The chimney is too broad for comfort, and a very short man might find it impossible to reach the opposite wall, with his feet flapping disconsolately in space like an elephant's uvula." This is an endearing memoir written by someone who obviously loves his hobby and the fine old buildings that he clambers over. Who knows? Perhaps someone will take Whipplesnaith up on his invitations issued seventy years ago. "But the sun is setting," he writes at the end of a chapter, "Enthusiasts will now make a tour of some of the interesting climbs of Cambridge, we hope in fact as well as by the fireside. There is no moon, the sky is cloudy and the barometer is high. It will be a fine night."
A couple of quotes.
"Lest others should attempt the ascent of this terrible climb and perish, they swore themselves to secrecy and went off to try Everest instead."
"...while mountaineers are counted by the tens of thousands, roof-limbers could scarcely be mustered by the dozen."
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