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The Oleander Press

The Night Climbers of Cambridge

The Night Climbers of Cambridge

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They broke the law. They defied the authorities.

They made the midnight skyline their playground.

And they recorded it.

A secret group, led by the mysterious ‘Butterfly Catcher’, scale the university buildings of this sleepy academic town in the darkest hours.

Risking their lives, their freedom and their degrees, they evade police to climb the highest, most dangerous historic buildings, often without rope.

Wanting to preserve their story and inspire others, they photographed everything – all the routes, the close shaves, the lucky escapes.

In 1937, this was difficult, foolhardy and dangerous – but we now have a record of these feats. And a photographic guide to virtually all the climbs Cambridge can offer.

To this day, the club still exists. The pinnacles above may be silent, but they’re not sleeping.

If you like history, extreme sports – or both, you’ll soon understand why this has become such a cult classic around the world. Civil disobedience at its finest.

Here's a little taster of the images in the Whipplesnaith (credit to AC/DC).

The Sunday Times (London):
There is a secretive and reckless club that has existed for over 100 years. And when night falls in Cambridge, its members can be seen scrambling up the spires and flying buttresses of the university. It’s an adrenaline rush that could cost them everything.”

The Times (London):
“A near-legendary guide, The Night Climbers of Cambridge is a lot more than a guide for climbing the colleges”

The Guardian (London):
“Whipplesnaith's stories of death-defying derring-do in Cambridge say a lot. This book is also a wonderful evocation of a lost generation.”

The Daily Telegraph (London):
“What an endearing book is The Night Climbers of Cambridge. All the more reason then to applaud the derring do, if not foolhardiness, of the proto-Edmund Hillarys whose exploits are described with precision and relish.”

UK Climbing:
“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.”
“Arguably the best, and certainly one of the earliest, buildering guidebooks to come out is the 1937: The Night Climbers of Cambridge, by Whipplesnaith”

Slightly Foxed:
“It is the climber’s ideal to leave ‘no trace where he has been’. What he does at night is to weave intangible anarchy.”


As you pass round each pillar, the whole of your body except your hands and feet are over black emptiness. Your feet are on slabs of stone sloping downwards and outwards at an angle of about thirty-five degrees to the horizontal, your fingers and elbows making the most of a friction-hold against a vertical pillar, and the ground is precisely one hundred feet directly below you.

If you slip, you will still have three seconds to live.”

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