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“With tombs and towers and fanes ’twas ‘our’ delight
To wander in the shadow of the night.” - Shelley
Night climbing is a tradition largely peculiar to Cambridge. It all started back in the 1890's with the school inspired by Geoffrey Winthrop Young, although he would have it that "it is of enormous antiquity, possessing extensive history and a literature which includes the greatest prose and verse writers of all ages." It has subsequently been practised all over the world but Cambridge was its cradle.
From those early beginnings flowered the golden age of the 1920's and 30's - but there then seems to have been a lull until a reawakening of interest in the '60's which has continued to the present day. Because of the nature of the sport, references are fairly rare and generally written anonymously. The 1960s renaissance was mainly due to the publication of the 3rd edition of the Trinity guide; its author recently gave a talk to the Cambridge Society on 'The History of Night Climbing in Cambridge' - this has been transcribed and is available as a free pdf download and serves to introduce this fascinating nocturnal activity:
Revised - The History of Night Climbing in Cambridge - Free Download
The titles listed below comprise the bulk of the Cambridge climbing corpus - brought back into print by Oleander as a means of ensuring this extraordinary literary heritage is preserved. Each of the titles offer fascinating, humorous and, at times, adrenalin-inducing adventures 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, probably started long before publication of the first guide and is sure to continue for generations.