Newsflash: buildering isn’t new.

Before the advent of digital cameras and video recorders people were climbing buildings, with no witnesses except for the occasional coconspirator. Combined with the fact that builderers often aren’t comfortable bragging of their exploits, this makes for a sporadic and largely undocumented history of our pasttime.

night_ClimbingFortunately, at times a climber will take it upon themselves to write a guidebook for their local stomping grounds. Such guidebooks vary in detail and quality, however the better examples are often rich in personal accounts of ascents that would otherwise have been lost to time.

Arguably the best, and certainly one of the earliest, buildering guidebooks to come out is the 1937: The Night Climbers of Cambridge, by Whipplesnaith (not to be confused with Whipplesnaith Reborn of La Villa Radio fame).

Much more than bland route descriptions, Night Climbers reads like a novel, with great stories of epic ascents and encounters with the law.

Unfortunately tracking down an original copy of this book is almost impossible. I got lucky and found one for a mere $250. The good news: Oleander Press has republished the book, in its original hardcover form, for £17 ($33.50 CAD).

This book is well worth picking up if you are at all interested in buildering culture. The writing is top notch, Cambridge worthy material. The stories reek of that old-school adventure that is increasingly rare in our modern age. There is over 70 quality photos, which is truly amazing if you consider that it took a team of three people to carry the now archaic camera gear.


The new edition improves on the original, with digitally remastered photos from the original negatives, placed in their contextual appropriate place next to the route descriptions.

Buy the book:
Night Climbers Blog:
Great London Times Article:
Facebook group:

If you are in the Cambridge area, Oleander is having a release party on the 26th of October. Tickets are free, and can be picked up at Heffers Trinity Street branch. Call on 01223 568568. Whipplesnaith’s son will be there, as well as one of the original Night Climbers.

“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.” – Night Climbers of Cambridge