Night climbers: ‘You feel very exposed up there’

Andy Buckley Image copyright John Bulmer Image caption Night climbing has been a Cambridge tradition for numerous decades

“At this very moment there may be a dozen climbers on the buildings of Cambridge. They do not know each other; they are unlikely to meet. And inadvertently they will find what we procured, a adore for the buildings and the clambers upon them, a love for the night and the thrill of darkness.”

This is the passage that concludes The Night Climbers of Cambridge, a 1937 book that remains an influence on those with a head for altitudes in this famously low-lying city.

The tome describes a familiar skyline: the four perforate steeples of King’s College Chapel, the tower of St John’s, the pale Portland stone of the Senate House.

And for decades, a clandestine group has sought distraction from the boredom of study by scaling some of these landmarks.

“If you like mountaineering or rock climbing, Cambridge is perhaps the worst place throughout the whole of Britain to be, ” says Tom Whipple – now science editor at The Times – who tiptoed from all the regions of the rooftops as a restless maths student in 2000.

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