Saturday, 29 December 2007

'Quite Wonderful'

- the verdict from today's Daily Telegraph - fantastic; here's the full story. How's that for a great Christmas present? The story is also featured on Jenny Davidson's blog – many thanks Jenny. All this could only be equalled in felicitous favour if Night Climbers were to be top billing in a leading national magazine. Oh wait, what's this? Out today or tomorrow, I can hardly wait. In fact - either rush off and get your own or talk amongst yourselves for a while....

2007 has simply been fantastic. This time last year Whipplesnaith was just an idle thought - one of many that I have (idlings, not thoughts...). To think that the whole project only started in June, and we had the finished tome on bookshelves for the launch on the 26th October is incredible and wouldn't have been possible without the support and efforts of Ian and Hamish Symington. Since then it's been featured in mainstream national media like The Times and Telegraph, local like the Cambridge Evening News, Agenda etc and BBC Radio but also on the fringes with shouts in buildering groups and parkour sites, Urban Exploration forums like here, here, and here, as well as being lauded by the climbing communities – regular (features next month), and urban both in the UK and internationally. These are just a few of the people and groups who have welcomed, enjoyed and promoted this awesome book. Due to them, and all of you of course, it's been an expeditious and fulfilling experience and for that I'd like to offer my immense gratitude and sincere best wishes for 2008. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Felicitations or Commiserations...

...whichever way you prefer at this time of year. I myself am a little of both in relation to the consumerfest manifesting itself in these weeks. But I am in decidedly good cheer on another front because in the next few weeks Night Climbers is featured in one local paper, two national broadsheets, one national magazine and one international mag. Fantastic. I'll put the links up here when they happen.

The image above I found hilarious. It was sent by the talented, inspiring and exotic Fatos - cartoonist to the stars! I'm using it entirely without permission so I can look forward to her suing me - unless, of course, you buy lots of stuff from her now...

Thanks to all of you - we've sold thousands. I'm really grateful and want to wish all Whipplesnaith fans, young and old, near and far, the most idyllic and enjoyable Christmas. And on the big day I hope we all get what we deserve ;-P

Take care


Friday, 23 November 2007

A Picture or a Thousand Words?

...'cos you can now have both! People kept asking for prints so they're now available from the Oleander website - framed or as unframed 10 x 8s. They look specbl**dytacular even if I say so myself.

On the book front we've done great numbers - 400 in two shops in 3 weeks in Cambridge alone! And Sir Ranulph Fiennes was on R4 talking about Night Climbing (and the Marie Curie Delivering choice Programme of course) on the 7th (see Listen Again, Libby Purves' Midweek on the R4 website) and that produced a small avalanche (intended) of visits to the site. I sent him a couple of the numbered, signed copies for the Campaign auction.

In coming weeks look out for features in The Observer, The Good Book Guide, The Oldie, possibly The Telegraph, definitely,,, Gripped mag, Urban Climber mag and a whole bunch more. Love this stuff.

OH! - and guess what? I've heard from a trusted source that the Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum (also the Master of Magdalene) has asked for NCoC to be removed from the museum shop, branding it 'irresponsible'... I thought museums were mandated to preserve and promote our cultural heritage - not censor it. Of course, this is probably just an unfounded and erroneous rumour. Yeah, that's probably it.

Thanks everyone and take care.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

The Critics...

Great piece in The Times today by Tom Whipple; he should find his missing copy - they're now worth even more as signed copies of the new edition are on ebay at £125-£145! Crazy. Anyway - the link is here.

Very nice article in Varsity yesterday although sadly they must have run out of space as they miss the opportunity to report on their chat with Nares at the launch last week. Pages 17-19 here.

And here's an interview with Nares himself by the Muswell Hill Journal. The Ham & High did one as well yesterday but I can't find it on their site. Probably just being incompetent...

Monday, 29 October 2007


Hi folks. It was a great success - what can I say but thanks to everyone. Over the course of the evening over 100 people turned up and most bought a copy of the book. Thanks to everyone who was there and to all who couldn't make it but sent their best wishes. Of course - the main attraction was Nares:

who, at 90, was fit as a fiddle and could probably have climbed St John's again - after all, he was only 20 yards from it once again! A really nice chap who spent hours talking to everyone and signed stacks of books. People had even brought their copies of the original and got him to sign that as well as the new one.

Here, he was forced to be photographed with (from the right) Ian Symington - Whipplesnaith's son, Hamish Symington great-nephew and designer of the new edition, and some weird bloke who kept forcing himself into everyone's pictures...;-p

Photography thanks to Ben Watkins.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Made it...

...and without ropes! The authorised 70th Anniversary Edition of The Night Climbers of Cambridge by Whipplesnaith is out now. Just like that; an idea six months ago and here it is in my hands - all shiny and new. I've sent out all the pre-orders so don't worry, it's in the capable hands of the Royal Mail...

Still can't quite believe it... Anyway, feel free to form an orderly queue here...

Friday, 12 October 2007

Still in the Pink... of the Original Night Climbers! I'm delighted to report that the man seen here, innocently passing the time of day atop of the Wedding Cake of New Court, St John's, is coming to the launch next week. Now in his 90th year, Nares Craig was actually rusticated for climbing King's in '37 - an event referred to in Night Climbers and detailed below in an extract from his own memoirs. Only slightly less limber I'm sure and apparently quite fit and well, hopefully he's looking forward to recounting his exploits on the night. I'm very much looking forward to meeting him.

Tickets (free) can be arranged by contacting Heffers either by ringing 01223 568568 or emailing them. Alternatively you can walk in and get them from the cash desk. In case there's any chance you've forgotten, here for publication updates and here to pre-order your own copy.

Extract from Nares Craig's memoirs:

"In early May 1937, in connection with the coming coronation, a rash of bunting and union jacks etc, suddenly appeared in the town. Strung across the narrow streets they clashed starkly with the beautiful old college buildings, and prompted me to think of some appropriate way of mocking the whole pantomime of royalty. The idea of making use of the astonishing “publicity site” (above the East End of Kings Chapel facing Kings Parade, and visible all over the town) soon took shape. The remarkable pre-eminence of that “publicity site” is best illustrated by the reproduction of the press-cutting headed “All Cambridge saw it”, dated June 1963. I discussed the idea with my close climbing colleagues, O’Hara Murray, and Alec Crichton, and both were enthusiastically supportive; O’Hara agreeing to share the climbing with me, while Alec offered to help make the dummy, and with getting it to the site.

The dummy figure of the king was formed by a boiler suit stuffed with newspaper, wearing garish checked trousers, a red, white and blue jacket, with a football bladder for a head and a cardboard crown somehow suspended above it. A six foot length of hollow curtain rod through the two arms, with a generous length of sash cord threaded through it provided the means for suspending “George” (as he soon became named) between the two east end pinnacles of the chapel. To add to the levity, “George” carried a quart bottle in one “hand” and some kind of lightweight tankard in the other. Being before the days of plastic, the bottle was inevitably glass, which added seriously both to the weight and to the risk of calamitous breakage.

Having already climbed to the roof level, and then up one of the pinnacles, I knew what times would be required for each stage of the operation, and was able to prepare a strict timetable for both hoisting “George” to roof level, and then further, in order to finish before day-break at 5am, and this time-table O’Hara and I agreed on and memorised.

At dusk on the evening of 11th May, carrying George, we left my rooms and reached Kings without arousing suspicion. We soon got George over the gates and to the usual starting point for the climb, which was the bottom of the “chimney” (a climbing term for a vertical cleft, say, approximately three feet wide, in which the climber can “wedge” himself, with his back against one side and his feet the other and thus make his way up the 100 feet from ground to roof,(Alec remained nearby as “lookout”) while O’Hara and I made ready for the off at our agreed hour of 12.30 am. I then made a start, carrying a 150 foot length of rope, and, in due course, reached the roof. Following my lowering the rope, O’Hara attached the end to George and I was able to start pulling him up, which, naturally had to be done slowly and with great care. Having freed the rope, I was then able to lower it back to O’Hara to tie himself on so I could offer him the usual degree of protection as he himself climbed and joined me on the roof.

We were now ready to start the final phase, so O’Hara climbed the south east pinnacle with one of George’s supporting cords tied to his waist, the end of which he then attached to the pinnacle top, and then climbed back down to the roof. I then set off up the north east pinnacle with the other one of George’s supporting cords tied to my waist, and the pulley in my pocket. Following my securing the pulley near to the top of the pinnacle, I passed the supporting cord from George through the pulley and threw the cord down to O’Hara, which was the signal for him to start pulling. Then, just as it was getting light and George started rising to his appointed position – catastrophe struck! The pulley squeaked so loudly that I could actually see the porter and two or more “bulldogs” looking up and clearly able to appraise the whole situation.

The “proctors”, the main guardians of student discipline employed assistants, nicknamed “bull-dogs” (invariably ex-rugby players) specifically to chase and apprehend offenders.

Shortly before, I had taken the precaution of securing both 150 foot lengths of climbing rope and lowering them to the ground to provide for escape, by abseiling, for each of us, and we immediately made use of them, with O’Hara going first, and I following, having been delayed by the considerable difficulty of descending the pinnacle.

On reaching “terra firma”, I found at least two “bulldogs” struggling to hold down O’Hara who called out: “run, Nares, I can manage!” Unfortunately, having had no food or rest all night, I was unable to outrun one of the “bulldogs”, who dragged me from the water half way across the Cam and delivered me to the Dean, dishevelled and dripping water over his beautiful oriental rugs. Whatever protestations of regret I may have tried to make were soon rudely interrupted by O’Hara’s arrival in the clutches of at least two “bulldogs”.

His trousers had been so badly torn in his struggles that he was virtually bare from the waist down, and not a pretty sight. Further, in spite of my efforts to calm him, he was uttering a succession of oaths – probably due to exhaustion and hunger – which did little to assist our predicament. As soon as possible, we made our ways back to our respective lodgings, to await our fates. Meanwhile the Dean had asked Wilfred Noyce to take the stairs to the roof, and then climb up and rid him of the embarrassment of “George” suspended over his chapel on coronation day.

In those days we were not very “publicity conscious”, or I would have warned the local press in advance. Therefore it remains solely to the imagination to visualise what our dummy coronation must have looked like, occupying an identical position to that of the many years later “Vietnam” banner illustrated. Wilfred of course had no option but to comply with the Dean’ request. As he experienced the quite severe difficulties of climbing the pinnacles, he very probably realised that it must have been I who had “done the deed” and he may well have regretted having to cut down the handiwork of his old climbing comrade. However, he managed to lower “George” carefully to the ground and then took him to his rooms, where the Kings dons gathered to inspect him, apparently with considerable interest. We learned this later from Alec who had rightly kept well clear of the fray, but, being a member of Kings, he was able to walk around freely and assess the situation generally.

As we expected, Milner White, Dean of Kings, demanded that Trinity send me down (“rusticate” me) for good, and that Pembroke College do the same to O’Hara Murray. However, when “Jim” Butler called me before him, it became evident that, although extremely angry, he was not keen to fulfil the Dean’s demand in full, no doubt realising that he risked the permanent loss of one of his Christian Science Sunday School “flock”, and I then realised the important “insurance value” of my having been, at least from time to time, an attendee at those Sunday Schools. So, a compromise was arrived at in the form of “rustication” (dismissal) for the remainder of the current term for myself, and, in fairness, for O’Hara as well. Alec later explained that Wilfred, who was held in some esteem by the Dean, assisted nobly with pouring oil on the troubled waters, and promoting the two lesser, compromise penalties."

Saturday, 6 October 2007

The Infamous Escape from M & S

"Then out to street and looked over wall and saw it was hopeless. So back through door which I had luckily left open, and locked it on inside in case they had seen me. Then rushed into some lodgings and slap into screaming girls' bedroom. Apologized and told them to keep quiet and shot out again almost into the beam of the detectives' torches. Decided this was hopeless, so went into lodgings again up a flight of stairs into an empty room overlooking Sidney Street. Thought of dropping out as not many people about, but unfortunately an inspector was wandering about; also the drop was really excessive. So out again and saw that the guys with the torches had gone, so got across glass roof and then up about 4O-ft. pipe, which was tiring because absolutely smooth walls... sort of glazed bricks. At the top it seemed colossally public. I felt as though the whole town was looking until I saw every- thing going on quite normally below. There was a drop of 10ft. straight ahead on to roof of cinema, but I thought if I went down I could never get up again and there seemed to be no way off, so I went aloft higher by a ladder and walked over to where I saw the stairs below (fire escape); soon beat it down there and dropped off into passage, and walked away, which was rather an anti-climax. . . . I felt like a chase then!"

How uber-cool is this - go here, click on the magazine cover and go to p.12...

As usual, here to pre-order your own copy and here to get (free) tickets to the launch party - but until they get the details on their site you can just call to get them sent to you on 01223 568568.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

The Last Step...

“It had long been a theory of his that a climber should
know how to fall without hurting himself. In pursuit of
this pessimistic ideal he had been dropping from a
height every day for months.”

The book has gone to the printers. Nothing else to be done now. You will see the finished article at the launch party on the 26th. Tickets available at Heffers. So many people seem interested in this; it was originally just a small hobby project and it seems to be gaining a lot of momentum. It's a little daunting. Especially when you realise the mistake will be huge - like I've mis-spelt Cambridge on the cover or something...

The Night Climbers of Cambridge are back - hopefully with a vengeance. Here's to Whipplesnaith! Here's the blurb from the cover flap:

The Night Climbers of Cambridge was first published in October 1937 with a second edition rapidly following in November of the same year. Reprinted in 1952, the book has since been unavailable and has built up a cult following with copies of either edition becoming increasingly rare. Authored under the pseudonym Whipplesnaith it recounts the courageous, or foolhardy, nocturnal exploits of a group of students climbing the ancient university and town buildings of Cambridge. These daring stegophilic feats, including such heights as the Fitzwilliam Museum and the venerable King's College Chapel, were recorded with prehistoric photographic paraphernalia carried aloft over battlements, up chimneys and down drain-pipes. The climbers all this while trying, with mixed results, to avoid detection by the 'minions of authority': university proctors, Bulldogs and, of course, the local 'Roberts'... The result is a fascinating, humorous and, at times, adrenalin-inducing adventure 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, started long before publication of the first edition and is sure to continue for generations after the arrival of this one.
This edition celebrates the 70th anniversary of the original and features the complete text and over seventy digitally re-mastered images, half of which have been reproduced from the original negatives.

Take care guys, and see you soon.


Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Onwards and Upwards...

'The more naughty members of the party
may feel the urge to cry "boo", but they
be restrained. Crying "boo" at people
is not
consistent with good climbing.'

...hopefully. One month exactly 'til the launch and it has been sent to the printers. It is finished. We now wait. Seventy years between these pictures; spot the recent one. (Two weeks of this? I could get annoying...)

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Made it Ma! Top of the World!

'Cambridge brings back a jumble of pipes and chimneys
and pinnacles, leading up from security to adventure. We
think of those nights spent with one or more friends, nights
when we merged with the shadows and could see the
world with eyes that were not our own.'

Well, tomorrow I send it to the printers. Early yet. We could check it even more but by now we're just seeing what we want to see. It is time.

Bookshops are calling up and reveiwers are ready. We've started selling the first copies through the site - which is great. Can't wait for you to see the pictures - they've come up superbly. Btw - the images here are the originals, untouched - we didn't want to spoil the surprise. I'd best go check the dots and crosses once more... I'll be in touch soon - hopefully to tell you it's on its way to you.

Friday, 14 September 2007

If you're not dancing on the ceiling...

"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."

Tempting fate it may be but - we're on schedule. The dustcover has been finalised - we love the picture on the back but you'll just have to wait and see which one it is. Today's quote is a pretty major clue. The printer time has been booked. The paper's been chosen. The font has been selected (Baskerville). The text is being polished as we type and the pictures have been laboured over with love, sweat and some tears, and are finally resting in their allotted positions. They've been - how do they say it on the house make-over shows - 'sympathetically improved'? Whilst keeping their authenticity we've managed to improve clarity, impact and, especially, atmosphere. Can't wait for you to see them.

I've got more retailers on board and there'll definitely be a flurry from the media when it flies. I'm basically just forcing them to listen and then threatening to call them even more frequently unless they buy/promote this fantastic tome. I hope we sell enough to cover my bail...

Anyway, once the proofing's completed - not long now - it'll be with some trepidation that I send it off to the printer. If we've made a hash - sorry, if I've made a hash of it, I'll have to face a lot of people eagerly looking forward to this book gracing the light of day. Not the least of whom, of course, is Whipplesnaith's son. It's to be a nerve-wracking juncture. I will of course, like any self-respecting scapegoat, just go on holiday...

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Cover Uncovered

“...offers an illicit method of entry into his college. Furthermore, a genteel way which he can use without soiling his knees and elbows, should he be in evening dress.”

I am very proud to unveil the new cover. Using the same picture as on the original (in fact, using the same negative!) we've kept it simple and slightly 'modern-moody' to make a distinctive and visually arresting front for maximum shelf-appeal. Oh, and it's uber-cool too. The chap shown climbing St. John's College main gate is the original author, the pseudonymous Whipplesnaith, and I'm delighted to report that by artful happenstance his new public exposure has been designed by his great-nephew who, serendipitously, lives and works just around the corner.

The countdown ticks by, quietly gathering momentum; there's only a couple of months left and with a lot of internet interest, the first pre-orders already in, a couple of early take-ups by bookshops and at least one guaranteed broadsheet review, I'm feeling mildly optimistic that ol' Whipplesnaith may find his re-emergence into public life a well-received one. To help him scale the heights once again go here to get publication updates and visit here to be sure of being one of the first to receive a copy of the 70th Anniversary Edition (at a discount no less!)

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Ten Weeks and Counting

"Its hospitality is lavish and sincere, and it breeds those strong, silent Englishmen who suck pipes in the Malayan jungle but do not pass exams."

It's been some time in the re-making but, karma-conditional, The Night Climbers of Cambridge will be climbing over spikes / walls / parapets or pinnacles near you from the 26th October 2007. Watch this space for more, head here to be kept updated or even go here to pre-order your very own 70th Anniversary Edition copy...

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Scaling Renewed Heights

Hi - welcome to the story of the re-publication of The Night Climbers of Cambridge - the 1937 classic climbing bible. As a thank you for visiting, readers of this blog should use NCBLOG as a coupon to get 10% off the book over on the Oleander site should they want a copy.

The Night Climbers of Cambridge was first published in October 1937 and rapidly followed by a revised second edition in November of the same year. It was reprinted in the 1950s but has since been out of print. It was authored under the pseudonym Whipplesnaith by a group of Cambridge graduates led by Noel Howard Symington and recounted their courageous / foolhardy nocturnal exploits as students climbing the ancient university and town buildings of Cambridge. Their travails were impressive enough but seem doubly so when you realise that they were weighed down by prehistoric photographic paraphernalia with which they recorded their efforts and achievements – all the while doing their best to avoid detection by university proctors, Bulldogs and, of course, the local 'Roberts'.. The result is a fascinating, humorous and, at times, adrenalin-inducing adventure.

The book has now become a cult classic and is much sought-after on the web via Abe Books and ebay etc with prices frequently reaching £150 for tatty 2nd edition reprints. It has become a bible for the buildering, free running and parkour communities – sports very prevalent at the moment.

Of the approx. 75 photographs in the book we have reproduced over half of them from the original negatives – the others have been scanned from the original prints. The negatives and prints (each print had several exposures developed and kept) were given to Oleander in the original wax-sealed and string-bound package in which they were returned to the author in 1955! Cracking that 52 year-old seal was a moment of highly prized - and rewarded - anticipation. The images were all digitally remastered and have emerged with much improved clarity and detail yet retain all the historic impact and charm of the originals.

The text has been completely re-set with the photographs placed in their contextually accurate positions – the one major change from the original. The book is available in hardback with a dustcover designed by the original author’s great-nephew.

Use the links on the right to follow the story or click here to go to the latest posts.