The Night Climbers of Cambridge was first published in 1937 by Chatto & Windus. The author was Noël Howard Symington, who went under the name of Whipplesnaith – an alias that combined the Middle English verb whipple, meaning to move around quickly, with an old Norse term for a piece of ground. The idea was that Symington and his accomplices moved quickly around the walls, roofs and spires of the colleges of Cambridge.
Night-climbing was a low-key activity, made up of nothing more than ‘a string of disconnected incidents’. The participants hardly knew each other, and climbed for the fun of it without the competitive edge that characterised mountaineering and rock-climbing. Records were kept, if at all, by individuals, and there were no societies of roof-climbers to regulate behaviour and keep the score. The climbers carried cameras and used lighting, which, of course, alerted the police, who sometimes feature as interested onlookers.
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