The Roof-Climber's Guide to Trinity, By Geoffrey Winthrop-Young

Reviewed,Brandon Robshaw
Sunday 31 January 2010 01:00

Geoffrey Winthrop-Young was a poet and climber who wrote several books on mountaineering. This, his first published book, appearing anonymously in 1901, is the first written record of stegophily – climbing the outside of buildings. (Yes, I had to look it up, too). He describes in detail four climbing routes to the roof of Trinity College, Cambridge, as well as to the library, the chapel and the Great Gate. The style is "parodied alpinism" ("the slant roof is ascended over the dormer (C) until near the summit of the gable, when the hand is able to grasp with a stretch the edge of an embrasure above...") but there are also descriptive passages of great charm: "the distant towers of the Great, New and Cloister Courts looming against the dark sky, lit by the flickering lamps far below".

It's a slight book. Even with illustrations, notes, two appendices and chapter- heading quotations from Horace, Chaucer, Tennyson et al, it comes out at just 74 pages. But it's an enjoyable jeu d'esprit and leaves one feeling admiration for the daring of Winthrop-Young and his fellow climbers.

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