Beyond the brink: Beachy Head as a climbing landscape

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This article closely interrogates the cultural meanings and embodied history of climbing Beachy Head on the south coast of England. The history is traced through the escapades and accounts of leading protagonists, such as Edward Whymper and the famed occultist and mystic Aleister Crowley. The article contends that Beachy Head offers an enduring topography of mortal terror which can be seen through Romantic depictions of the cliffs in art and literature in the early nineteenth century and in the semiotic meanings attributed to the Head by climbers as they negotiate the steep and crumbling face. The article argues that an enduring ‘chronotopic’ relationship between climber and surface, geography and memory, persists on the Head; its dark reputation as a famed suicide spot is reaffirmed in the embodied agency of adventure climbers as they activate topological memories of British Alpinism at the site and so continue to mark it as a perilous space defined by risk and victimhood in ways that limit its wider sporting appropriation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1383-1404
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of the History of Sport
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2012


  • Beachy Head
  • climbing
  • landscape
  • Alpinism
  • Aleister Crowley


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