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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Where men and mountains meet

I have just returned to Australia from a recce of my chosen CHAS fundraising Munro, Bruach na Frithe, and now find myself buried in an avalanche of recent issues of The Actuary.

My trip to Scotland was worthwhile. It proved, as I feared, that Bruach na Frithe is now much higher and steeper than it was 25 years ago. On the other hand, I was able to check out a route for an anticipated summit-party of mixed experience that should be safe and feasible in all but the most extreme weather conditions.Like Alan Stevens (Letters, May 2006), I was surprised no reference had been made to the Marilyns. To my mind, they are a grouping of greater intrinsic merit than some of the seemingly endless derivatives of Munro’s Tables. Each and every Marilyn must be a reigning coign of vantage (as the immortal Poucher might have put it).

My surprise was explained when I looked up David Purchase’s presumed source material for the mind-numbing array of heights and numbers in his letter. His seminal paper ‘On the classification of mountains: a graphical approach’ (which would grace any Faculty or Institute meeting!) identifies more than 30 published lists of hills in the British Isles. Lurking among these are the Marilyns, though more prosaically identified as Dawsons. Thus, they were not overlooked, merely included out.

After so much intellectual rigour, I was surprised that David may have let his guard down in his conclusion that there are 2,727 hills over 2,000 feet in the ‘north-west European archipelago’. What about the Færoes? Slætaratindur (the highest peak) would sit well among the pantheon of Torridonian Corbetts.

Moving further Furth of Furth, I suggest to those fixated on the minutiæ of British hills that they lift their eyes to wider horizons if and when they get the chance. For example, Mt Gower on Lord Howe Island must be a prime candidate for ‘world’s best Corbett’. Standing in the mist-forest on its summit looking across the Pacific to Ball’s Pyramid is unforgettable: a bit like St Kilda but on twice the scale.