There are 1,556 British mountains known as the Marilyns. This summer, Jenny Hatfield became the first woman to summit them all. We spoke to her to see what made her take her first steps into the record books...
A Marilyn is a mountain identified as having a prominence (independent peak) of at least 150m. The list, which is measured metrically, was first compiled in the early 1990s by Alan Dawson in his book The Relative Hills of Britain. Jenny Hatfield walked her way into the record books in September 2016 when she became the first woman to complete all 1556 British Marilyns, a feat that only eight other people have acheived over the years.
On the same day that Jenny reached the top of her final Marilyn, Cruinn a’Bheinn in The Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, her partner Rick Salter also completed his own round. Jenny and Rick became the first couple to finish the round at the same time. No other woman had come close to this acivement, to date, the eight other people, all men, were the only ones known to have attempted the task of reaching the peaks.
(Jenny & Rick Before Bagging The Last In The Round)
What Are The Marilyns?
The Marilyns list includes all the highest summits of Scotland, Wales and England. Many of the summits are remote and just getting to them can be difficult due to the fact that they are geographically widely spread.
At 1,344m, Ben Nevis is the highest Marilyn in Birtain and more than 200 Munros (Scottish Mountains with a summit of at least 3,000ft/914.4m) are also defined as Marilyns due to their prominence.
The Marilyns list includes all of the Grahams (Scottish hills between 2000ft and 2500ft) and Corbetts (Scottish hills between 2500ft and 3000ft). The majority (1,218) of the Marylins on the list are located in Scottish areas.
The remaining peaks on the list come are situated in the rest of the country, with 175 English Marilyns, including the highest, Scafell Pike at 978m. Wales has 158 on the list, with Snowdon at 1085m being the tallest. There are also five Marilyns on the Isle of Man.
When it comes to the most difficult peaks to reach, there are 236 Marilyns on islands – and two take the form of challenging sea stacks. This adds a comepletely different set of challenges for those wanting to tackle the round.
Jenny’s Marilyns Challenge
Jenny walked her first Marilyn, 950m Helvellyn in the English Lake District more than four decades ago. But it was only 15 years ago, when she bought Dawson’s book, that she began her more serious pursuit of the mountains. She says:
“I was attracted to the list because it covers the whole of the UK, with hills of all sizes and with a huge range of characters, yet the list did not seem so big as to be unachievable. Yes, it’s a long list but not so long that it seemed impossible to finish.”
Over the years, Jenny, who is now 58, has enjoyed ticking off the summits, many of which she has walked on her own. She says:
“In my earlier days of hill bagging I tended to walk solo a great deal. Most of the higher Marilyns in Scotland and the north of England were done on my own. In the last 10 years I have walked all the hills with my partner Rick. I introduced Rick to the Marilyns soon after we met in Scotland and they have been a common interest for us.”
Last October, Jenny realised she might become the first woman to complete the list, and on reflection, she said:
“After I climbed the St Kilda sea stacks, Stac Lee and Stac An Armin, a friend asked me if I might become the first woman to finish the Marilyns. At that time I still had nearly 500 hills to climb but it sowed the seed of possibility in my mind. I realised that if I could devote myself full-time to hill bagging I could aim to complete the list within a year, which would give me a good chance of being the first woman to do it.”
(Jenny Climbing The Last In The Round)
The Final 500 Marilyns
The last year proved to be physically demanding for Jenny,
“There was little time for much else after the planning and travelling, then walking, eating and sleeping. There were times when the weather was really bad for days on end and it was a struggle against torrential rain and wind. I had problems with energy levels, too, and I found it hard to eat enough to pack in all the calories needed for those big hill days, day after day. I also had a lot of problems with sore feet for one reason or another, but I didn’t let that stop me from getting the hills climbed.”
On September 25, Jenny walked with Rick and some 40 friends to the 632m summit of Cruinn a’Bheinn on the eastern shores of Loch Lomond. On the day, she said:
“It's a great feeling to have climbed all 1,556 Marilyns. There's a sense of relief after all those strenuous climbs, but also regret that such an amazing adventure is finished. To be joined by so many of our hill-bagging friends made the final hill so special. A big thank-you to everyone there and not to forget Alan Dawson, whose book The Relative Hills of Britain was the start of it all."
Now Jenny and Rick are focused on walking all the Irish Marilyns. Rick says:
“We like hill walking and we have always thought we might walk the 454 Irish Marilyns as defined by Clem Clements. That will be our next challenge.”
More details at Relative Hills of Britain Facebook. If you're starting a journey to reach all the peaks in Scotland, or in Britain, make sure you share your adventure with #MyTiso.