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The Final Three

2009 on the summit of Hayden Spire

By Marlene Borneman

It began innocently enough in 1974. I came to Colorado for a summer job at the YMCA of The Rockies in Estes Park. I arrived from New Orleans—yes, below sea level—in mid-May of that year and, being a proper young lady from the South, I wanted to make a good impression on my new employer. I wore a sleeveless silk dress—rather short as I recall—stockings, and the cutest little heeled sandals you ever laid eyes on. It was somewhere around 30 degrees and spitting snow. It turned out to be one of the scariest days of my young life. All I could think was, “I have made a terrible mistake!”

Fortunately, that feeling of not fitting in did not last. By the end of that summer I had completed the Hike master course at the YMCA and climbed most of the major peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park. I lived in Estes Park for 12 years and climbed in the park year-round. I found myself focused on the major peaks, and their different routes, with a few new peaks thrown in now and again. Then came a career move away from Colorado; to say I began grieving would be an understatement. But, by 2001, I had returned to live full time in Estes Park.

After completing the 54 fourteeners in 2005, I came back to “Rocky” After all it is my backyard! I had neglected it long enough. I realized there were places I had not seen and summits not climbed. First, I carefully laid out the list. There were 35 peaks I hadn’t yet climbed of 126 named summits in RMNP. By the end of the summer of 2008, I had only three to go. Then, reality struck me hard. The final three were The Sharkstooth, Hayden Spire (both Class 5, technical climbs requiring ropes and equipment) and Pilot Mountain (a difficult, though less technical, Class 4 climb). Had I set myself up for this? Shouldn’t the last peak be easy, like Estes Cone or Twin Sisters? I hadn’t climbed anything beyond Class 4 in years. I lost some sleep, talked incessantly to my husband, and consulted every book and person who I thought could set my mind at ease. Then I came to the realization that the final three were meant to be my grand finale. I needed a challenge; I wanted a challenge! I needed to gain my confidence back on the rope. I needed a plan. It sounds like I needed a lot. What I needed was CMS.

In 2008 I did see this coming , so I asked for help. I went to the CMS here in Estes Park and laid out my goal. The staff was very patient with this “old lady”. I went on several practice climbs on Lumpy Ridge with a CMS guide that summer to build my confidence back in the technical areas. Boy things had changed from cams to those awesome little climbing shoes! I attempted Sharkstooth twice in 2008 without success due to weather. Now in 2009 these were my final three. On September 2, 2009, I did reach Hayden Spire completing the climbs of the 126 named summits in RMNP. I had a smile from ear to ear. I found myself enjoying these last three summits more than I could have imaged. A big part of that was not only the professionalism of the CMS guides but their truly caring attitude to help me reach my goal.

1975 on Longs Peak via Kieners Route

Marlene Borneman is a licensed clinical social worker by profession. She has climbed 82 of the hundred highest and 33 of the 50 States High Points.

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