Mary Hataway's climb as a devoted mountaineer began as a kid in Carson City, when she and her younger brother, Jason, pulled themselves up on rocks at King's Canyon.
"Until we found trouble elsewhere .... " she said.
Years, and adventure after adventure later, it was post-9/11. Hataway thumbed through a magazine. A singular idea formed in her mountaineering brain, as she soaked in photos of American flags placed on the pinnacles of the tallest peaks in Colorado, her birth state.
Hataway ran to the phone.
Her vision? To climb all 14,000-foot mountains in California, placing an American flag at the top in honor of the victims of the Twin Towers. Climbers would take lists of the names of the 9/11 victims, wrapping them in the blanket of the U.S. flag.
"I just thought when 9/11 happened it was so devastating, of course, for everybody, and it would just kind of be a neat tribute," Hataway said. "I thought it would be neat for the Appeal to publish the photos. People could send them back east and let them know we're still thinking of them."
Hataway shared her idea with about 40 of her close-knit climbing pals.
"They're all friends of mine that I know climb, basically a lot of people that I know that like to do outdoors things," she said. "Every single person I have talked to has been really enthusiastic."
With 15 peaks in all, the group will split up the climbs. One of the 15 peaks, Mount Williamson, closed July 15, because of bighorn sheep in the area. So, the group will climb 14.
Hataway, a resident of Carson City since 1978, said the group is climbing in California because Nevada lacks 14,000 foot peaks.
"It's kind of like if you're a climber, you try to hit the 14," she said.
Bob Pickering, 53, of Reno, will begin the climbs between July 25 and 27 in the Palisades in California, with a group of cohorts from IGT. They will climb five 14,000 footers.
"It's great climbing," Pickering said. "And a good way to do something special for the victims."
Many of the peaks are located within three hours of Carson City, between Bishop and Lone Pine, Calif. Only Mount Shasta in the Cascades in Northern California, and White Mountain, at 14,246 feet the third-highest peak in California, are a little further away.
So what kind of commitment is it to climb a 14,000-foot peak?
"It depends on the peak," Hataway said. "Some of them take only a day, some of them take two to three days and you have to backpack in to them."
Once the 14,000 feet is climbed, the pinnacles vary. Some are expansive; others hardly large enough for toe shoes.
"Mount Whitney is like a football field; Starlight is the size of a dinner plate." Hataway said. "It's like, 'Whoa.'"
Hataway has more than 10 years experience climbing. She worked for the State Park system around the lake for 12 years, moving on four years ago to a second-grade school teacher position at Fremont Elementary, leaving plenty of time during the summer for climbing.
"I'm a teacher, so I have time off," she said. "Every day off, every break, my friends and I are doing something in the mountains -- skiing, hiking, mountain biking. It's a passion."
Hataway's favorite climbing places are the Palisades and the Sierra Nevada. Her folks were outdoorsy, and she said she had a lot of fun trips into the Cascades, and Mount Rainier.
A three-week trek to the Andes in South America left her inspired.
"It was a wonderful experience," she said. "It was really hard to breathe. It was hard to walk. It was like being underwater."
Although plans for the climbs are still underway, Hataway thinks she will climb the middle Palisades and Mount Russell.
"It depends how it plays out," she said.
Just like the brave firefighters of 9/11, mountaineering requires courage and concentration.
"Every emotion comes into play, from tears to absolute total exhilaration to joy, to look what we did, to cussing your partner out," she said.
Backpacks weigh between 30 to 60 pounds, depending on the gear needed for the climb, and strength and determination are required for the trek.
"You are totally absolutely focused and you're almost in another state," Hataway said. "The other reason I like to do it is the people you climb with become family -- brothers, sisters, mothers, and dads. Your life can depend on them."
Hataway calls the Carson City area paradise. Her dad, Don Hataway, was a city manager and recently retired as state budget manager. They plan a bike ride today. Mary's brother, Chris, gave her a kidney several years ago.
The Carson City Firefighter's Association, under the guide of President Bob Schreihans, will provide the flags for the treks.
"They're doing it for a good cause and they're climbing all the peaks," Schreihans said. "Not only do they represent the firefighters but all the other people who were killed."
BREAKOUT: Be sure to get a copy of the Sunday, September 8 issue of the Nevada Appeal. Photos of the flags upon the peaks will be published.