Killer family fun on Mt. Rose

The wind blows. My head pounds. I struggle to inhale enough air to lift my legs. Left foot, short step. Right foot, drag. Deep twinge in my thigh. Gravel slides under aching feet. My head pounds. The wind blows.

“About 100 yards from the top,” the Significant Republican tells my daughter. I hear them talk. But it’s as if my two mountain-climbing companions exist on another plane, in a world where healthy people with clear heads, strong legs and useful lungs chat and enjoy the view.

I am in a solitary universe of pain. I collapse on a rock, not caring if I ever see the top of Mt. Rose.

Yeah, I know. Mt. Rose. Some of you can jog up the 10,776-foot peak twice in one day, in preparation for more challenging climbs, like Mt. Whitney or whatever.

You can stop reading now, you frequenters of outdoor gear stores, you fresh-air addicts who dream of one day carrying a half-ton backpack up Mt. Everest. As I snailed up the mountain, you cruised past me with hearty smiles and the best of wishes. This isn’t for you.

This is for my fellow overworked, underhiked desk monkeys. We busy ourselves in offices and traffic jams, considering Nature only occasionally. Often this happens after a mountain lovin’ co-worker returns from an adventure. As she regales us with tales of exhilarating scenic views, we may wonder if we’re missing out.

Last fall, the Significant Republican flew to Africa and climbed to the top of Kilimanjaro, 19,335 feet. I felt a little left out.

“How come you didn’t go?” asked a friend of the lean, tan variety.

“I’d die out there,” I replied. “I’d have to get in shape.”

She nodded politely and dropped the subject.

I admit it. I’ve put my physical fitness on a shelf for a few years. I’m a working mom. There’ve been soccer games and football camps. Music lessons and homework. Visits to the dentist and weekly trunkfuls of groceries to procure.

And for the past few years I’ve felt called to use my “elite liberal media” status to help drive a dangerous fruitcake out of office.

So it goes.

The S.R. returned from Africa. Election 2004 came and went, and my marriage survived. Basking in the Bush victory, the Significant Republican refinanced our house. We bought a home gym and a car for our 16-year-old.

When the world seems spiraling out of control, it’s comforting to attend to the glorious details. I painted my living room, played with my teens and started working out on a cross-trainer, sweating and huffing while watching old VHS tapes like Oliver Stone’s Talk Radio (1988) and Sex, Lies & Videotape (1989).

I felt better. I tried on hiking boots at an outdoor gear store, anticipating communion with Nature. The S.R. and I went on conditioning hikes in east Sparks. During a visit to in-laws in Hawaii, we hiked several miles over crusty, glompy lava flow at dusk to see molten magma oozing out of the active volcano Kilauea.

Surely Mt. Rose wouldn’t be a big deal.

I woke up on the first Saturday in July feeling apprehensive. My husband and daughter have climbed Mt. Rose on July 2 every year for three years running. If I couldn’t make it to the top, I’d ruin the annual rite.

The summit route up Rose is only 4.5 miles one way. The path starts at an elevation of 8,900 feet and goes up 1,900 vertical feet.

We’d packed plenty of water, energy bars, jerky, sandwiches and, don’t laugh, gummy bears. We had ibuprofen, sunscreen, Band-Aids and a pair of well-worn trekking poles.

What could possibly go wrong?

Next week: Overdetermined metaphors, glaciers in July & cranial explosions at 10,000 feet.