Halfway to Heaven: My White-knuckled--and Knuckleheaded--Quest for the Rocky Mountain High

Front Cover
Simon and Schuster, May 12, 2009 - Sports & Recreation - 288 pages
Fat, forty-four, father of three sons, and facing a vasectomy, Mark Obmascik would never have guessed that his next move would be up a 14,000-foot mountain. But when his twelve-year-old son gets bitten by the climbing bug at summer camp, Obmascik can't resist the opportunity for some high-altitude father-son bonding by hiking a peak together. After their first joint climb, addled by the thin air, Obmascik decides to keep his head in the clouds and try scaling all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot mountains, known as the Fourteeners -- and to do them in less than one year.

The result is Halfway to Heaven, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Obmascik's rollicking, witty, sometimes harrowing, often poignant chronicle of an outrageous midlife adventure that is no walk in the park, although sometimes it's A Walk in the Woods -- but with more sweat and less oxygen. Half a million people try climbing a Colorado Fourteener every year, but only twelve hundred have reported summiting them all. Can an overweight, stay-at-home dad become No. 1,201?

With his ebullient personality and sparkling prose, Obmascik brings us inside the quirky, colorful subculture of mountaineering obsessives who summit these mountains year after year. Honoring his concerned wife's orders not to climb alone, Obmascik drags old friends up the slopes, some of them lifelong flatlanders tasting thin air for the first time, and lures seasoned Rockies junkies into taking on a huffing, puffing newbie by bribing them with free beer, lunches, and car washes. Among the new friends he makes are an ex-drag racer trying to perform a headstand on every summit, the lead oboe player in a Hebrew salsa band, and a climber with the counterproductive pre-climb ritual of gulping down four beers and a burrito. Along the way, Obmascik experiences the raw, rowdy, and rarely seen intimacy of male friendship, braced by the double intoxicants of adrenaline and altitude.

Though danger is always present -- the Colorado Fourteeners have killed more climbers than Mount Everest -- Mark knows his aging scalp can't afford the hair-raising adventures of Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, and his quest becomes a story of family, friendship, and fraternity. In Obmascik's summer of climbing, he loses fifteen pounds, finds a few dozen man-dates, and gains respect for the history of these storied mountains (home to cannibalism, gold rushes, shoot-outs, and one of the nation's most famed religious shrines). As much about midlife and male bonding as it is about mountains, Halfway to Heaven tells how weekend warriors can survive them all as they reach for those most distant things -- the summits of mountains and a teenage son. And as one man exceeds the physical achievements of his youth, he discovers that age -- like summit height -- is just a number.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - slarsoncollins - LibraryThing

What a fantastic book. Mark Obmascik has a wonderful sense of humor and some of the descriptions of his climbs made my heart race and my palms sweat. For those of you who enjoy the outdoors, this is one of the best I've read. Come join Mark on his quest to climb all the fourteeners. Read full review

HALFWAY TO HEAVEN: My White-knuckled--and Knuckleheaded--Quest for the Rocky Mountain High

User Review  - Kirkus

A middle-aged former journalist sets out to summit all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot-plus peaks.Obmascik (The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession, 2004), who led the Denver Post's ... Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 24
Section 25
Section 26
Section 27
Section 28
Section 29
Section 30
Section 31

Section 9
Section 10
Section 11
Section 12
Section 13
Section 14
Section 15
Section 16
Section 17
Section 18
Section 19
Section 20
Section 21
Section 22
Section 23
Section 32
Section 33
Section 34
Section 35
Section 36
Section 37
Section 38
Section 39
Section 40
Section 41
Section 42
Section 43
Section 44
Section 45
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Mark Obmascik is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and bestselling author of The Big Year, which was made into a movie, and Halfway to Heaven. He won the 2009 National Outdoor Book Award for outdoor literature, the 2003 National Press Club Award for environmental journalism, and was the lead writer for the Denver Post team that won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Denver with his wife and their three sons.

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