Synopses & Reviews
andlt;bandgt;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 andlt;iandgt;allandlt;/iandgt; 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot mountains, known as the Fourteeners -- and to do them in andlt;iandgt;less than one yearandlt;/iandgt;.andlt;/bandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; The result is andlt;iandgt;Halfway to Heavenandlt;/iandgt;, 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 andlt;iandgt;A Walk in the Woodsandlt;/iandgt; -- 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? andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; 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. andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; 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 andlt;iandgt;Into Thin Airandlt;/iandgt;, 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, andlt;iandgt;Halfway to Heavenandlt;/iandgt; 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.
"In this hilarious midlife picaresque, journalist Obmascik (The Big Year) set himself the goal of climbing all 54 Colorado mountain peaks that are higher than 14,0000 feet because it was both hard, and not too hard thousands have completed the technically undemanding circuit. He hit the gym, pared two pounds from his flabby frame and spent a summer plodding and wheezing up the 'fourteeners,' trying to keep up with the better-conditioned women and older men who cruised past toward the summits. Obmascik dodged lightning bolts, took a few hair-raising tumbles, admired the majestic scenery and experienced the exaltation of having truly earned his post-climb bacon double-cheeseburgers. Above all, he bonded with his 'man-dates' male climbing partners who head to the hills seeking refuge from woman troubles, fear of needles and numbing desk jobs. Their slightly feckless masculinity harmonizes with the shaggy-dog stories the author sprinkles in about the miners, cannibals and odious Texans who populate Colorado's mountain lore. Instead of the rarefied spirituality of typical mountaineering narratives, Obmascik's saga revels in off-color jokes and humiliating pratfalls; the result feels like a raucous bowling night, with moderate oxygen deprivation, on the brink of an abyss." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Mark Obmascik is a Pulitzer Prizeand#8211;winning journalist and bestselling author of andlt;iandgt;The Big Yearandlt;/iandgt;, which was made into a movie, and andlt;iandgt;Halfway to Heavenandlt;/iandgt;.andnbsp;He won the 2009 National Outdoor Book Award for outdoor literature, the 2003 National Press Club Award for environmental journalism, and was lead writer for the andlt;iandgt;Denver Postandlt;/iandgt; team that won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Denver with his wife and their three sons.