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HALFWAY TO HEAVEN by Mark Obmascik Kirkus Star

HALFWAY TO HEAVEN

My White-knuckled--and Knuckleheaded--Quest for the Rocky Mountain High

By Mark Obmascik

Pub Date: May 12th, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4165-6699-1
Publisher: Free Press

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 Pulitzer Prize–winning coverage of the Columbine massacre before turning to nature writing, proves an engaging, convivial host as he leads us up the slopes of the Rockies accompanied by a parade of colorful climbing partners. The author often conquered several adjoining peaks on the same expedition, and each climb introduces us to a different companion, each with a unique back story. The partners were the result of a demand from Obmascik’s wife Merrill that her neophyte mountaineer would never climb alone. At one point, she filled the role of climbing partner herself, only to discover a few feet from the summit of Snowmass Mountain that she was afraid of heights. The author’s desperate quest for hiking companions took him through friends, neighbors, old college buddies and his reluctant teenage son. Through the Internet, he joined forces on other mountains with a Boeing engineer who climbed in shorts, another who chain-smoked Marlboros, a 70-year-old with two artificial hips and the legendary Erik Weihenmayer, the only blind man ever to summit Mount Everest. Obmascik encountered mountain goats, several hungry marmots (who ate his climbing poles), two gnarly old gold miners and even a few lovelorn females. Throughout, the author maintains a breezy narrative style, a keen eye for nature’s beauty and a self-deprecating tone that makes his marathon journey fly by. His story and those of many of the free spirits he meets along the way vividly demonstrate the thrill of taking the road less traveled.

Highly readable, entertaining and educational.