Halfway to Heaven: My White-Knuckled – and Knuckleheaded – Quest for the Rocky Mountain High by Mark Obmascik

halfwayI can’t imagine climbing a 14,000 foot mountain.  Being Blue Ridge oriented, my hill experiences don’t go past 6,684 feet, which is Mount Mitchell, and the parking lot there gets you within an easy stroll to its summit.  And yet, there are people out in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado to be specific, who make it a goal to top all mountains within their state that surpass the 14,000 mark.  For sure, on occasion the trailheads to these summits are close enough so that the elevation gain is just a few thousand feet, but that’s still a lot, and not all of them are that easy.  Climbers of these hills also have to contend with alavanches, sheer drop offs, ripping winds, and sudden thunderstorms that make our weather occurrences here seem like child’s play.  For someone to have the ambition to summit these peaks, they’d have to be obsessive, driven, or just plain crazy.  But are they?

The author becomes one of these driven few, determined to have his mountaineering push away his midlife blues.  After his wife insists that he have partners for all his expeditions, he goes through a network of characters (man-dates, as he calls them) on his quest for the summits of Colorado.  In the process, he finds a thriving mountain-climbing subculture online, gasps his way to the magnificent and obscure, and deals with more than enough slippery slopes (literally) to shake a timberline at.

Obmascik’s writing style reminds me of Bill Bryson’s – wry, smart alecky, and self-deprecating, with an obvious grumbling love for travel and the unknown.  And, like Bryson, he savors the post-adventure brew as well.  I can appreciate that.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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