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Halfway to Heaven: My White-knuckled--and Knuckleheaded--Quest for the Rocky Mountain High Hardcover – May 12, 2009


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Featured Author: Mark Obmascik
Read an excerpt from Mark Obmascik's Halfway to Heaven [PDF].

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; First Edition edition (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416566996
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416566991
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,116,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. (May 12)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"The mountains of Colorado reach great heights, and so does this book. It's funny, smart, fascinating, poignant -- and well worth scaling!" -- Jeffrey Zaslow, coauthor of The Last Lecture

"With every lumbering step and gasping breath, Mark Obmascik proves that you don't have to scale Everest to conquer nature -- or write a great book about the great outdoors. Halfway to Heaven is an oxygen-deprived romp, a coming-of-middle-age adventure story that is by turns hilarious, gripping, poignant, and uplifting." -- Stefan Fatsis, author of A Few Seconds of Panic and Word Freak

"As Obmascik chases the meaning of life across the haute peaks of the Rockies, he touches something in your heart even while he knocks on your funny bone. Halfway to Heaven is deft and delightful. Always minding his wife's admonition never to hike alone, Obmascik proves once again that it's the journey -- and the characters met -- not the summits that really matter the most." -- Dean King, author of Skeletons on the Zahara

"Obmascik tells the often funny, sometimes moving, always fascinating story of taking up the challenge of a midlife-time to climb all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot mountains. He takes us into the strange world of obsessed mountaineers -- past and present -- and vividly describes the ardors, dangers and joys of chasing that Rocky Mountain high. Whether you ever plan to climb a mountain -- or just want to summit from your armchair -- Obmascik's engaging style makes him the perfect companion for the trip." -- Susan Freinkel, author of the 2008 National Outdoor Book Award winner, American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree

"Halfway to Heaven goes all the way in explaining what it feels like to climb all of Colorado's fabled Fourteeners. Obmascik's excellent writing follows more than the twists of the trails; Mark generously laces his quest for the heights with insights, history, humor, politics, personalities, record runs, friends, family, flora and fauna. Halfway to Heaven is a fortune cache for everyone." -- Gerry Roach, author of Colorado's Fourteeners -- From Hikes to Climbs

"Halfway to Heaven, Mark Obmascik's account of his quest to climb all of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, should prove an inspiration to middle-aged mountaineers everywhere. For all of his comically recounted misadventures, Obmascik has the true mountaineer's love of high places, and a professional writer's gift of conveying that love to the reader." -- Maurice Isserman, James L. Ferguson Professor of History at Hamilton College, coauthor of the 2008 National Outdoor Book Award winner, Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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This book is very well written and hard to put down, and makes for a very interesting read.
ttarkA113
As a fan of Bill Bryson's humorous travel books like A walk in the woods, I really liked Halfway to Heaven.
Jeffrey Phillips
Overall, though, a really fun read and recommended for those interested in the outdoors and adventure.
C. Henke

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By CGScammell TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Mark Obascik writes like Dave Berry: constantly humorous with good after-thoughts. This is the kind of book I would take on an overnight attempt of a peak myself.

What started out as a hike with his 12-year-old son in 2006 turned out to be a quest to hike up Colorado's 54 14,000+ peaks (minus 12 that he had already done.) His wife didn't mind, except for one condition: that he would not hike any of them alone. Where to find partners for such an adventure when one has already reached middle-aged, put on 45 pounds and lost more hair than a plucked chicken? Why, the web of course! Mark kept his promise never to hike alone, although he did come close once.

What results from this adventure of wonderful short stories of the peaks, each with its own character and difficulties, is a collection of often laugh-out-loudable chapters, or the occasional tear-jerker that leaves the reader pondering one's fate after reading about these "unforgiving killers." (More people have died on Colorado's combined peaks than on Mount Everest) Either way, this is a good read.

The best part was always reading about the next quirky hiking partner. Mark called these "Man-dates" that he arranged over the website 14ers.com, where the reader may follow the life and death story of one particular adventurous soul. He seems to have enjoyed his time with everyone he hiked with, and the subsequent personality sketches of fellow hikers and nature lovers, otherwise the Average Man, makes for a good cap-off to each peak. He always asks them what got them to start hiking the Fourteeners of Colorado. In today's cyber-savvy world, it's refreshing to read about other people who have made lasting friendships through a social-hiking-website.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Balbach on May 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A light and breezy travel book through the Colorado Rockies and a sub-culture of outdoor enthusiasts who set out to summit all 54 of the states 14,000 foot mountains. Obmascik attempts it over the course of one summer, driving from his home in Denver each Saturday morning a few hours to the hike and back that same night. Along the way he meets other people doing the same thing, from different walks of life, united by a common quest [...]. Each short chapter recounts a climb and its follies, local Colorado historical flavor, a back-story about Obmascik's hiking partner for the day (his "man-dates"), and not a few nail biting close calls with lightning, wind and cliff.

It's hard to be critical of a book like this because it makes you feel good; it's well written, funny, self-deprecating, sympathetic and educational. Obmascik is a family man with a happy marriage of 17 years, three kids, overweight, middle aged, balding - this is not exploration or macho adrenaline adventure literature - it is not `Into Thin Air`, to the benefit of every middle-aged balding overweight father who wants to do something beyond the ordinary. As A.J Jacobs says "I thank him for climbing a bunch of tall mountains so I don't have to. I was with him for every oxygen-deprived step of the way (as I lounged on my sectional sofa)." If you enjoy travel books like `A Walk in the Woods` or `A Year in Provence` this is for you.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Richard A. Mitchell VINE VOICE on May 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The author has a refreshing view of life - and not only the view from atop 14000 foot peaks - that is missing so often in modern writing. He is a happy man with a purpose. He is happily married, glad to be a father and has the goal of climbing all the 14000 foot mountains in Colorado in one season, despite being overweight and out of shape.

This is not a mere recitation of walking and climbing mountain after maountain, though. The author does recount the more interesting aspects of his climbs, many of which are self-deprecating and hilarious, but he adds much more to the book.

Every chapter is an account his climbs of a mountain, or three or four. But interposed in the accounts are tidbits of interesting and fascinating information from Colorado history, climbing events and accounts of the unique people he meets and with whom he climbs.

In addition to the interesting accounts and humor, there are also poignant parts that illustrate the dangers of climbing and the viscissitudes of life.

This is "A Walk in the Woods", but even better. By the end the reader will be wishing that he was hiking with the author. Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Charles M. Nobles VINE VOICE on May 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have often believed that not all newspaper reporters make good writers and that not all writers make good newspaper reporters. However, every so often someone comes along that can do both well. Mark Obmascik is such a person. Winning a Pulitzer Prize attests to his journalistic skills and authoring this wonderful book is ample evidence of his writing ability.
Obmascik was 44, married for 16 years, had 3 sons, a dog and a mortgage. He was experiencing a mid-life crisis and was also fat: "I've packed so much on my hips it would be like climbing with a pony keg of beer in my fanny pack" was his reaction when his son suggested they climb a Colorado fourteener.
But, as every parent knows, he gave in to his son and thus began an obsession to climb all 54 fourteeners in Colorado in one year. This book is his story of attempting to hike and climb what millions have attempted but few have successfully completed.
In 24 short chapters he tells the stories of the people he met, the challenges he faced, the humiliation he endured, and the lessons he learned while being Halfway to Heaven. In addition to being a funny, very funny writer, Obmascik provides glimpses of death and heart break, bittersweet victory and inspiring tales that make this book difficult to put down once you start reading. Obmascik writes in a very reader friendly way and much of his writing is simply hilarious. From his finding "man-dates" for hiking partners on the internet to being the last one to the summit...numerous times, the reader is treated to a collection of wonderful stories about the people he meets, the mountains he climbs, and a second coming of age for a 44 year old. This is a really good read for those that have challenged the fourteeners in person and for those that prefer to issue their challenges from an armchair. It is proof positive that for many the journey is the destination.
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