Their adventure began in 1994, when Joe and Nels, over glasses of beer, hatched a plan to climb America's 50 state summits while documenting the expedition. Expecting the exercise to take six months, Joe and Nels found themselves embarking on a five-year marathon that included not only the physical challenges of scaling imposing peaks like Wyoming's Gannett Peak and Alaska's Mt. Denali, but the artistic challenge of documenting the highpoints in states like Nebraska, where the highpoint, quite literally, was a mound of cow dung on a prairie stretching as far as the eye can see. Reaching one peak required a death-defying, 50-mile round-trip wilderness hike through ice fields and up sheer precipices; in other places, reaching the "summit" was a matter of pulling the jeep to the side of a long, flat highway.
The real adventure for readers, though, is in eavesdropping on the good-natured, back-and-forth banter of two good friends fulfilling a lifelong dream-and in meeting the Americans Joe and Nels encounter along the way: eccentric fellow travelers and off-beat local characters; isolated hermits and thrill-seeking adventurers; forest rangers and fellow highpointers.
To the Top is many things-white-knuckle adventurechronicle, psychological character study; humorous buddy story. It adds up to a truly unique book that does it all.