You could probably make it to the top of Driskill Mountain, the highest point in Louisiana, without too much huffing and puffing. Not so Mount Elbert, the highest spot in Colorado.
But if you’d rather settle back in an armchair than climb either yourself, you can tune into "The Highpointers With the Bargo Brothers," a documentary series from Austin-based explorer Branndon Bargo and his brother, Greg.
The first episode of the series, which ultimately will take viewers to the highest point of all 50 states, highlighted Texas and originally ran in late 2018. But the Bargo brothers will unveil four new episodes of the program this spring. All five will air on Public Broadcasting System stations around the country, including Austin PBS, starting in late April or May, with more coming next year.
Each 30-minute program introduces viewers to a notable resident and includes a dose of goofiness along with some serious discussion. Branndon’s usually the one chomping at the bit; Greg takes on the role of planner and safety engineer.
"We always start in a big city, do a cultural thing like a museum or something off the radar, then visit a food place, have some kind of adventure and competition, then climb the high point with our guest," Branndon Bargo says.
In Texas, the brothers tour the Johnson Space Center with guest Scott Parazynski, the only person who has climbed Mount Everest and gone into space. They work in a jalapeno eating contest at Mi Tierra in San Antonio and a tour of the McDonald Observatory before bagging Guadalupe Peak.
In Colorado, they visit a mountaineering museum, go ice climbing and scarf down pizza before slogging their way to the top of Mount Elbert during a blizzard with the King of Endurance, Marshall Ulrich, who has won the Badwater Ultra Marathon four times.
The footage puts you right there on the mountain — or hill, in the case of Louisiana, where they stroll to the top of 535-foot Driskill Mountain with Took Osborn, the chief executive officer of McIlhenny Company, which makes Tabasco sauce.
Branndon Bargo, 44, a former rugby player who played semi-pro football in Germany, serves as executive producer, writer and mountaineering guide for the fast-paced show. He and Greg discovered their love of mountaineering while training in Utah as members of the U.S. Olympic development team for skeleton in 2002.
"The Highpointers," he says, evokes humor and heart and includes moments that aren’t contrived or created for television. "You can have entertainment and fun and light humor, but you can have serious conversations that have some depth, too," he says. "That’s what we’re always trying to balance."
Whether they’re climbing Denali or Driskill, Branndon Bargo hopes the show inspires others to explore the outdoors, too.
"We call those (lower ones) ‘mini mountain’ adventures, and it’s a cool way to introduce hiking and the outdoors to people who aren’t necessarily outdoor adventurers," Branndon Bargo says.
Armed with a broadcast journalism degree from Texas State University, Branndon Bargo has worked with another PBS program host, Chet Garner of "The Day Tripper," for nearly a decade.
"I needed someone who could rock climb and work a camera," Garner says. Branndon Bargo could wrangle both tasks and has since climbed and paddled all over the state filming Garner. "Any time I need an adventure buddy, Branndon’s been my guy."
Garner is now acting as a consultant to help Branndon Bargo navigate the world of documentary distribution and promotion. "Branndon’s life is a reality show, and we’re just kind of helping him figure out how to push record on the camera," Garner says.
The Bargos aren’t new to adventure. They once summited Denali in Alaska, then bicycled 4,000 miles to Baja California to scuba dive with great white sharks.
Branndon Bargo heads a company called Live Adventure, which combines team building and leadership with outdoor adventure. He also operates a nonprofit organization that introduces at-risk youth to Texas state parks.
With five states now down, he has 45 to go before he runs out of material, and he plans to aim toward Utah, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Missouri next.
He has his sights on a few other goals, too, including setting the U.S. high point speed record, currently held by controversial explorer Colin O’Brady, best known for completing a solo crossing of Antarctica, using a compacted snow road part of the way.
He also wants to climb to the high point of every country on the planet. That’s more than 200 peaks, but he’s already made a dent. He climbed the seven high points of Central America in 12 days, and in February summited the high points of Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland in Africa.
"I don’t care where I am, I’m going to go climb the highest point," he says.
The good news? You don’t have to go with him. You can just tune into the program.