The Success of a Local Dirtbag

Luke Mehall, self-proclaimed dirtbag climber, talked about his newest book release.

Kennedy Sievers/Senior Staff Writer

Luke Mehall: Mehall’s new book cover. Photo Courtesy of Luke Mehall
Luke Mehall: Mehall’s new book cover. Photo Courtesy of Luke Mehall

The environment was buzzing with excitement, anticipating the promise of adventure. A wonderful display of books, shirts, chocolate treats, coffee, and tea covered display tables. Luke Mehall, former student at Western, wrote his fourth book entitled Graduating From College, Me A Dirtbag Climber Grows Up. He decided to come to Western and give his only book talk to the students, faculty, and community members of Gunnison.

Mehall got his start with writing for this newspaper as well as the Gunnison County Times in 2001. He also did various other writing enterprises during his time at Western, including working in the marketing department. Mehall was a recreation major while in school, and graduated in 2004. He has been writing for about fifteen years.

Graduating From College Me, A Dirtbag Climber Grows Up is Mehall’s fourth book. It was part of a goal he made to write five books before he turned forty. He draws his inspiration from many places including the Grateful Dead, and beatnik greats such as Alan Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, Timothy Leary, and Kurt Vonnegut.

He started his climbing career in a gym in his hometown, which was an abandoned grain silo and the world’s largest climbing gym for a long time. Eventually, Mehall graduated to climbing outdoors. His favorite place to climb is in the Colorado desert, namely Indian Creek. Mehall loves the view, he said, “It’s like climbing in a painting.”

After graduating college, Mehall spent a lot of time in Indian Creek, living out of a tent and seeking to climb the best climbs and live the outdoor recreation major life’s dream. He read some stories from his new novel about Indian Creek, including one about a memorial toilet in honor of a fallen fellow climber and going there now as an experienced climber, relating and giving hard-earned wisdom to the new generation of climbers.

Mehall did not get where he is through no effort of his own. He says that climbing, while the love of his life, actively tries to kill you. He has had many close encounters of his own, and watched fellow climbers meet the fate that the rocks try to instill. Rather than these dangers discouraging him from his hobby, however, Mehall says it only adds fuel to the fire of his love for exploring the great outdoors.

After listening to the reading and hearing Mehall discuss his novel, he opened up the conversation for questions and people delivered. People asked about his zine; which is a small climbing magazine designed for people writing articles about climbing, taking photos whilst climbing, and doing art.

People also asked about the publishing process, to which he said he attempted to publish with traditional big house publishers in the beginning, but found it easier and in some ways more profitable to self-publish, or as he likes to call it, independently publish. He is able to print small books as well as self-promote on social media.

Mehall wants liberal arts students to feel like they can accomplish anything. He claims that a lot of the stories as well as poems in his novel are somewhat embarrassing, but he felt like he needed to put them out there for the college and climbing community.