Luke Mehall (’04) is a dirtbag. He is also the author of four books and owner of Benighted Publications, which he runs out of Durango, Colo. His written work captures the essence of climbing and has etched its way into the culture’s hardcore scene. From books such as “Graduating From College Me” and “The Great American Dirtbag,” to publishing 11 volumes of The Climbing Zine, Mehall’s life has found no shortage of narrative.
Before arriving at Western and over a decade before publishing his first book, “Climbing Out of Bed,” Mehall didn’t have a clue what he was truly passionate about. As a self-described free spirit with a keen interest in rock climbing and the outdoors, he moved from his hometown of Bloomington, Ill., to enroll at Western as a Recreation & Outdoor Education major.
Mehall soon discovered an additional passion in creative writing and poetry, and the idea of combining the outdoors and writing was nurtured by the creative freedom he was given as a student.
“The ROE department showed me that I could create a marriage between my passion and a career … and nudged me in the direction of finding a lifelong career that also nourished my soul,” Mehall said.
Mehall has many fond memories of his time as an ROE student. Some are particularly illustrative of Western’s charm, such as sleeping in a snow cave with his professors and classmates during a class his freshman year. Others marked major life moments.
“I actually decided to quit smoking during an ROE course,” Mehall said. “It might sound minimal, but it was an important life decision. We were snowshoeing and I could hardly breathe. I was only 21 years old and had a moment of clarity that I needed to be healthier.”
Mehall also recounts a successful climbing competition he organized. There he gained his first exposure to the outdoor industry in what he describes as an “epiphany moment.”
“My relationship-building in the outdoor industry began at Western,” Mehall said. “Still today I work with climbing companies I first started working with as an ROE student.”
Mehall’s rise to becoming a prolific writer in the outdoor industry didn’t come instantly after graduation. He spent a lot of time traveling around the West climbing and an equal amount of time sitting at his desk writing. While not the sexiest of tales at times, he also spent plenty of time working in restaurants to support his “writing habit” with the goal of eventually working for himself.
Earlier this year, Mehall was able to take a leap away from working at restaurants to support his lifestyle and now owns and operates Benighted Publications full-time. His latest work can be found in Benighted’s triannual print magazine, The Climbing Zine.