‘What now?’

Courtesy of Mike Brenneman

“If a climber has a buck or two to scrape together, a climber goes climbing,” writes publisher Luke Mehall of Durango in the fourth issue of The Climbing Zine. Mehall, climbing Electric Lightning at Hartman Rocks near Gunnison in this photo, this week published an e-book titled Climbing Out of Bed.

By Jim Haug Herald staff writer

Like many Americans, Luke Mehall lost his job “when the economy went downhill.”

“I was left wondering, just as my 30s began, what now?”

Mehall considers himself luckier than most for not winding up depressed in front of a television, “waiting for work.”

“A climber does not have this problem of time. If a climber has a buck or two to scrape together, a climber goes climbing,” Mehall writes in the latest edition of The Climbing Zine.

Mehall is the publisher of the small magazine, called a “zine,” now into its fourth volume, available in a paper format and for downloads on Kindle and NOOK. Circulation information can be found at its website, www.climbingzine.com.

On the Fourth of the July, Mehall also published his first electronic book, a collection of essays about mountain town living called Climbing Out of Bed.

He likes mountain towns for the free spirits and open-minded atmosphere. Through his love of climbing, Mehall has gotten a grip on life.

He moved to Durango three years ago for the year-round climbing and quickly found employment opportunities.

Mehall writes for the Durango Telegraph weekly newspaper, cooks for Zia Taqueria and house-sits.

The jobs complement each other because Zia’s gives him a social outlet from the loneliness of writing and the house-stting gives him nice places to write. He finds house-sitting jobs from a free classified advertisement in the Telegraph.

But the payoff to living in Durango has been mountain climbing. He loves the adrenaline rush, the nature, the relative inexpensiveness and the camaraderie of the climbing community.

His favorite climb is Indian Creek near Canyonlands National Park in Utah. The mountains there have the “best cracks in the world,” he said.

Local climbers like to celebrate Thanksgiving there at an annual gathering called “Creeksgiving.”

Climbing also is a great way to meet the opposite sex because it’s one of the rare sports where men and women are on an equal footing, Mehall said. Women really seem to take to it.

“There’s a saying, ‘Climb like a girl,’” he said.

Through the informal networks of climbing, Mehall has found writers for the zine. Some submit their pieces online.

At an adaptive ice-climbing event in Ouray called “Gimps on Ice,” Mehall met Mike Reddy, who has a doctorate in epidemiology from Yale University.

For the zine, Reddy contributed an essay called “The Long Way Back” about recovering from a fall from Mount Sneffels that paralyzed his left leg and reduced his sensation in his lower extremities.

The Climbing Zine does not read like a glamorous catalogue for Patagonia or Northface outdoor clothing because it will show the consequences of a bad scrape.

The latest edition has a picture of a bloodied climber who is smiling in gratitude for the good fortune of not breaking his spinal cord or suffering a head injury after a 70-foot fall. He did, however, puncture a lung and break his wrist and ribs, requiring a helicopter rescue from Rocky Mountain National Park.

A nonclimber might have a “no thanks” reaction to trying the sport from reading the zine. Not all of climbing appeals to Mehall, either.

He has no desire to hike the Himalayas, for example, because he cannot stand the cold. Warmer winters is one of the reasons he left Gunnison for Durango.

Mehall was first attracted to the sport as a youth growing up in the plains of Illinois.

He said he was a Ritalin child because of his restless spirit.

“My family didn’t know what to do with me,” he said.

Then he found an outlet for his energy at a gym where old corn silos were recycled into climbing walls.

“Some are 70 feet tall,” he said. “The one I went to had four or five big solos.”

When he went to Western State in Gunnison for college, “I stumbled upon my niche,” he said.


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