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“Action is Essential to the Hopeless Person”

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James Q Martin
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Durango-based author and climber Luke Mehall found himself stuck in a fog of existential depression in the late 1990s. He was young and abusing his share of substances. According to Mehall, he was bound to wind up dead or in jail. Then he discovered rock climbing.

Soon, it was providing a sort of focused therapy for him. Exactly what he needed. The depression began to lift.

Mehall acknowledges that not everyone can break away from such personal problems so easily, just by 'getting outdoors.' But for him, rock climbing provided most of the escape.

Writing did the rest.

Mehall is a little unique in that he is passionate about both rock climbing and writing. The 2004 Western State Colorado University grad has found a way to marry the two, by self-publishing several books and zines devoted to the sport. His writing has also appeared in The Alpinist, Rock and Ice, Mountain Gazette, and other publications. Today, he runs the Climbing Zine and writes occasionally for the Durango Telegraph.

His most recent book, 2016's American Climber, is a memoir. Mehall says part of its purpose is to shine a spotlight on what's known as 'dirtbag' culture. But it also details how climbing saved his life.

In this KSUT Conversation with Mark Duggan, Luke Mehall talks about American Climber, and about using the great outdoors as a means of climbing out of depression.

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