Luc Mehl

Luc Mehl - Photo by Doug Demarest

Luc Mehl – Photo by Doug Demarest

Luc smiles while mountain biking single track, packrafting steep creeks, skiing backcountry powder,  and even bushwhacking through thick alders.  His unassuming and abiding smile reflects his love of unspoiled wilderness, but belies his extraordinary accomplishments. Luc has garnered deep respect among those who push limits in fast, ultra-light travel through challenging terrain.

If you meet this humble, soft-spoken adventurer on an outing in the Chugach mountains, Luc won’t be the one to tell you that he has won the winter Alaska Mountain Wilderness Ski Classic five times and the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic twice. A friend might whisper it in your ear, or you may discover through his website, Things to Luc At. The Wilderness Classic, a low-key, grass-roots adventure race, has humbled more than a few ultra-distance runners. The course has changed every few years since its inception in 1982. Rules are simple: traverse 150 to 250 miles of wilderness under human power, use no roads, carry all food and equipment; leave no trace; and depend on yourself for rescue. Winners embrace purity of style.  Luc and partners complete wilderness journeys in less than four days, that most adventurers envision as two-week expeditions.

“I think my unique offering is that I’ve taken the tricks we learn on Classics and applied them to longer traverses.”

Luc-Logan traverse

Luc (left) with Graham Kraft, Josh Mumm, and John Sykes (photo by Josh Foreman) at the end of their unsupported Yakutat to McCarthy via Mt. Logan (19,551 ft) traverse.

Luc has a gift for drawing creative lines across topographic maps and crafting them into awe-inspiring adventures.  Routes he conceived and realized include traverses of the three tallest summits in North America: Denali (2011 – 200 miles), Mount Logan (2012 – 370 miles), and Orizaba (2013 – 240 miles). Luc’s odysseys combine mountain bikes, skis, climbing gear, packrafts and ultralight camping gear with extreme competence and confidence.

Luc grew up in McGrath, a remote Alaskan village of less than 500 on the Kuskokwim river. Pursuit of advanced degrees in environmental and geophysical sciences at MIT and UCSB led Luc away from Alaska for a decade. Wilderness brought him home.

“Alaska’s wilderness has always been integral to my life. I don’t know why, maybe from growing up in McGrath, though I didn’t appreciate the wilderness as wilderness until college. I love the raw landscape and the reminder of what terrain looks like without development.”

Luc’s creative side shines through his videos, photography, and written trip accounts .  Energy he invests in multimedia storytelling complements that which he devotes to physical achievement.

“I put a lot of energy into videos. Much of my motivation is to promote wilderness conservation and how rewarding it is to interact with raw landscapes.”

His simple trip reports have evolved to artfully choreographed video productions. They offer strong contrast to most adventure-themed “reality” shows marketed to television audiences. Some document Luc’s ambitious journeys. (Watch videos of big three traverses: Denali; Logan; Orizaba). Other of his most powerful compositions focus on fellow adventurers. ( Watch Braver, Bigger – an Interview with Erica Madison and the whimsical Upstream on driB Creek featuring Paul Schauer ) Luc’s upbeat approach is always evident, but his ubiquitous smile rarely appears in his own creations.

Luc packrafting beneath the Logan Glacier - Photo by Graham Kraft

Luc packrafting beneath the Logan Glacier – Photo by Graham Kraft

 

Luc now lives in Anchorage, performs environmental science research, and plays outside as often as possible. He draws energy and inspiration from a strong community of Alaskan adventurers.

Luc’s recent adventures include a 200 mile hike-ski-climb-paddle traverse of Mount Fairweather from Yakutat to Haines. He recently returned from an outreach trip with the American Packrafting Association to Megalayha, India. In addition to paddling some new rivers, he taught packrafting and swiftwater safety skills to local residents.