3,000 Feet of Bugs: Why Meghan Curry will summit El Capitan eating only bugs!

Megan Curry

What do you get when you cross a 3,000 ft summit, a daring adventurer, and a mission to change the world? Potentially a great summer thriller film. But in our case, we have Bug Wall – Meghan Curry’s 2 week edible insect-powered ascent of El Capitan.

Megan Curry

I had the opportunity to chat with Curry, a prominent entomologist and the founder of Bug Vivant, to hear about her upcoming mission. She’ll be climbing Mescalito (5.7, A3, 26 pitches) on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, California. She will spend two weeks alone, hanging from the side of the summit without a break – even sleeping up there! Her only source of protein & food will be BUGS. The squeamish among us beware – Curry is combining death-defying heights with creepy-crawly bugs in a stunt that may perplex some and scare silly others, but to her it’s a missions to prove the power of insect protein. Talk about dedication.

She explains how she got her start in climbing, “In high school I grew up in a small town in Arizona and there was not much to do. I saw some people sitting on the edge of a huge cliff in a magazine and fell in love. My friends and I started playing around and buying some ropes from Kmart… some leather belts… we figured out how to repel… It was dangerous, but it progressed into a great hobby!”

Megan Curry

Now that Curry is past the stages of Kmart ropes and leather belts, she’s become an avid climber. Pretty impressive for someone who used to have a fear of heights.

Our fearless adventurer has only increased the intensity of her climbs since then! Now she’s gearing up for her biggest adventure yet. Solo big wall climbing I is brutal. Curry will need a steady supply of QUALITY calories. What could be better than edible insects packed with protein, good fats, essential amino acids, and tons of vitamins and minerals?

Let’s pause for a second – how did Curry even get started eating insects? As an undergrad, she was interested in Biology and ended up taking an Entomology class just by chance. She really liked it, and the professor teaching the class was hiring for an undergraduate lab tech assistant at the time. Curry took the job and loved the research, finding a good mentor in the process. Eventually Curry decided to dedicate her life to Entomology. Before she went to grad school, she decided to work for the USDA for a little while, traveled and climbed, and got her fill of experiences to fuel her passion for insect as a protein source.

Megan Curry

But what pushed a budding Entomologist into a committed Entomophagist (one studies bugs, one eats them)? Curry explains, “It was a debate for an Entomology conference. The ESA, or Entomological Society of America, would always host conferences and we would attend their student debates. They sounded like fun so I joined a formed a team. We had to propose topics or propose a tool that would be the single best tool to feed the 9 billion people we have by 2050. My team thought Entomophagy would be a really cool idea. We learned about it in a cultural Entomophagy seminar that our university offered, which was really great. The debate got me really into the idea but it never really went beyond that until the end of my Master’s when I listened to an NPR article about how this was a really cool idea, it has a ton of potential… but that the industry side was still lacking. I was looking at going into doing more research after my master’s… maybe getting my PHD… but I wasn’t’ sure. But then I had the AH-HA moment and realized I would go into Entomophagy. It’s new, exciting, kinda fun… really appealing!”

Our fearless adventurer has only increased the intensity of her climbs since then! Now she’s gearing up for her biggest adventure yet. Solo big wall climbing I is brutal. Curry will need a steady supply of QUALITY calories. What could be better than edible insects packed with protein, good fats, essential amino acids, and tons of vitamins and minerals?

Megan Curry

Let’s pause for a second – how did Curry even get started eating insects? As an undergrad, she was interested in Biology and ended up taking an Entomology class just by chance. She really liked it, and the professor teaching the class was hiring for an undergraduate lab tech assistant at the time. Curry took the job and loved the research, finding a good mentor in the process. Eventually Curry decided to dedicate her life to Entomology. Before she went to grad school, she decided to work for the USDA for a little while, traveled and climbed, and got her fill of experiences to fuel her passion for insect as a protein source.

But what pushed a budding Entomologist into a committed Entomophagist (one studies bugs, one eats them)? Curry explains, “It was a debate for an Entomology conference. The ESA, or Entomological Society of America, would always host conferences and we would attend their student debates. They sounded like fun so I joined a formed a team. We had to propose topics or propose a tool that would be the single best tool to feed the 9 billion people we have by 2050. My team thought Entomophagy would be a really cool idea. We learned about it in a cultural Entomophagy seminar that our university offered, which was really great. The debate got me really into the idea but it never really went beyond that until the end of my Master’s when I listened to an NPR article about how this was a really cool idea, it has a ton of potential… but that the industry side was still lacking. I was looking at going into doing more research after my master’s… maybe getting my PHD… but I wasn’t’ sure. But then I had the AH-HA moment and realized I would go into Entomophagy. It’s new, exciting, kinda fun… really appealing!”

Curry hopes that in five to ten years we will start to see bugs catch up to sushi in acceptance. I asked her to tell me about the most outlandish insect she has ever eaten and she responded with, “Ya know…I really need to get out to Thailand and just eat some crazy bugs. Everyone asks me this question but I haven’t experienced a ton of variety there yet.” She’s had ants, wax worms, ant larva, and your basic cricket and mealworms. Of what she has eaten, however, her favorite recipe was created by the chef Stephen Paprocki   – he made this mealworm pizza… the recipe is on my website. It’s just really good – fully utilizes the slight bitterness of the mealworms.

I digress… let’s return to our story: the climb! What is Curry hoping to gain from this stunt? I had a guess: one of the demographics with the strongest potential to be early adopters of ento-foods are the fitness folk. A lot of iron-pumping people are more adventurous, want protein, and not so squeamish. Curry will be taking a huge step in promotion the power of this sustainable food source. Edible insect production has massive potential to improve nutrition and micro economic growth. If Entomophagy gains a stronger foothold here, we can reduce the erosion many developing nations have seen on their entomophagy traditions as globalization spreads our negative Western attitudes.

What’s next? Curry is most excited about her Indiegogo campaign that she is launching with Little Herds. Thousands of dollars worth of products have been donated from nearly every company making edible insect food in the US and Canada. Curry is teaming up now to raise money to support the children’s edible insect outreach efforts of Little Herds to try some bars, cookies, granola, cricket flour, whole roast insects and much more. Click HERE to learn more and donate.

Bugs get vertical and big walls go sustainable; its time to think about edible insects in a big way. Follow her journey on Twitter with #BugWall and on her blog. “If bugs can fuel my grueling 2 week ascent of El Capitan, then they may deserve a place on your next adventure too.”

For more BugWall information visit http://bugvivant.com/bug-wall/.

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