Alumni Association News 2012
Taking the EMBL flag to new heights
Former Lamond Group predoc, Jacqueline Mermoud, now Scientific Staff at The Babraham Institute in Cambridge, wrote in her e-mail to the Alumni Relations Office before setting off on a trekking challenge up Africa's second highest mountain: "I will think of you on the way up - and of nice beds and ceramic toilets on the way down." Read below Jacqueline's story on the trials and tribulations of the long trek.
Inspiration from my EMBL days
"During my time as a PhD student in Heidelberg I kept a postcard above my bench depicting a man on a mountain top amidst clouds with the caption “From time to time one needs a new standpoint in order to see the world anew”. So it seemed right to carry an EMBL flag to new heights on 27th June this year – the peak I conquered is just under 5000m, the highest I have ever been.
More beautiful than Kilimanjaro
Whilst Mount Kenya may not be as high as Kilimanjaro, it lays claim to be a more beautiful climb and majestic arena – certainly less crowded than its brasher neighbour. There were 9 of us in the group and in the four days we spent on the ascent we did not see another person except our guides and porters.
Raising money for the EAA Fund
Our leader - who we all new from previous trips - inspired us to take this trekking challenge, and I thought it would be a great chance to raise money for the Alumni Association. I targeted my fundraising efforts to people I knew personally from my time at EMBL as well as board members, and am extremely grateful of the sponsorship received that amounts to more than 600 Euros.
Acute Mountain Sickness, insomnia and torrential hail
Tackling a mountain with one of the highest incidences of Acute Mountain Sickness reported annually worldwide sounded a little scary but it turned out that three of the group were doctors and had all the appropriate emergency medicines with them. While none of us got really ill, we all experienced the known side effects of altitude such as insomnia. But lying awake in a tent, taking in the sounds of nature, is not so bad. I was more affected by the torrential hail that we experienced repeatedly on the climb, since this meant that much of our gear got pretty wet. In these moments the thought of all the people that so generously supported me to carry the EMBL flag up Mt Kenya kept me going. The joy when the sun came out and we managed to dry all our kit was proportionately enormous.
Flying the EMBL flag full of endorphins
Dry and equipped with head torches we set off at 3.30 am from Simba Tarn to the trekking summit of Mount Kenya, Point Lenana, 4985m. There we were greeted by a wonderful spectacle, as dawn broke over Africa a thin purple line became brighter on the eastern horizon, bursting above the morning clouds in the valley and illuminating the nearby peaks. I then flew the massive EMBL flag, depicting all the member state flags around its border, in the morning wind on what felt like the top of the world. Exhilarated by the whole experience, we retraced our steps through glittering snow crystals to the last camp side for a hearty breakfast and continued our 2 day descent.
Attack of the honey badger
Any potentially dangerous moments on the trek, you may ask. Not on the trek itself, but after, while walking through a thick, chest high bush I was attacked by a fiercely growlinghoney badger that went for my feet while making hoarse noises. Fortunately I was wearing thick boots and the black and white monster ran off, challenged by the raised spears of our Maasai guides. Later I learned that honey badgers are classed as the worlds' most fearless creatures and will take on a lion according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
UN education initiative in Maasai village
At the end of our trip we were given a guided tour of a school in a Maasai village. There is a UN initiative to improve the standard of education in rural villages in Africa, the motto being “education is vital for development” and we came away from this trip with an admiration of the determination of the African people to build a better country but retain as much as possible of the traditional ways of life."
Support Jacqueline and the EEA Fund
Visit Jacqueline's Flickr page to follow the documentation of the trip.
Support Jacqueline by making a donation to the EAA Fund (please use reference: Mount Kenya). The name of all donors have been added to the EAA donors list.
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