When the Lloyd family arrived in Kenya over the New Year’s holiday with backpacks full of camping and climbing gear, it was the culmination of a decade-long dream for Southampton resident Grace Lloyd.
Along with her two children, Zoe Lloyd, 21, and Watson Lloyd, 23, the 61-year-old mother completed her first-ever mountain climb, trekking to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro with the hiking guide tour group Adventures Within Reach on an excursion that took seven days and six nights. It was no easy sightseeing stroll, with drastic changes in climate and temperature making for an arduous trip, but Lloyd said the experience she had with her children was worth it.
“I’ve wanted to do this for 10 years,” she said during an interview in Southampton. “It was definitely an over-the-top adventure for us.”
Aside from the spectacular sights and scenery, the hike also afforded the Lloyds a chance for some good old-fashion family bonding. With Zoe on winter break during her senior year at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, it was the perfect time to get away. Watson put a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on hold to make the trek as well.
Lloyd said that she and her family chose Mt. Kilimanjaro because it is a relatively friendly mountain for first-time climbers. Making it to the summit doesn’t require any hard-core climbing or scaling that would necessitate the use of crampons, ice picks or ropes.
But it certainly wasn’t without its challenges, according to Lloyd.
“It’s untechnical, which is why so many people do it,” she said. “But it’s very challenging because of the altitude.”
Lloyd said she didn’t do anything too special to prepare for her trek, aside from keeping up with her usual fitness routine, which includes traversing local trails. She is a member of the Southampton Trails Preservation Society.
Robin Paschall, who works for Adventures Within Reach, further explained why Kilimanjaro is a great mountain for novice climbers, but backed up Lloyd’s claim that it’s far from a walk in the park.
“Kilimanjaro is a great mountain for people in moderate physical condition or better and who have an adventurous spirit,” Paschall said. “It is not technical, so no mountain climbing experience is necessary. However, 19,340 feet is very high and altitude sickness is a concern for everyone regardless of their experience.”
On the third night of the journey, Lloyd was stricken with altitude sickness that had her questioning if she would have the energy to make it to the summit. On the second day, her daughter Zoe suffered the same fate, but recovered and luckily for Lloyd, she made the adjustment a day later as well.
“The first two days, we hiked about four hours to adjust to the altitude,” she said. “But the third day killed me. I felt weak, I had no energy, I didn’t want to eat anything and I was slightly nauseous.”
Along with the altitude, climbers of Mt. Kilimanjaro must deal with a severe temperature change during their ascent. The Lloyds began their trek in shorts and T-shirts, but by the time they reached the summit, the temperature dipped close to zero during the darker hours. The Lloyds also each had to carry a backpack of equipment weighing more than 20 pounds, while hired cooks and porters from Adventures Within Reach were responsible for carrying the rest of the gear.
All the obstacles and lack of creature comforts—such as nights spent sleeping in the cold in tents and in sleeping bags on the hard ground—were quickly forgotten when they achieved their final goal, Lloyd said. “I was joyous to have made it,” she said.
Paschall says that Lloyd’s reaction is not uncommon.
“For most people, Kilimanjaro is the most challenging, rewarding and life changing experience that they’ve ever had,” she said.
Lloyd said that she’s not opposed to doing another trek with her family and added that after the trip, her son Watson was motivated to take on even bigger and more challenging mountains.
Aside from getting a once in a lifetime experience with her children, Lloyd said the trip also helped her realize that age doesn’t have to be a limitation when it comes to taking on a new and daunting challenge.
“It’s never too late to try,” she said.