Autumn Lott spent her seventh birthday virtually on top of the world.
Lott, from Gold River, B.C., became the youngest Canadian and second-youngest ever to reach the summit (5,895 metres) of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Autumn’s mother, Francesca Lott, said every year for her daughter’s birthday, the family does a big hike. At age three, Autumn completed the Nootka Trail, on the west coast of Nootka Island about 30 minutes by float plane west of Gold River. At five, the Rockwall Trail, in Kootenay National Park in the Canadian Rockies.
Francesca Lott said this champagne birthday, turning seven on July 7, called for something big.
“(It was) a really amazing experience because the whole trek was seven days and it was private, it was just me and her that got to do it with a couple guides and our porters, so it was a really personal and special experience,” said Francesca.
They did not complete the summit without challenges, the final day being the hardest physically as it is the steepest. Seeing the sunrise at Gilman’s Point, one of the three summit points on Mt. Kilimanjaro, gave them the motivation to keep on climbing, said Francesca.
“We got up and she was pretty excited and gung ho and then I think we were probably a couple hours in at the steepest part of the trail and she was super, super tired,” she said. “We had to wake up at midnight and then we started hiking at 1 a.m. by headlamp and that was the most elevation gain.”
After putting in a lot of physical effort for the end of the summit, at approximately a 1,000-metre elevation gain for six hours, Autumn said the summit was fun and her mom is glad they completed the milestone together.
To make it to their goal, the two used their mental strength, sharing treats like lollipops and having a lick at every new corner of the mountain they reached, said Francesca.
Climbing a mountain was not the only thing Autumn did for her seventh birthday. The team that helped them up the mountain to their last campsite surprised her with a birthday celebration, singing ‘Happy Birthday’ in English and handing her a birthday crown.
“All our porters and guides came in and had this little birthday cake with balloons and juice in a champagne bottle and we celebrated my birthday,” said Autumn, smiling.
Francesca said on the way down the mountain and once the adrenaline dropped off, Autumn was ready for a nap.
“I almost fell asleep,” said Autumn with a giggle.
The Lotts did a lot of prep about two to three months before the hike.
“Autumn and I would usually hike or walk around town every day after school for at least 10 kilometres or more,” Francesca said.
Autumn would also join her mom for runs around town, sprint training and hiking every weekend in Strathcona Park. They completed the Juan De Fuca trail along the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island, for distance training.
Francesca also showed Autumn videos on YouTube about the hike so she could understand what it would be like.
“For example how cold it would be, what altitude sickness is, how we have to hike at night to summit early,” Francesca said.
At home, the pair watch a variety of nature shows and Autumn, who attends Ray Watkins Elementary School in Gold River and will start Grade 2 in September, has shared she wants to be a veterinarian. Francesca said she is very proud of her daughter’s hard work.
“The whole trip was meant for her to know how strong she is, I’m a pretty feminist type woman I guess and I always said my birthday gift to her is for her to know she is an incredibly strong, special little girl and she can do whatever she wants in this life and anything she sets her mind to.”
The two plan on doing more hikes in the future to keep the tradition alive.
Next on their list of travel destinations is South America to hopefully conquer Aconcagua in Argentina, another one of the seven summits that mark the highest peaks in each continent. They hope to complete the rest together, having one down (Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania) and six to go (Mt. Elbrus, Russia, Denali, Alaska, Aconcagua, Argentina, Vision Massif, Antarctica, Puncak Jaya, Oceania and Mount Everest, Nepal/China).
“It will probably take us a while,” said Francesca.