Heading up a steep hillside carrying a heavy truck tire isn’t easy, but it’s a challenge Albertan Leo Namen tackles every chance he gets.
“It helps me with my cardio, a lot,” Namen said.
Cardiovascular health is something he’s been paying a lot of attention to since a fateful day at the gym in April 2018.
“I started to feel this really, really, really strong pain in my chest,” Namen said.
At the age of 48, in fantastic shape, he was having a heart attack.
“One-hundred per cent blockage of a coronary artery — genetics.” Namen said.
After having surgery and spending a week in hospital, he started bouncing back, eventually lugging his tire up slopes in Calgary and in his hometown of Edmonton.
“I’m training about five to seven hours a day,” Namen said, adding that he also heads west to the mountains on weekends.
“We have the best gym — outdoor gym — that anybody could have in the world: the Rocky Mountains,” he said.
All his intensive training is leading Namen toward the toughest climb of his life.
“I’m climbing Mount Everest,” he said, “in order to become the first Canadian to ever summit Mount Everest after a heart attack.”
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It’s the latest step in a passion he’s been pursuing since he was a young teenager.
“I’ve been climbing for my entire life,” Namen said. “The Rockies, South America, Himalayas, everywhere.”
He’s doing the Everest climb to raise money for The Heart and Stroke Foundation, and to inspire fellow patients.
“I’d like to tell them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Namen said.
He’s also heading to the top of the world with kids top of mind.
“I want to ask kids all over Canada to draw a picture of anything related to mountains, anything related to heart disease,” Namen said.
He’s inviting children to send their art to the website dedicated to his Everest expedition: http://www.heartofthesummit.ca.
Namen will select two of the submitted pictures to be printed on the left leg of his custom-made climbing suit.
“I’m taking that suit to the top of Mount Everest,” he said, adding that he hopes it inspires kids to become more active.
Namen leaves for Nepal at the end of March, hoping to reach his goal in mid-May.
Plunking down his tire after scaling a Calgary hillside, Namen sounded optimistic about the adventure ahead: “Everest, here I come!”