Leo Namen and Norm Assiff

Leo Namen: Post Heart Attack Mountain Climbing

In 2018, mountaineer Leo Namen suffered a near-fatal heart attack. Today, he's setting his sights on Mount Everest, with the goal of raising $500,000 for Heart & Stroke.

We are proud to sponsor heart attack survivor Leonard Namen’s fundraiser for Heart & Stroke, that will culminate in a summit attempt in 2020.

Leo Namen started climbing mountains as a teenager in his hometown of Bogotá, Colombia. He has since climbed many peaks, often raising money for important causes.

In March 2018, Leo summited Pico de Orizaba, the highest peak in Mexico, as a fundraiser for orphans. During the climb, he experienced some chest pain—a foreshadowing of what was to come.

Two weeks later, back home in Canada, Leo was working out at the gym in West Edmonton Mall with his son, when he was rushed to the nearby Misericordia Community Hospital because of a heart attack.

“I was awake the whole time, looking at what they were doing,” Namen says. “But at the same time, I couldn’t breathe. I think that my brain, and my head, and my eyes—possibly my lungs—were working, but the rest of my body was just shaking.”


He was transferred to the Royal Alexandra Hospital for emergency surgery. Afterwards, a told him that over 50 per cent of his heart had stopped beating and that he was lucky to be alive.

While he survived, recovery took a toll on the mountaineer’s mental health. It’s common for survivors to experience depression and anxiety following a heart attack. Thinking that he wouldn’t be able to climb anymore was distressing to him.

However, one day, the relentless Namen says he decided to start thinking about things differently. As he connected with fellow heart attack survivors, an idea began to take shape — determined to overcome the setback of his heart attack, on his 50th birthday Leo will attempt to summit the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, as a fundraiser for Heart & Stroke!

John Holloway, who will be part of the expedition, says: “Physical strength plays an important role [in mountaineering]. A climber that is fit and conditioned will be better able to withstand the challenges of the mountain than one of ill health. However, a debilitated climber can still face the mountain with a strong will. I have seen such strong will power before in Leonardo Namen,” 

“Leo sets high standards for himself and relentlessly attacks them. I have a lot of respect for him; it really is amazing the level of fitness he has regained and the obstacles he has overcome,”

his teammate Will Jackson says.

Namen and his team have already begun training for the spring 2020 ascent. They are planning a lengthy expedition to the Columbia Icefields in southwestern Alberta this summer. The climb will help Namen prepare to face the Khumbu Icefall on Everest next Spring—one of the first obstacles he will have to overcome to take his heart to the highest.

Support Leo Namen’s fundraiser and be part of his journey by following Everest 2020 on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

To donate to Heart & Stroke on Leo’s behalf, visit http://support.heartandstroke.ca/goto/Everest2020.

For donations to fund his expedition please send e-transfers to [email protected].

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