After a heart attack, climber takes aim at Everest

Leo Namen is training to climb the highest peak — and raise funds for research

Leo Namen started climbing mountains as a teenager in Colombia, and has summited many peaks over the years. In 2002 he and his family moved to Edmonton, where Leo continued to hone his climbing skills in the beautiful Canadian Rockies.

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

A devastating diagnosis

A month later and back in Edmonton, Leo was at the gym – part of his regime at 48 to stay fit and healthy for climbing. But during that workout, Leo felt unbearable chest pain. 

He was rushed to hospital. It was a heart attack.

<p>Leo being attended to in the hospital after his heart attack</p>

Leo being attended to in the hospital after his heart attack

Leo’s right coronary artery was 100% blocked. He had a stent inserted and spent a week in hospital. While his body was on the mend, the experience left him devastated emotionally and mentally. The thought of never being able to climb was tearing away at him.

Regaining hope

With support from family, friends and fellow survivors in Heart & Stroke’s Community of Survivors private Facebook group, Leo began to regain hope that he could once again enjoy a full and active life. And then he got motivated to reach stunning new heights!

On his 50th birthday Leo will attempt to summit Mount Everest. 

He is now in full training mode to prepare for the ascent in May 2020. If successful, Leo would make history as the first Canadian heart attack survivor to scale the world’s highest peak.

Leo is determined to use his climb to make a real difference. He is inspiring other survivors by sharing his story, and he’s asking Canadians to support his climb. He aims to raise $500,000 in support of Heart & Stroke research. 

Life-saving research

Leo has set up a Heart & Stroke Fundraise Your Way. It’s an online platform where you can launch individual fundraising initiatives — from mountain climbing to birthday parties — and gather donations from supporters.
By raising funds for Heart & Stroke research, Leo is supporting life-saving advances like these:

  • Discovery of a surgical technique to treat irregular heartbeats in 1987
  • The world’s first in-utero surgery to correct a congenital heart defect, in 2009
  • A 2015 breakthrough that cut the death rate from major strokes by 50%.

Learn more about these and other Heart & Stroke research milestones.

To keep up with Leo’s progress and support his campaign, visit or follow him on Facebook.