Bensenville resident and Fenton High School graduate Mark Guido’s flight departs early April 6 as he embarks on his attempt to climb Mount Everest. He has overcome many obstacles during his six-year journey, and he carries with him the hopes and dreams of his community and children around the world as he reaches new heights.
The 29-year-old discovered his passion – and talent – in 2016, when he embarked on a 110-mile trek through France, Italy and Switzerland. “It was my first time leaving the country, and I kind of got through it,” he says. “I didn’t really have any training experience for anything like that, and I just did it and found I was really good at doing that kind of stuff. The trek kind of piqued my interest in endurance challenges and things of that nature.”
Soon after, he embarked on a Himalayan adventure that took him to the shadow of Mount Everest, which led him to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, where he would experience five major climatic zones – equatorial conditions hot and arid at the base to arctic conditions at the top – again without any training program. “It was a bit like leaving the sofa in Africa to do this climb,” notes Guido with a smile. “I relied a lot on my youth.”
But on this trip to Kilimanjaro in 2017, about 300 feet below the summit, something strange happened: Guido lost complete function of his legs. After a rest he was able to safely complete the journey to the summit, but on the way back down another climber thought he was having a stroke until his symptoms subsided at lower elevations.
“It happened very quickly, it was just crazy because everything was going really well and then my health deteriorated,” Guido explains. “My doctor buddy who I was climbing with noticed, as I was coming down, that my shoulder was sagging to one side and I was hunched over.”
Completing the summit of Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, gave Guido the confidence and desire to make further expeditions to the highest points on each of the seven continents. He needed a training plan if he wanted to conquer the Seven Summits, so he adopted the Mountain Training Program for Uphill Athletes and began training at the Wood Street Fitness Center in the Bensenville Park District. view of the summit of Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America.
“The training plan is great – it’s very focused on uphill endurance, core and muscular strength and endurance as well. I actually come to the Bensenville Park district to do a lot of my training on the StairMaster,” he said, citing the convenience of the center. and affordability.
Guido left for Argentina in February 2019, determined to conquer South America’s highest point and “take all that training and test it on a higher mountain”. Things were going well, and his training regimen which included carrying up to 65 pounds. on your back using the stair lift at Wood St. Fitness seemed to pay off. He was a little nervous as he approached the summit height of Kilimanjaro (19,340ft), but he had no problems and continued to climb with renewed confidence.
Then, 600-700 feet from the 22,829 foot Aconcagua summit, it happened again — he lost all function of his legs. He recalls: “I didn’t know why; it happened out of nowhere. I made it up, made it to the top safely and came back down, but again I was like, ‘OK , well, I don’t have to train. pretty tough for something like that.'”
So he trained harder for the next adventure.
In August 2019, he summitted Mount Elbrus (18,512ft), the highest mountain in Europe, located in the Caucasus mountain range in southern Russia. He climbed two volcanoes in Ecuador later that year in an effort to prepare for the summit of North America’s highest point, Denali (20,320 feet) in the spring of 2020. At the end of his training schedule grueling, the pandemic hit and the expedition to Alaska got cancelled.
“It was just extremely frustrating and overwhelming because I went through this very long training program, and there was no gain on the other end, so I was in a very dark place after that,” says Guido about the depression he faced for several months. following cancellation. “It was probably one of the worst places I’ve been in my entire life, so I decided to go for therapy, which helped a lot, and I was finally diagnosed with depression. , anxiety and OCD, which came as a shock. It’s something I’ve lived with all my life, but was functioning very well, so it went undiagnosed for many years.”
Guido was reassured by the diagnosis and the tools he learned in therapy helped him move forward. Eventually he arrived at a much better place and refocused on training for his next climb, Mount Everest, in 2021. As the expedition date approached, he underwent an echocardiogram in December 2020 to make sure he had no health issues.
What doctors discovered was that he had a heart condition called a patent foramen ovale (PFO) – a hole in the heart that greatly increases the risk of stroke and high altitude pulmonary edema. . He was given two choices: stop climbing or surgically repair the hole.
“Without hesitation, I jumped on it. I didn’t even think about the potential risk,” he says of the surgical option, noting that doctors also found he had a Eustachian valve. lengthened, which complicated the procedure. “I was so focused on pursuing my passions.”
After surgery, Guido turned to training to attempt the summit of Everest in May 2022. He trained six days a week for three to four hours of core strength and endurance.
Even during the COVID spikes that caused the Deer Grove Recreation Center to close, he trained with a weighted backpack on the Varble Park hill behind the center.
“It’s funny because that hill is the hill I used to play on when I was a kid,” he says. “I went to school at Johnson and Blackhawk Middle School, so it’s cool to think that could potentially be one of the reasons – the training on that hill – that I ended up climbing Mount Everest. “
Guido spoke to the Park District Red Hats senior group about his adventures as well as other community groups such as the Rotary Club, and he takes a Bensenville Park District flag with him for a “photo opportunity” when he reached the summit of Everest. He says he is grateful for the support of the people of Bensenville to help him pursue his passion: “I just think it’s really cool to have the support of the community. It’s where I grew up, I was educated in Bensenville and just having the support of the community is really amazing and exciting. I will definitely take it with me when I climb for extra motivation.
He is also motivated to help others after seeing children in need on his first trip to the Himalayas. It was then that Guido launched Peaks for Purpose, linking his climbing goals with children’s charities around the world. Every trip he takes is tied to a children’s charity, and he’s raised over $10,000 so far, enough to pay for the installation of a 40-foot wireless internet tower at Quinta Betel, a remote children’s home at the foot of the Andes. ; donated activity books and art supplies for children and families in Tomilino; and helping to build a canteen for children in Tanzania. Her Everest Expedition raises funds for SOS Children’s Villages Nepal, a non-profit organization whose mission is to build families for children in need, helping them shape their own futures and participate in the development of their communities.
When he returns home this summer, Guido hopes to continue inspiring young people and sharing his message. He’s already committed to talking to customers in the park district, young and old.
“I think it’s very important for young people to pursue their passions and not think twice about it,” says Guido. “There have been many setbacks in recent years, but there is a setback in every good journey. You keep moving forward.”
For more information about Mark Guido, Peaks for Purpose, or to donate, visit PeaksforPurpose.org.
Visit WoodStFitness.com for more information on Wood Street Fitness, located inside Bensenville Park District’s Deer Grove Recreation Center, 1000 W. Wood Street, Bensenville.