How do you sum up your free-time hobbies when it involves climbing mountains, visiting ancient cities and dining on local fare, such as guinea pigs?

“I’ve done a fair number of non-routine things,” says Matt Wood, president and CEO of ProTeam, Inc., Boise, Idaho.
Two years ago, Matt adventured on a 12-day trek to Mount Everest Base Camp.

“You can’t actually see Everest from the base camp, so you summit Kala Pattar, another Himalayan landmark, at 18,400 feet. From there we went back down to 16,900 feet to get to Everest Base Camp at 17,600 feet,” he says. “The trek is about 75 miles, but the ups and downs, not the distance, are the issue on most of these treks.”

This year, Matt and his son Russ completed an eight-day trek through the Andes in Peru, ending up in Machu Pichu, the city built by the Incas around 1450.

“We covered about 55 miles,” says Matt. “The highest pass we crossed was at Abra de Choquetacarpo at 16,000 feet. Machu Picchu is at about 8,000 feet. The best part of that trek was spending the time with my son.”

Matt appreciates the opportunity to interact with interesting people and learn about their culture and customs.

“In the Andes, we stayed at the farm of one of the muleteers. We were invited into their cooking and dining hut, which was full of guinea pigs running around,” says Matt.

Besides the guinea pigs, they also ate yucca root, quinoa, potatoes and oka (a tuber).

In most of the places that Matt has trekked there are no communications, except on Mount Everest, where there was mobile phone coverage most of the way up (and lots of helicopters).

A backpacking friend of Matt’s inspired these mountain adventures.

“My friend is 10 years older than I am. He said he was getting to the point in which he would be unable to do a difficult trip,” says Matt.

They started a strict training regimen, and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2007.

“The six-day Kilimanjaro trip started at 4,300 feet and the summit is at 19,400 feet. We had one really long day of about 36 hours,” says Matt.
That’s right, a 36-hour day.

“We were out of the camp at 6 a.m., and I crawled into my sleeping bag at 6 p.m. the next day. You actually climb most of Kilimanjaro at night,” says Matt.

To prepare for a trek, Matt hits the gym. A lot of cardio workout to increase the heart rate in order to prepare for having 50 percent less oxygen than at sea level.

“You can never fully prepare for the altitude, but it’s important to get into the best shape possible,” says Matt. 
It’s also important to get the legs and feet in shape because you could be hiking eight to 10 hours a day.

Matt feels blessed to have the opportunity to explore areas not generally seen by the rest of the world and to visit places that many have only read about.

“Plus,” he says, “it gives me a reason to stay in good shape.”

Gretchen Roufs, a 25-year janitorial supply industry veteran, owns a marketing and public relations company in San Antonio. To suggest someone you think should be featured in “Freetime,” contact her at