14 tall tasks in two years: Climber aims to connect highest peaks to the public

Nick Cienski is training for one of the most boundary-breaking ascents in history: to climb all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks within two years.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show July 31 - Aug. 3. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Nick Cienski, mountaineer and award-winning designer for Under Armour, is training for one of the most boundary-breaking ascents in history: to climb all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks within two years.

NickCienskiORSM13

To put the challenge in context, only 17 people have accomplished this feat, and never quicker than seven years, 10 months.

The purpose fueling the climbs is to fight human trafficking. Cienski’s recently founded nonprofit, Mission 14, will partner with other anti-slavery organizations to raise funds for the cause.

“At age 47, my goal is that people half my age will say, ‘If this guy can do this, how can I get involved?’” Cienski said. “The time is now where people need to get off the sidelines and get involved with fixing the problem.”

Cienski plans to engage the public with live social media posts, streaming information such as his location and heart rate so that followers can share in the action. From meteorologists to doctors, an elite team of specialists is ready to support Cienski in his 24-month race to the summit. For each climb, one Sherpa will guide Cienski, and a core 65-member Sherpa crew will haul the gear and run ahead of the duo to set up ropes and base camps, so Cienski can travel with as minimal weight as possible. To shave time, a helicopter will fly Cienski between base camps at the end of each descent.

Former military personnel will operate the communications at the base camp, and researchers from John Hopkins University will conduct biometrics on how Cienski’s body and skin are reacting to the high-altitude exposure.

“Health is going to be the biggest factor,” said Cienski. “If I have a three-day weather window and I’m sick, then that’s going to be a problem.”

At times, the mountaineer expects to come up against jet streams with 100 to 150 mph winds and down to –70-degree temperatures.

To protect his body from such brutal elements, Cienski designed a 14-piece clothing line that uses Cocona fabric technology. The garment series on display at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013 includes everything from underlayers and socks to jackets and four different pairs of gloves. The technical fabric blends polyester with the carbon of burned coconut; by combining polyester with that carbon and other naturally derived particles, such as volcanic ash, the surface area of the yarn is 800 percent stronger, explained Cienski. The fabric also manages climate control by releasing or retaining humidity, which he said is imperative for his survival.

--Morgan Tilton

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