Under Armour employee who survived earthquake resumes anti-trafficking climbing mission

Nick Cienski at Everest Base Camp, April 2015.  Photo credit: Elia Saikaly

After surviving a devastating earthquake in Nepal while on a mountain climbing expedition to fight human trafficking, Under Armour's Nick Cienski is heading back to Asia.

Cienski, Under Armour's senior director of innovation and founder of anti-trafficking non profit Mission 14, was at Mount Everest base camp with his wife and other climbing team members when the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the region on April 25. It killed more than 9,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands. And it set off a fatal avalanche on Mount Everest.


Cienski's team had been about to begin the "6 Summits Challenge," scaling six of the world's highest mountains to help raise money for and shed light on human trafficking. Cienski also planned to test Under Armour climbing apparel and gear -- which he'd helped design to stay warm without extra bulk  --  in some of the world's harshest conditions.

The disaster left more girls than ever at risk of being preyed upon, in some cases by traffickers posing as relief workers, Cienski told The Sun last month. After the earthquake, the team stayed in Kathmandu and the Gorkha region with other aid workers to help.


"Traffickers prey on desperation and helplessness," Cienski said in a statement today. "April's earthquake created plenty of both for the Nepalese people.

"Learning that someone could take advantage of another human being in such incredibly helpless circumstances like those in Nepal and wherever a natural disaster strikes, made it abundantly clear that the 6 Summits Challenge should move forward, and we must do whatever we can to raise the public's awareness of the heightened dangers affecting the disadvantaged and displaced children and families of Nepal."

Today, Cienski announced plans to resume the mission, with a new climbing schedule and expeditions in Pakistan replacing climbs  canceled in the wake of the disaster. He plans to unveil the refocused mission during a presentation to Under Armour employees tomorrow at the sports brand's Locust Point headquarters. Under Armour has given Cienski time off and agreed to sponsor his effort.

The challenge will continue in July in Pakistan with attempts to scale the 11th, 12th and 13th highest peaks in the world -- Gasherbrum I, Broad Peak and Gasherbrum II. In late August, Cienski will travel to Tibet to climb the world's 14th highest peak, Shishapangma, by early September. That's to be followed by by Cho Oyu, the world's 6th highest peak, where he'll be accompanied by Hirohasa Suzuki from Japan, the youngest member of the climbing team. He expects to complete the challenge in Nepal, climbing Manaslu in late September.

The point of the mission, he says, is to redefine adventure in a way that will attract a global audience that will join him in his human trafficking fight.