Image courtesy Mission 14 Facebook page
Image courtesy Mission 14 Facebook page

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro was so tough that none other than Ray Lewis had to turn back. Summiting Mt. Everest is way tougher; getting to the top of K2, the world’s second-highest mountain, is even more of a feat. Climbing the world’s 14 highest peaks, all of them over 26,000 feet? That’s a quest so difficult that only 31 people have ever done it. Baltimorean/Under Armour “director of innovation” Nick Cienski wants to join that club — and he plans to do it in record-breaking time.

The entire expedition will employ an estimated 3,780 porters and require 250,000 pounds of equipment. And the bill is estimated at $5,668,157. That’s fine and dandy — if you’ve got the money and the lung capacity to tackle these kinds of epic explorations, go for it! — I’m a little suspicious of the attempt to frame this speed-climbing quest as a humanitarian mission. How, exactly, will “climbing mountains… rescue children from the depths of poverty”? And then there’s this:  “The significant challenges of the expedition will mirror the challenges that face families living in poverty across the world:  in places like LaChureca, a garbage dump community in Nicaragua, or Baltimore City.” Um, yeah. Making your way across the treacherous Khmubu Glacier on an incredibly expensive vanity exploration trip is a lot like dealing with drive-by shootings, infectious diseases, and generational poverty. In any case, I wish Mr. Cienski luck with his quest — I just won’t be donating to his public fundraising campaign (which, so far, has amassed exactly $0.)

4 replies on “Under Armour Exec Attempts to Climb World’s 14 Highest Mountains”

  1. Seriously? This guy with tons of $$$ wants people to help pay for his fantasy trip? I’d rather give my money to a inner city school in Baltimore City. It would do a lot more good. Perhaps he should think of doing something like that, too.

  2. Rachel, thanks for your efforts in writing your article. I am doing this not as a vanity climb but rather to raise awareness around the crime of human trafficking – the second largest criminal enterprise in the world (drugs is still #1). I am tired of people sitting on the sidelines and am challenging myself to attempt what has never been done, putting my life, family and career on the line to do something about it. I know that what I am attempting is big and expensive but as such it will create a platform for dialogue that I think can be used to talk about what is wrong with society: why are we selling people for sex in cities around the world to the tune of $32 billion a year? What are we doing about it? How can we sit idly by when 13-year-old girls are trafficked on our streets and hotels everyday? I know how to climb mountains and am using what I know to try and affect change – my challenge to everyone reading this is, “What are you going to do about it?” It is time for us to get involved in our neighborhoods, communities and cities to put a stop to modern day slavery. We cannot rely on others to do the work, we have to roll up our sleeves and get after the task of making our world a better place. You may not agree with what I am doing or even how I am doing it but we all have to do what we can, doing nothing is not an option. The cost of Mission 14 is high but rest assured that this is covered by corporate sponsors, not a penny of donated funds go toward the climbing efforts but are instead directed toward our partner organizations. I have established Mission 14 as a 501C3 so that we can drive revenue generated from this event (and future events) to our partner organizations. We select best practices organizations to which we pledge funds for the long-term. In Baltimore, Mission 14 is currently giving to Araminta Freedom Initiative (we put $2500/month toward its work with rescued girls and women locally), and in Nicaragua we are currently giving to Orphanetwork (we put $2500/month towards rescuing trafficked children who have been abandoned to live on the city streets of Managua). In addition, Mission 14 has set up a small sewing facility on the edge of La Chureca where we have trained up a small group of men and women to make T-shirts that are sold to tourists and local customers. Economics — the lack of work for families — is a driving factor in why children are sold into slavery. Our hope is to replicate the sewing facility many times over in Nicaragua (and maybe one day in other countries). In addition, we are currently looking at organizations focused on human trafficking in Asia (Nepal specifically) to support starting next year. I hope this sheds some light on Mission 14 and how we hope to make a difference. Nick Cienski.

  3. I listened as Nick rolled out his vision for Mission 14 and was moved by not only the vision but the sacrifice. I have no doubt that Nick and Mission 14 will do more to shed light on and move to eradicate human trafficking and poverty than we realize at this moment. I don’t know Nick but I listened carefully as Nick shared his story and his hope that there is nothing self-serving about this endeavor.

  4. Nick,
    I admire your dedication (& your lung capacity!) in undertaking this endeavor. I think it’s great to use an attention-generating exploration such as this one to raise awareness of pressing issues. It seems like you’re doing meaningful work in that direction. It’s just the awkward, tone-deaf wording on your website that I object to — conflating “challenges” faced by mountain climbers to those faced by people living in endemic poverty seems worthy of a raised eyebrow. Good luck on those mountains!

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