Under Armour has high hopes for Nick Cienski, its senior director of innovation.
Next week, Cienski will head to the Himalayan Mountains to begin a quest to climb six of the world’s highest peaks in one year. If he’s successful in summiting the mountains, all of which are over 26,000 feet, during the 6 Summits Challenge, he will break the Guinness World Record held by South Korean Park Young-Seok, who climbed five peaks within one year.
“It’s my attempt to set a new world record,” Cienski told WWD during a preview of the fall collection at the company’s Manhattan showroom on Thursday. “I climbed in my 20s, but nothing like this. But at age 48, I’m going to be the guy to do it.”
He spent three years developing and testing a special Under Armour climbing outfit he will use during the expedition. It features baselayer, midlayer and outerwear created to withstand the most extreme climates and temperatures, and includes the brand’s ColdGear Infrared and UA Storm technologies that will keep the team warm and dry without adding bulk. The outerwear also utilizes a one-handed zipper technology called UA MagZip.
“The company gave me a really wide berth and said whatever you need, design and build it,” he said. “There were no real parameters, which was very freeing.”
The key piece is a suit emblazoned with a “dazzle” camouflage print that was developed for the British Navy during World War I, topped off with a fur-trimmed hood. “They haven’t seen that before in the Himalayas,” he said with a laugh. Although his gear is a one-off, Under Armour hopes to take lessons from the performance of the apparel — particularly outerwear — that it can use in commercial applications. And for true climbing enthusiasts, six climbing suits will be available for sale on the Under Armour Web site this fall.
“We leave Wednesday and we’ll start with Everest, then Lhotse and then Makalu,” he said. Cienski said he will spend the month of April acclimating before seeking to summit all three mountains in May. Then in October, the team will take on Manaslu, Cho Oyu and Shishapangma, the world’s 8th, 6th, and 14th highest peaks, respectively. “Typically, you spend two months on one mountain, but we don’t have that luxury of time.”
Cienski said his record-breaking attempt is intended to increase awareness of human trafficking. He’s also the founder of Mission 14, a nonprofit group that works to rehabilitate survivors, intervene on behalf of victims, create legislation, and educate the public about this issue.
“I don’t need to do this,” he said. “I have a great job and a great wife, but I need to tell the story of the second-largest criminal industry in the world.”
Cienski will be equipped with a GPS beacon so people can follow his journey on both the Mission 14, 6 Summits Challenge and Under Armour Web sites.