Z-Wave Climber Describes Surviving Mount Everest Avalanche

Days prior to the deadly Nepal earthquake, Mariusz Malkowski of Sigma Designs remotely demonstrated Z-Wave devices for ISC West attendees while climbing Mount Everest.

Mariusz Malkowski is no stranger to mixing work and dangerous play.

An engineer for Sigma Designs, which owns the intellectual property for the Z-Wave protocol, Malkowski has evangelized about wireless home control technology for years. In 2013, the veteran alpine climber remotely controlled home automation devices from the top of Cho Oyu, the sixth-highest mountain in the world, located on the Tibet-Nepal border.

For this year’s ISC West he aligned with Fibaro to attempt an even grander marketing stunt from Mount Everest, hyped as “Home Automation from the Top of the World.” On April 16, Malkowski demonstrated several Z-Wave-enabled devices – Fibaro sensors, Kwikset and Yale electronic locks, a Vivint GoControl garage door controller, a FortrezZ smart water valve and a Keurig coffeemaker – all from a mobile device while holed up in his base camp tent at 17,290 feet around midnight Nepal time.

“Everything worked really well with the exception that I had to actually press the button twice to make coffee at the very end,” he told me earlier this week from his home in Mendham, N.J. 

Following the ISC West demo, Malkowski’s itinerary called for a day of rest at base camp before continuing his goal to summit the mountain alone and without supplemental oxygen. He climbed to Camp 1, which is at 19,800 feet, and spent the night. The next day he would navigate a particularly treacherous stretch to Camp 2, with tragic history weighing heavy on his mind. A year ago almost to the day, April 18, 2014, an avalanche struck the craggy icefall between Camp 1 and Camp 2, killing 16 Nepalese guides, then the single deadliest incident in the history of Everest.

“It is not the most difficult part of the trip but it is the most dangerous,” he said.

Having made the trek to Camp 2, located at 21,240 feet, he spent the night there before helping a fellow climber get back down to base camp the next day. Traveling back and forth between Everest’s five camps several times to ever-increasing altitudes is necessary for climbers to acclimate to the extreme elevation. Malkowski was elated; physically he felt in fine shape.

“There is regular fatigue but I had no headaches or altitude sickness,” he said. “I was in great spirits. I could get up with no problems and climb to Camp 2 in one day. I decided the body was ready to take more punishment.”

Two more days went by while at base camp as Malkowski made preparations to continue his journey. His best laid plans came to an abrupt end. Just before noon on April 25, Malkowski was in his tent when the 7.8 temblor that struck Nepal and surrounding nations cut loose.

“I heard a rumble and felt the ground shake and said to myself, ‘OK, this is an earthquake.’ I ran out of my tent in a short sleeve shirt and shorts, with no socks, no nothing. I saw the avalanche coming down on me.”

About the Author

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Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for latimes.com. Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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