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Wayne Morris with his arms outstretched on a mountain peak [Swiss Epic]

Seven Summits to Swiss Epic

By Epic Series, 02/11/20, 8:30AM HST


While most Swiss Epic riders are adventurers at heart, Wayne Morris is on a different level. He is an adventurer; heart, body and soul. After completing the Seven Summits, he is turning his attention to the Swiss Epic.

Wayne Morris posing ontop of a peak

While most Swiss Epic riders are adventurers at heart, Wayne Morris is on a different level. He is an adventurer; heart, body and soul. After completing the Seven Summits, he is turning his attention to the Swiss Epic.

Wayne Morris is an adventurer. A nomad. A traveller who completed a 20-year quest to conquer the Seven Summits, the highest peak on each continent. With Mount Everest finally ticked from his bucket list and an Absa Cape Epic finish to his name, the mountains were calling again. So, Morris entered the 2020 Swiss Epic…

For many, the high alpine passes, over saddles and ridgelines of the Graubünden canton, make the Swiss Epic a strenuous test of lung and leg power. Ascending to nearly 2 000 metres above sea level for five consecutive days is undoubtedly challenging. Though perhaps less so if you have summited 16 of Colorado’s 53 peaks, each over 14 000 feet in elevation. That is, after all, over double the height of the elevation of the Swiss Epic’s highest pass.

Returning to his Seven Summits adventure, Morris explained how his fascination with high mountains begun. “My desire to be one of the very few that claim to have stood on the highest summits of each of the seven continents began after heading to Africa to climb Kilimanjaro in support of an English children’s hospice” Morris recounted. “A few years later, in 2001, I summited Elbrus, the highest in Europe’s Caucasus mountains. From then on, with the camaraderie of my two climbing buddies from the US, I made it up, over the top and down the other side of Aconcagua, the highest in South America, and Denali, in North America. Denali in Alaska was an extremely tough traverse.”

“A quick ascent of Kosciuszko in the white mountains of Australia took me to the top of summit number five. But there is some contention of whether to count Kosciuszko or Puncak Jaya as Australasia’s highest point” he elaborated. “So, an amazing adventure into Indonesian Papua, or Irian Jaya, followed. The goal was to climb Carstensz Pyramid, or Puncak Jaya as it is also known. Doing so ensured I had the fifth peak ticked off, regardless of whether you consider the Seven Summits to only include mainland Australia or Australia and its proximate islands.”

“In 2005, a dream shot at Everest, with our Aconcagua guide Mike Hamill and International Mountain Guides, came about. Although I only made it above the Balcony as far as 8 500 metres (28 000 feet), it was still a life-changing experience” Morris reflected. “Fortunately, in December 2017, the opportunity to climb number six, Mount Vinson in Antarctica, arose and instantly made Everest beckon once more. In April 2019, with spousal consent given, I finally headed back to Nepal to finish what I’d started fourteen years earlier. Only on this occasion, the Everest and Seven Summits dream was accomplished.”

A close up of Morris wearing his oxygen mask in high altitudes

Along the way, Morris had several incredible adventures, as you may well guess. “As far as outright adventure goes, it has to be Carstensz Pyramid, in Irian Jaya, was incredible” he remembered fondly. “Leaving from Fort Lauderdale, in Florida, I took ten flights and a helicopter to finally make it to basecamp! Being told that if the local Dani tribesman, who had fallen sick with an old arrow wound, died whilst supporting our small expedition then we would all die, was harrowing. As our Indonesian guide told us this, he simulated our throats being cut. We were a long way from civilization! Also, whilst not a fun story but a consequence of mountaineering – due to errors on my behalf I recently lost half of my left big toe and the end of my left little finger to frostbite.”

For Morris the Swiss Epic is his next bucket list adventure, ticking it off from a list which already has ‘See the Aurora Borealis’, ‘Complete an IRONMAN’, ‘Hike the Inca trail to Macchu Picchu’ and ‘Spend Hogmanay in Edinburgh’ marked off. “I had recently arrived back from Everest and a fellow British friend, who had just started mountain biking, mentioned doing a race somewhere overseas,” he said. “We both live in the US but are from England originally, so we had a big choice of where to go. But as I had such a blast at the Absa Cape Epic a couple of years ago, I just had to say yes to the choice of the Swiss Epic. It’s always nice to have a reason to train and a goal to look forward to.”

As most of his adventures were as part of an expedition, Morris values the team dynamic of the Swiss Epic. “Having a riding partner is great for camaraderie” he stated”. “A partner can encourage and be someone to share the good and bad moments with over a cold beer at the end of the day!”

Despite the scale of his previous adventures, he is a little nervous for the Swiss Epic. “Five days of riding is still going to hurt” Morris confessed. “I never had to go five back-to-back days on Everest. Also climbing mountains is a slow process compared to all-out racing, which has the heart pounding for hours on end.”

Fortunately, though, riding mountain bikes is one of his favourite leisure activities. Living in Colorado, currently, also provides Morris with the perfect Swiss Epic preparation, in terms of terrain and altitude. “Pretty much my favourite things to do, often dependant on what I may have coming up in the future, are to grab the bike and go for a good ride or hike in the hills with my wife,” he said. “As soon as weather permits and due to the recent purchase of a full-suspension mountain bike, which replaced an older hardtail, I’m itching to hit big grinding ascents and fun singletracks.”

With the Swiss Epic rapidly approaching, Morris’s mind has already begun to fill with dreams of future adventures. Which, it turns out, includes becoming an Epic Legend by taking part in the third Legend race in the Epic Series. “I knocked off Absa Cape Epic back in 2018 and definitely aim to do The Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri Grain in New Zealand. As my mum and sister live on the North Island” he stated. “There are plenty of 100 milers and stage races that appeal to me too, so there is no shortage of events I’d love to complete. Regarding mountaineering, I knocked off Vinson Massif in 2017 but would love to head back to Antarctica to climb something undiscovered. My wife and I will be moving to Chamonix in France, in February 2020, so plan on bagging Mt Blanc, the Matterhorn and possibly the Eiger. I’d love to have a crack at Ama Dablam or another 8 000 metre Himalayan giant too. The Explorers’ Grand Slam has been floating around in my mind since Everest, but the exorbitant costs that go with polar travel could, unfortunately, prevent that dream.”

Making dreams a reality appears to be one of Morris’s main skills. So, it would be foolish betting against him adding reaching the North and South Poles to his impressive list of achievements. In the meantime, though, if you would like to join Wayne Morris at the 2020 Swiss Epic and share in his latest adventure register for Swiss Epic 2020, or follow his nomadic journeys at