Interview: Kurt Morrison of SummitsTV
Mountain Obsession is excited to present an interview with Kurt Morrison of SummitsTV, which is a forthcoming TV series combining families living with physical impairments and mountains. It is a very unique idea and the Global Mountain Tribe is excited to see it succeed. Thanks to Kurt for taking the time to speak with us! Enjoy and spread the word.
Please provide a brief look into to what SummitsTV is all about.
SummitsTV is a reality docu-series that shares the unique stories of families living with a physical impairment. Each episode will feature one family member sharing how their lives were forever changed and what they’ve learned from the experience. But to make things interesting, they will be sharing this story while summiting a remote mountain. The physical challenge, mental exhaustion, adverse weather, fear and thin, high altitude mountain air will give them a sense of the physical hardship faced by their family member and hopefully provide a new found sense of empathy.
Kurt, kindly give the Global Mountain Tribe your sixty second background story.
I’m an adventurer, alpinist, stuntman and creator of SummitsTV. Recently, I left my established career in finance to pursue my dream of climbing mountains and telling powerful stories. This has since developed into a television show where my team and I hope to inspire everyone to live adventurous lives.
What was the defining moment when you decided to quit the corporate world and pursue your passion?
I’ve always been adventurous, but also recklessly indifferent to my self-preservation. In 2012, after a year of sanctioned boxing, arena football, motorcycle crashes, Pamplona bull-running, strongman competitions and the World’s Toughest Mudder I was forced to undergo a series of invasive surgeries to repair my injuries. During my recovery, I had a lot of time to reflect on my career direction and internal motivations and I thought of the physical attributes that had been stripped from me. The skills and abilities I’d always taken for granted were now all I could think about. This gave me a new found understanding of the daily struggles faced by my own sister living with mobility constraints and I decided to devote my time to providing children with physical impairments adventure opportunities. Thus, the idea for SummitsTV was born. I walked (read: limped with a knee brace) into my boss’ office and resigned. Two days later, I flew to Africa to climb my first big mountain.
What was the major emotion you had to deal with when contemplating a huge change?
Fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of imminent dangers. Fear of missing out. Fear of disappointing your family. Fear of disappointing yourself. Fear of regret. I’m sure it’s perfectly normal to feel this way, but knowing that didn’t make it any easier. Facing these fears head on was one of the most liberating experiences of my life.
What was the biggest obstacle you overcame to go all in with the outdoors?
I think the biggest obstacle comes from the first setback. Once the initial thrill of embarking on a new quest wears off it’s easy to see small problems as insurmountable obstacles. Two months into my journey, my car was sideswiped by a transport in Utah who fled the scene. I was fine, but left stranded with all my worldly possessions 3000km from home. It nearly broke me and I seriously contemplated quitting. Fortunately, I had amazing support from my friends and family who reminded me why I was doing this in the first place and gave me the courage to continue.
Describe your thought process when it comes to money – we all know this is a huge factor when it comes to leaving the corporate world.
Of course finances ares a huge concern when you make the decision to leave the corporate world. I left a well-paying, respectable position with upward potential for a life of uncertainty and at times, financial insecurity. However, time is a finite resource. We only own our time until we sell it to some. Right now, I’m not willing to trade my most able bodied years for the potential of eventual freedom.
It’s amazing how little you really do need to be happy when you build the kind of life you want. Working in finance I would save my money and bank my vacation days to travel somewhere remote, try to jam as much adventure as I could in a compressed window and then return to my computer and spreadsheets longing wistfully for the trip months away. Now I have relocated my life near my passions and I climb a mountain every week for about twenty bucks in gas! As my priorities in life evolve, undoubtedly so to will my desires for security. However, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a viable reason for me to reenter the Deferred Life Plan stream.
Who are your biggest inspirations and why?
That’s easy – my mother. It was her who instilled my sense of adventure and zest for life. She’s always fought fiercely to ensure her children had the best opportunities life could offer and for that, I’m forever grateful. Watching her bravery in the face of adversity while raising my sisters and I became the inspiration for SummitsTV. Last year, I had the privilege of traveling to Mexico and climbing the 7th tallest mountain in North America (Iztaccihuatl, 5220m) with her while she told her story of raising a child with a physical impairment. This will be the first episode of SummitsTV and I can’t wait to show the world what an incredible woman she is.
Editor Note: GMT, if you weren’t stoked for the first episode before, how can you not be now?!
Can you let us in on any awesome moments that the GMT can look forward to during the forthcoming SummitsTV series?
Every episode of SummitsTV will feature one family and their unique story while summiting an iconic mountain around the world. Viewers can look forward to experiencing the local mountain cultures in some of the most remote and inhospitable places on the planet. They will see the powerful stories of struggle and bravery displayed by these families and hopefully be inspired to get out of their comfort zones. You’ll have to watch for the specifics!
What quotes inspire you and keep you going when the going gets rough.
I spoke to a group of grade 6’s in Kitchener, ON last year and they answered that question for me. In this handwritten book is a number of motivational quotes and illustrations. I always read this before a big climb. See the picture above.
What advice can you offer to someone looking to break the mold and pursue their passion?
The timing will never be perfect. If you have a dream, pursue it! Write up a simple game plan and make your first actionable step towards your goal today. As Mark Twain said, you’ll have more regret from the things you didn’t do than from the things you did.
What is one tribe tip that you can offer to the GMT (secret outdoor trick or tip that makes your exploring easier).
Less is more. This applies not only to the backcountry but to nearly ever facet of your life. Don’t be burdened by stuff and make sure everything you bring has a well defined purpose.
List 3 of the Mountain Obsession Manifesto points that you try to incorporate into your everyday life. Briefly describe how you apply them.
Conquer Fear – Sometimes this is out of necessity, other times actively sought. I believe you don’t really know who you are until you’re pushed just beyond your comfort zone and I try to get myself there as often as possible.
Be Prepared – Preparation is more than gear. Being prepared is having a skillset suitable for any situation you may find yourself in. I try to develop a deep understanding of the potential threats that exist around me and learn a wide assortment of techniques to mitigate these risks.
Be Unique – We only get one shot at this life. Why blend in?
Who would you like to publicly thank for their support over the past years?
I’ve had incredible support from my family and friends through all my endeavors. Rather than thank her for support, I’d like to thank my girlfriend Veronica for her patience. The day after our first date, I drove 26 hours from Toronto to Colorado, climbed a 4,346m mountain, got caught in an ice storm, bivied in a cave and didn’t think I’d make it off the mountain. I even filmed last messages to my parents and was genuinely surprised to make it through to the next morning. I had told Veronica I’d call her before 5pm the next day to let her know I was okay. I limped off the mountain, my toes white and frozen from frostbite, and called her by 4:58pm. I guess that gave her an indication what she was getting herself into.
What is your favourite place on earth to watch the sunset?
My favorite place will always be watching the sunrise over my family’s farm in Sault Ste Marie. However, the coolest sunset I ever saw was on Mont Blanc in Chamonix, France. The clouds dropped a few hundred meters below me and the sunset painted the sky with purples and oranges over the mountain range. Below a thunderstorm raged and I watched from above as lighting crash down on the town four kilometers below.
If it all ended tomorrow, how would the world remember Kurt Morrison?
As someone who did what he loved.
Huge thanks once again to Kurt for taking the time to speaking to the Global Mountain Tribe. We will be posting updates about SummitsTV as they become available, so stay tuned!
All images courtesy of Kurt Morrison
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