Connor Runge talks about taking on one of the toughest sports courses in Canada

On September 8, Connor Runge of Squamish repeated one of the toughest sport courses in Canada – Spirit Quest 5.14d, located on the beautiful Paradise Wall, just outside of Squamish. Spirit Quest is a direct-boot variant of Tom Wright’s masterpiece, Spirit of the West 5.14a. The climbing is physical, technical and relentless, tied directly to the heart of Spirit of the West, with no rest in between. Originally bolted by Wright in 2016, Spirit Quest saw its first ascent by Mike Foley in 2021.

Runge is from 100 Mile House, four and a half hours north of Squamish, an area known for its hunting, fishing and slope-style mountain biking. He has lived in Squamish for three years now and climbs many of the area’s tough sporting classics.

Runge had a great time at Paradise Wall. He sent many classic lines like Queen Bee 5.13c, Spirit of West 5.14a and Killer Queen 5.14b. In July, he made the first ascent of a link originally bolted by Wright. The route connects Spirit of the West to Queen Bee via a difficult and runaway rock problem. Runge named the line Specter del Norte and gave it a grade of 5.14c.

To learn more about his Spirit Quest submission – his toughest route yet – I reached out to Runge with a few questions, which you can read below.

Runge on Spirit Quest 5.14d. photo by Sam Pratt.

When did you first try Spirit Quest? I first tried the route in July – not sure the exact day. It shares the top half of Spirit of the West and ends at the same anchor point, so I had tried this piece before.

After dispatching Specter del Norte, was Spirit Quest your next big goal? Kind of! My main goal was to pass Spirit Quest this season. I was excited about how things were going on this wall this year and just wanted to start getting comfortable with next season’s moves. I didn’t expect to achieve it this season!

How would you describe climbing on Spirit Quest? Knickerbockers! The hardest set of moves (for me) is after intro 5.12, climbing. Afterwards it’s a lot of block problems with poor rest, with a deep construction pump. It’s so intense and so much fun!

After you dispatched Specter del Norte, you said you were taking August for training. Did you end up doing this? I had planned to train all of August, but then I was so excited about Spirit Quest that I just didn’t want to stop coming! The weather wasn’t great, but it wasn’t obnoxious either, so I kept cracking on.

Is there anything else you want to try at Paradise? Wild new links? Or are other crags/climbs in Squamish calling to you? There are a bunch of links at the Paradise Wall that really excite me. Tom Wright has done an excellent job preparing this wall for existing routes and future connections. Unfortunately, my season is coming to an end, but luckily I’m going on a trip. I can’t wait to come back in the spring and start trying them! As for the other cliffs, I bolted a link-up on the Cacodemon that I would love to try next spring – Squamish has so many!

Featured photo by Sam Pratt. You can find Pratt’s Instagram here and website here.

Alec Dittman

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