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The Epic Tail of Sir Norbert

5.10+, Trad, 1500 ft (455 m), 10 pitches, Grade IV,  Avg: 3.8 from 5 votes
FA: unknown
Washington > Northwest Region > Darrington > Squire Creek Walls > Illusion Wall


A new and improved route goes down on the Illusion Wall in Squire Creek in Darrington!! We say new and improved, because Darrington is known for its heady, long, run-out slab routes, and this, my friends, is quite the contrary! Long, heady… a bit, but it takes gear, and lot of it! It follows the prow of the illusion wall up discontinuous cracks, and knobby slabs all the way to the highpoint of the wall. This route is not a first ascent, but rather a cleaner line than one might find in a modern Darrington route, and one that brings many different lines together. I’d like to give a shout out to Zippy, the godfather of this valley. He has climbed all over the walls of this valley, hundreds of times and has many an epic story of his own. You may see some his old bolts as you discover your own epic tail.

This route sits about 30ft right of Schizoprenic.

Pitch 1: 35m 5.9: This pitch starts out in a dirty crack system on the first of two starting ledges on northern tier of the Illusion Wall and trends right to a thin seam protected by two bolts and up to the anchors. Belay to the left of a large tree. Gear to 2”
Pitch 2: 60 m 5.8: This is the least impressive pitch on the route. Follow the discontinuous cracks up towards a bushy ledge. Move right to gain the ledge. Continue between the two trees find the bolted anchors. Gear to 4”
Pitch 3: 50m 5.9+: This is where the climbing gets good!! Follow discontinuous cracks, trending right, to a short squeeze chimney, yes a squeeze chimney in Darrington! Belay from the ledge above. Gear to 4” Optional #5
Pitch 4: 45m 5.10: (The knobby pitch): Start from the ledge and climb straight up, past 2 bolts to a lie back finger crack. Continue right, through a few cracks to a ledge. Follow the knobby face left, passing 6 bolts, to a set of anchors. Gear to 1”
Pitch 5: 35m 5.10-: From the anchors climb knobby terrain past 3 bolts, (one with a wire loop as a hanger) to a gorgeous crack that goes from fingers, to hands, to fists, oh my! Gear to 3.5”.
Pitch 6: 40m 5.10+: (The fingers pitch): This is the first crux pitch of the route and absolutely amazing!! Move up through several crack systems, stepping left below the bush. Follow a knobby face up past 1 bolt, past an old set of anchors and into the finger crack above. Follow that up to a large bush then test your ape index as you move right, towards the anchors. Lots of small gear! Gear to 2”.
Pitch 7: 20m 5.10+: Crux pitch number 2. Move up through the small seam past one bolt to a bush. When you see a large knob sticking out of the wall, move left onto the other side of the face to find a left facing corner crack. Climb up and back right again when the crack closes up. Climb left to the belay in a small alcove.
Pitch 8: 30m 5.10: This pitch moves up through and thin roof, past an old bolt and some brake down, trending right to a small ledge, just below an old snag.
Pitch 9: 30m 5.10-: Climb up to the snag and from there, traverse left onto the tower. Move left into a crack system in the middle of the tower and follow that up to an amazing ledge.
Pitch 10: 40m 5.9: Follow a finger crack to right, then move right into a sausage finger crack above. Follow discontinuous cracks, past a snag, to the summit!

Update: All hangers have been updated to stainless steel - June 2019. 


This route can be found on the Illusion Wall in Squire Creek.

Approach: Blake Herrington does a great job explaining the approach in his book “Cascades Rock”. Here is an excerpt from his book: Drive I-5 north from Seattle to exit 208 and follow Highway 530 N. East for 32 miles to the small town of Darrington. Turn right on Commercial Avenue and drive for a few blocks to the south end of town. Take a right on Darrington Street which runs east to west through the southern end of Darrington. Follow that road, staying left at the Y in the road. The road will turn to dirt and you’ll encounter several switchbacks along the way. Follow the road until it ends in a small parking area. Approximate travel time from Highway 530 is 15 minutes.
From the parking lot walk about 45 minutes on an old decommissioned Forest Road, crossing three major river drainages. After the third major drainage, follow the climbers trail downhill to the right, being sure to stay to the left of the creek bed. Eventually, you'll reach Squire Creek. Approximate travel time from Forest Road is 10 minutes. Cross the large log across the creek and head upstream about 300 feet. There are you encounter a rocky creek bed on the right. Follow this creek bed for about ¼ of a mile where you will find a climbers trail on the right-hand side just past the large tree. It is about 5-7 minutes from Squire Creek. Follow this trail uphill for about 30-45 mins to reach a small bivy spot at the beginning of the 3rd/4th class section. This place is known as “Big Tree”. Continue up the exposed 4th class slab, and exit at a small lip where there is a bolt and a fixed line. From there follow the path of least resistance up a drainage, trending left along the base of the wall. You will pass several fixed lines as you make your way to the base of Illusion Wall. When you reach the base of the wall, Sir Norbert’s route will be the first route on the right. The base of Illusion wall has two platforms. The southern platform is home a bivy spot that can hold up to 6 people. Please note, however that the nearest water is Squire Creek. Approximate travel time from the lower slabs, 45 minutes. In total, the approach generally takes 2–3 hours.

Descent: Rappel the route. All pitches are equipped with rappel rings except for Pitch 6 and pitch 8.


Standard Rack to 4” doubles .3 – 3” and 1 set of C3’s Optional #5
Double 60m Ropes
Bolted Anchors with Rappel Rings

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

The route's namesake adding his 2 cents.
[Hide Photo] The route's namesake adding his 2 cents.
Passing the old anchors, stoked for the 5.10+ finger crack ahead on pitch 6.
[Hide Photo] Passing the old anchors, stoked for the 5.10+ finger crack ahead on pitch 6.
Last year there were fires in the valley.  Just another part of the epic tail!  This is the view from the top of pitch 7.
[Hide Photo] Last year there were fires in the valley. Just another part of the epic tail! This is the view from the top of pitch 7.
Alan doing work!
[Hide Photo] Alan doing work!
Delicious knobby climbing on Pitch 4.
[Hide Photo] Delicious knobby climbing on Pitch 4.
The day we finally completed the route it started to rain/snow at the top of pitch 7.  We weren't sure how to feel so we got stoked and pushed on!
[Hide Photo] The day we finally completed the route it started to rain/snow at the top of pitch 7. We weren't sure how to feel so we got stoked and pushed on!
Matt pondering if he brought the right shoes.
[Hide Photo] Matt pondering if he brought the right shoes.
Looking down the long right trending crack of pitch 5. Finishes with a nice hand size.
[Hide Photo] Looking down the long right trending crack of pitch 5. Finishes with a nice hand size.
Awesome knob climbing to finish up pitch 4
[Hide Photo] Awesome knob climbing to finish up pitch 4
Packard making his way through the squeeze chimney.
[Hide Photo] Packard making his way through the squeeze chimney.
The bivy spot
[Hide Photo] The bivy spot
Looking up at Chris in the squeeze chimney from the bottom of pitch 3, the whole route laid out above.
[Hide Photo] Looking up at Chris in the squeeze chimney from the bottom of pitch 3, the whole route laid out above.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Jon Nelson
Redmond, WA
[Hide Comment] Looks fantastic. Thanks for the full description.

On P7, what is "the baby head"? Aug 16, 2016
Chris Hagen
Seattle, WA
[Hide Comment] The baby head is a knob of rock that has a striking resemblance to a baby's head, in size and in shape. It's important to note it as there is a large bush directly above it that could provide much more additional challenge than simply going left. :) Aug 17, 2016
Jon Nelson
Redmond, WA
[Hide Comment] This route keeps getting more and more interesting.

Thanks- Aug 17, 2016
Andrew Davidson
Everett, WA
[Hide Comment] This route has some fun pitches, I really enjoyed 3 thru 7. Good solid climbing. Though I never did see the baby head on pitch 7. As for pitch 8, the "brake down" is about 35' of 5.7 over hollow sounding rock with not very good pro, wasn't a huge fan. The last two pitches are ok, they would feel a lot better if they weren't dirty.
I noticed that all the rappel stations, the hangers and rings all had a yellowish hue. My only thought is that it is the zinc-chromate coating coming off. If that is the case, means a bad combo for the stainless bolts holding them. There are new SS bolt/hangers on route, nice, but quite a few are still the 20+ year old bolts Zippy put in. Would of been nice to see them replaced with new SS. With that said, I say the route is 2 star in its current state. But with a little cleaning/trundling and hardware updating. It could be another 4 stars route. Aug 30, 2016
Shaun Johnson
Leavenworth, WA
[Hide Comment] Adding another shout out to ZIPPY!

That dude is one of a kind. Sep 5, 2016
Jeremy Luscher
Seattle, WA
[Hide Comment] All rap anchor hangers have been replaced with stainless steel hangers. The bolts underneath show no sign of corrosion. The loose stuff on pitch 8 wiggles but isn’t going anywhere. All protection bolts are solid. Even the older ones have very solid, un-corroded bolts underneath. I checked. Go out and enjoy! Jun 5, 2019
J Wilson
[Hide Comment] Climbed in early June and had a terrific time. Great route with varied climbing. Squeeze Chimney, Crack, and face nubbins, all pretty sustained.

Except for the last pitch (which is lichen-y) it's pretty clean and well protected. I recall one or two instances where the bolt was a little further than I'd like, but never at cruxes. Go get on it!

3.5 stars Jul 19, 2019
Reebz Harris
[Hide Comment] Epic tail indeed. We linked pitches 1&2, 6&7 with a 70m. P7 was our crux, the reference a large knob confused us and we never really traversed. The squeeze chimney (P3) is very secure and short - there's nice placements at the bottom (4") and before exiting (.75), so the 5" was unnecessary. Our ideal rack: doubles .3-2, 1x3, 1x4, a set of nuts, bunch o'draws. Aug 3, 2020
[Hide Comment] "one of a kind" , eh? ?? just want to say, Others and i have done 2 routes just to the right of this (used to be called BAD SIGN, short for the original route "looks like a bad sign", which this follows all for about 30 or so feet) AND 3 routes to the left ... all before 2003, the year of the great change to the squire creek walls ..... AND I MEAN..... HUGE! Had a lot of fun watching chris and company OVER THE YEARS, hang from ropes working their way DOWN, and drill new holes where we went UP, w/o bolts, first time thru ... WAS LOT OF 80+ FT runouts that got me and others, taking a lot of time, cause many times, would be on just a knife blade, or some small nuts .... yea, big young nuts. THIS WAS a route we wanted that we could do w/o climbing with a lot of gear, (as we usually did, cause we had no idea what was above first time thru) so we eventually "bolted it up" over the early 90,s so we could take just draws and a superlight rack.... Things were different in my 30,s ...Im now pushing 70 trips around our star .... i am slowly telling stories about my climbing and ADVENTURES here on my you tube channel ... search for "SCWall stories by Zip". Can also see how much has changed over time on squire as i sometimes use a old photo for the thumb nail .... will start doing "slide shows" again when there are less projects todo b4 i die, on my channel too ... yea, cameras were big and heavy in the old school days... KIDS... its all about ...time. Oct 30, 2020
[Hide Comment] oh yea, ... GODFATHER??? ME? That would be the true mountain man, Harold Engles he spent a lt of time in this valley, doing a lot of climbing and exploring ... the first accent (bottom to top) would be Ken Strong and i, (a super hot day we will never forget 95? ) altho many others worked on this route as we explored all around it in the 4 + years we explored this area of Illusion wall. That would be Mike Rose, and Dennis ?, and Walter Britschgi (2 finger1arm 5 pull ups) from Switzerland. On the top of the 4th pitch, (our 4th) is where i said to Ken as i belayed him up to a sweet ledge after i got 3 really solid pins in ... "look at this KEN, (looking down) THIS WALL IS AN ILLUSION! and so Illusion wall was named.... Latter, both Ken and i had serious close calls of death when we both (different years) rapped off the end of the rope on this route, within 20ft of the same spot, totally different reasons. Oct 30, 2020
Jon Nelson
Redmond, WA
[Hide Comment] Nice to hear these tales, Zip. The things done long ago were serious adventures. Oct 30, 2020