Illusion Crags, 5.4-5.11b

Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 36.00814°N / 115.4676°W
Activities Activities: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
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Illusion Crags

Illusion Crags has established routes dating back to Joe and Betsy Herbst in 1973, ancient by Red Rock standards. However, few folks ever climb at Illusion Crags today. Illusion is a collection of single pitch trad routes, located at what Handren has labeled as the “southern outcrops” off of Highway 160, on fairly decent east and north facing rock. The longer approach and lack of bolts to clip discourages the typical Red Rock tourist climbers. I was quite surprised with the quality of the sampling of moderates I got on my first day climbing at Illusion Crags. Although the better routes face north, I climbed at Illusion in November and was plenty comfortable.
Houdini- 90’- 5.8Houdini- 90’- 5.8

Skinny Mini (5.9) and Sweet Little Whore (5.9) anchor a north facing varnished section of 100’+ crack routes of good quality ranging anywhere from 5.8-5.11. The warmest section of Illusion faces directly east and starts off with a solid 100’+ corner/roof climb, Arm Forces (5.9). The remaining east facing climbs drop off to a much lower grade however. So the real destination at Illusion should be the last section you come to, a vast 150’ wall (in height) of varnished cracks that include the before mentioned routes.

From Highway 160 as though you are headed to Pahrump, pass the Black Velvet Canyon turn off (paved parking area) as well as the next dirt road/cattle guard entrance from the highway (Windy Peak approach) and continue to the next right entrance/cattle guard off the main highway. Turn right onto this road and take another right at a fork which will eventually circle back to the Windy Peak road. Pull out at a small left hand pullout without a lot of fan fare, but definitely off the dirt road. There were not a lot of cairns pointing the way, but there is a faint trail that eventually switchbacks up the sandy eastern slope to the base of Illusion Crags. Arm Forces is an obvious line to the left which is a deep corner with a varnished roof problem about ¾ of the way up the 100’ route.

Route Description(s)

Illusion Crags
Arm Forces- 120’- 5.9
Sweet Little Whore- 130’- 5.9
Sweet Little Whore- 130’- 5.9

Routes are Listed Left to Right as you Face the Wall(s)

    East Facing Wall
  • French Bulges- 70’- 5.7/

  • Arm Forces- 120’- 5.9/
  • Not near as good as Skinny Mini, but worth doing as a good warm up before heading to the much better routes (and rock) on the north side. The roof pull is exciting, a wide hand jam is required up above to get it clean. This route is taller than what Handren has it, but you can still rap with a 70m rope. Dow
  • Mirage- 140’- 5.7/

  • Coroner’s Inquest- 140’- 5.7/

  • Morph Out- 75’- 5.7/

  • Chameleon Pinnacle- 75’- 5.4/

  • Changeling- 75’- 5.6/

  • North Facing Wall
  • Smoke and Mirrors- 90’- 5.9R/

  • David Copperhead- 90’- 5.8+/

  • Houdini- 90’- 5.8/
  • This is a fun 5.8 not to be missed. Wide, but I felt quite comfortable with gear no larger than 4” even though Handren's books calls for cams to 8” (meaning big bros). Dow
  • First Lady of Magic- 140’- 5.9/

  • Deez Guys- 180’- 5.8+/

  • Con Jurors- 120’- 5.7/

  • Sore Sirs- 120’- 5.8/

  • North Facing Buttress
  • Lady in Question- 150’- 5.11b/

  • Hanging Tough- 150’- 5.8/

  • Spell Me- 80’- 5.11b/

  • Illusions of Grandstaff- 80’- 5.11b/

  • Petite Deceit- 80’- 5.8/

  • Shell Game- 140’- 5.9/

  • Sweet Little Whore- 130’- 5.9/
  • This is a great route, 2nd in quality only to Skinny Mini for a moderate lead at this crag. It runs up to underneath the left most roof, then traverses out right via an exposed, but well protected move or two to pull the right side of the roof and up into a fun crack. Follow the crack and eventually traverse right on easy ground to the same fixed rap anchor used to rap Skinny Mini and False Perception. Use double length slings for the roof pro to avoid rope drag. Dow

  • Skinny Mini- 120’- 5.9/
  • This is one of the best 5.9 single pitch trad leads in all of Red Rock. The varnished wall offers exceptional rock and the climbing is quite diverse on this pitch. It starts out in a thin seam (crux), think first pitch (5.10a) of Wholesome Fullback, that protects with C3’s and wires. Then traverse left to follow a beautiful hand crack that begins to widen before the top of the wall. Stop short and traverse right a few meters to the fixed rappel for False Perception. If rappelling with a 70m rope, you will be required to down climb to climbers right for a few meters after coming off the end of the rope. Dow

  • False Perception- 120’- 5.11a/

  • Further Right
  • Sensual- 40’- 5.7/

  • Sensible- 40’- 5.7/

External Links

  • Great Outdoors Depot

  • Over 300 routes detailed from first hand successful accounts by me or others at Red Rock Canyon. GET OFF THE TOURIST ROUTES and explore!

  • Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, BLM

  • Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association