Cinnamon Hedgehog is a remote route on a remote objective (by Red Rock standard), Cactus Flower Tower, that would be considerably more popular if not for its relatively long approach and descent for Red Rock. Although I personally found the approach and descent rather domestic, two hours each way, others have reported approach and descent times twice that long. Handren’s guide book exclaims “a major undertaking with serious climbing, a long and very involved approach, and an equally long descent.” I am not sure who supplied Handren with that quote, but whoever it was has not spent much time in the alpine environment. The objective of Cactus Flower Tower, which is basically a sub peak of Mount Wilson, is a much more achievable one than Mount Wilson’s much higher summit. We climbed the route and descended the west ridge back to the car in a leisurely ten hours (long summit break). There is no reason to descend Cactus Flower Tower in the dark as some have suggested. We soloed the final two pitches and additional 5th class to the summit, roping up for only four pitches total, albeit long ones.
A more popular route on Cactus Flower Tower is the Warrior, a semi-classic 5.11 that parallels Cinnamon Hedgehog to the north, running along an obvious dihedral on the tower portion. Although Cinnamon Hedgehog is also fairly straight up the tower, its line follows quite a bit of run out face climbing to go along with crack features way out to the left (south) of the Warrior. Besides the East Ridge itself (5.8), these are the only two technical routes established (that I know of) to the summit of Mount Wilson’s sub peak. Cactus Flower Tower was not even summited via a technical climb until 1996. Andrew Fulton claims the FA for Cinnamon Hedgehog.
The first pitch could be considered the spiciest of the route. As is typical of many east facing routes on neighboring Mount Wilson, you start out in a band of white rock (soft) face climbing (5.9) and traversing through a few large huecos and shallow flakes past two spaced out bolts to reach your first crack. Plenty of varnish shows up for the gut of the route: the second half of the first pitch as well as the entire second and third pitches (5.8). The fourth pitch is the steepest and most sustained of the day (5.10a) following real positive edges and pulls through a varnished white band at the top of the tower portion. For pro on this pitch, you will be slinging varnished jugs as well as placing a few wires along with one protection bolt (2011). We put the gear and rope away for the final two pitches (5.6) and ran up to the summit via easy, but a bit chossy, climbing for the final 450’+/-.
A lot is made of the approach (by other internet trip reports and the guidebook), but we found it rather straight forward. From the Oak Creek trail head, head west along the Oak Creek Trail. At the trail gate heading into the canyon (open, no real fencing, just a pole on each side), look to gain an immediate trail on your left. Hike down and up the other side of the wash/creek between the Wilson Pimple and Cactus Flower Tower, crossing a prominent trail that runs north-south. From this point on, you will be off of any distinguishable trail (2011). Continue up the right side of the obvious gully that breaks through the red rock band above. The prominent dihedral that makes up the Warrior route is almost always in sight. Continue up the gully bushwhacking at times, and take the left fork higher up. Scramble up some 5th class terrain, always staying left. Scramble up a short rib that lands you at a bushy steep wall. Turn right and continue up more white ribs. Scramble up several short face and ramp features on your left until you eventually come to a very mossy slab. Scramble up this slab to a tree. Turn left and scramble up a 5th class short arête to the base of a flaring chimney with a heavily pocketed wall out right. We soloed up this chimney (5.7) without removing our packs by simply stemming out right. At the top of the chimney continue up a dirty corner (5.7) to a significant pine tree on a small ledge. Rap the tree back down the other side of the chimney. Walk along the wall a bit and up the next gully. Keep your eye out for two bolts that wander up the large huecos on the right. The start is maybe a five minute bush whack from where you landed from the rap. The bolts lead into an obvious varnished corner above.
Route Description (s)1200’+/-, 6 Pitches+, 5.10a
1st Pitch- 200’- 5.9/ The first 70’ of the first pitch could be spiciest lead of the day. You must navigate suspect white sandstone on a slightly rightward traverse past two bolts until you can reached the heavily varnished crack above. Once in the crack, place gear at will for the remainder of the pitch to a fixed belay (2011).
2nd Pitch- 200’- 5.8/ Continue up the crack until it disappears for a short while. Follow a nicely varnished face out right through two bolts until you can re-enter the crack back left. Follow up your choice of well varnished twin cracks to another fixed belay. Double sling those mid-pitch bolts to avoid rope drag if climbing with one rope.
3rd Pitch- 200’- 5.8/ Continue up the crack for about 40’ (double sling any pro you place in the corner) and then traverse up and right on solid varnished face that follows up the left side of a dirty crack. Stay left of this crack following more solid seams to place pro in. Towards the end, it gets a bit run out but the climbing is easier on better rock up and left away from the crack. The fixed station is difficult to see in the white rock above, but it is just left of the crack on your right. Thus I angled a bit right to finish. This pitch is another rope stretcher, place gear accordingly.
4th Pitch- 150’- 5.10a/ This was a fun pitch. Follow the left trending seam/crack above on positive holds and edges the whole way. At the second bulge, the pitch steepens dead vertical at the lone fixed pro (2011). The climbing is always quite positive as you move left and right to find the larger edges. It is more in the 5.9 realm, but the gear placements consist of slinging varnished features and placing strategic nuts. The climbing definitely warrants more thought than the lower pitches. Towards the end, traverse up and right on better rock versus following the last few meters of the on again, off again, seam. When you reach the top of the tower (large ledge), use C4 #3’s for an anchor or sling a boulder.
5th-6th Pitches- 450’- 5.6/ We soloed the last 450’ or so to the summit of Cactus Flower Tower. Tunnel through the boulder on the left. Turn left (south) and scramble up to a slab. Climb the slab (low 5th) to a heavily varnished one meter wide, but long, ledge. Turn right and step over (not jump over as other beta suggest?) a small void to the other side and a live tree (2011). Follow the ramp up and to the left of the tree for a few meters until you can gain a wide crack on your left. Climb this crack to its top (5.6). Continue scrambling up past a large tree on your left (south). I chose a 5.6 short chimney finish up and left. Scramble on up to the summit just a few meters away.
DescentDescend the west ridge into Oak Creek Canyon. Shortly we came to a cairn (2011) which marked a small tree fixed with a rap down and on our right. With a 70m rope, we by-passed a mid-tree rap and barely made a walk off ledge down and climber’s left. Avoid rapping right if trying to do same. We put away the rope and kept following cairns for some distance. Eventually we came to a significant tree at a drop off with a slung (2011) large boulder behind it. Again, a 70m rope just reached the bottom, climber’s left. If you had a 60m rope, you might want to consider rapping climber’s right. That was it for the rope for us. We continued to follow a well cairned (2011) trail west that eventually backtracked south just a bit to reach Oak Creek Canyon proper as it comes in between Cactus Flower Tower and Mount Wilson, across from Eagle Wall. Follow Oak Creek Canyon back out to the Solar Slab/Oak Creek Trail.
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