"Nothing short of an incredible route, this was my first experience in RR (Red Rock)”. That is the quote from a gentleman who posted the Warrior route on Mountain Project. I can only rationalize his statement due to his lack of experience in the area. Although a pleasurable climb, I found the Warrior by no comparative means as “incredible” when measured against other climbs in the park at that grade level. The prominent dihedral on Cactus Flower Tower does make for some wild physical climbing in an awesome setting, but Red Rock has better (cleaner cracks, sounder rock) 5.11 routes.
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 considerably higher summit. Besides the East Ridge itself (5.8), Cinnamon Hedgehog and the Warrior are the only two published (technical) routes that lead to the summit of Mount Wilson’s sub peak. They meet at about 200’ below the summit. Cactus Flower Tower was not even summited via a rock climb until 1996.
The dihedral the route follows on Cactus Flower Tower is one of the more identifiable climbing features at Red Rock. Cactus Flower Tower’s routes would receive more traffic if not for their relatively long and bushy approaches by Red Rock standards. Although I personally found the approach to the Warrior rather domestic (1:30 hrs for us, but 2:15 via Handren’s guide book), the rap descent of the route takes a good bit of time. The Oak Creek Canyon exit from the summit of Cactus Flower Tower (two single rope raps, see my Cinnamon Hedgehog route page) took me only two hours to return back to the Oak Creek Trailhead. The rap descent of the Warrior took well over three hours, partly because you need to make several additional raps to quickly get down much of the 5th class you soled on ascent. Despite taking more time, I still recommend rapping the route due to the fact that there is so much chimneying involved, packs and/or a haul bag would definitely get in the way of a better climbing experience. We made a 12 hour day, car to car, climbing the Warrior with a few casual breaks.
The Warrior sets up nice in terms of getting warmed up for the crux sections. The first pitch is a long 5.9 fun chimney, of the Epinephrine variety except a bit stouter with less pro. I don’t consider this first pitch run out much despite some opinions to the contrary. With the help of a chock stone or two, there was pro when I wanted it. Towards the top of the chimney, move out left to the outside wall at an obvious small foot ledge with a fixed anchor. The second pitch starts out a bit stout for the stated grade of 5.10-, but soon gives way to easier hand crack climbing. Follow it to the start of the main dihedral and a gear belay. The third pitch was the crux pitch for us (5.10d). It was considerably more sustained than the 5.11a fifth pitch. At C4 #3 size, this flaring chimney/crack will test the skills of many depending on their hand and body configuration. Sustained climbing in the crack with some technical stemming/chimneying will land you at a fixed belay out on the right wall. The fourth pitch is much easier and will lead you into the chimney up a large (2011) eagle nesting area and back out to a fixed belay on the right wall again. The fifth pitch involves the crux move of the climb. After pulling a roof above, it gets thin and blank at the same time and the best pro opportunity takes away a great finger pocket. After this short crux, you start facing climbing up and right. Find two bolts as you continue to angle up and right through the moss covered wall aiming for a white roof above. Pull the roof on big jugs to a fixed belay. The sixth pitch is labeled a “worrying”, “bold” and “run out” lead in both Handren’s guide book and Mountain Project, but we found the rock quite solid with atypical Red Rock face seams for protection. I have seen this kind of partially varnished 5.9 pitch many times in Red Rock, on much lesser rock with poorer pro and not labeled run out or “worrying”. The rock does deteriorate on the last pitch a bit where I did break a foothold, but the climbing is easy for the grade (5.8).
A lot is made of the approach (by other internet trip reports and the guidebook), but I find 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 at times, always staying left when in question. 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. Head right 15 meters and start climbing at the furthest right chimney.
1st Pitch- 160’- 5.9/ This first pitch is comprised of a fun chimney to get you warmed up. Another internet posting referenced this chimney as run out, but I felt the gear was there when you really wanted it, along with two chock stones (2011). However, it is definitely more technical and run out than Epinephrine’s 5.9 chimney pitches. You will end up flipping back and forth depending on which wall is more featured. I found a .5 C4 placement on the right wall, otherwise I used two chock stones and 3” and up gear for pro. I used double length slings on just about everything to avoid rope drag. Towards the top, pull out left to the outside wall of the chimney for a fixed belay at an obvious small foot ledge.
2nd Pitch- 100’- 5.10b/ Although this pitch starts out stiff for the grade, it eases up to be one of the shorter and easier pitches of the day. Move back right into the corner. Place intricate small gear to protect a blank stem move or two before more positive holds and a decent crack open up to pleasant climbing up and over a large block. Continue to the base of the main dihedral and chimney up a bit to a nice sit down gear belay (the fixed rap belay is located just up and right on the wall).
3rd Pitch- 120’- 5.10d/ We found this pitch to be the true crux of the route. It is much more sustained and physical than the 5.11 pitch above. Layback, jam and/or chimney up the flaring dihedral. The crack is in the C4 #3 range. We took four of that size and found that adequate although Handren’s guide references you could take more. We placed several larger and small pieces as well. The large hand size is going to be awkward for many and I found it easier to actually chimney much of the pitch, back against the dihedral, although it was quite strenuous with little to no features on either wall. In any regard, this pitch is the main reason that makes rapping the route versus carrying packs for the quicker canyon descent, more attractive. The climbing is tight any way you approach it. Locate a fixed station out right on the main wall.
4th Pitch- 170’- 5.10b/ This pitch is the easiest pitch up the dihedral. Continue up the crack until you have the option of entering the cave portion of the dihedral or staying out right for some off width. We took the cave option and ended up climbing through a three tiered eagles nest complete with tons of nest debris, feces, urine and remains of dead animals. Of course in October the nest was not active in any way. Once again the fixed belay is up and right after you exit the cave area.
5th Pitch- 170’- 5.11a/ This pitch includes the crux move of the route. Continue up the crack and pull a small roof out right. Plenty of features in the crack and on the wall make this easier than it looks from below. Continue up the crack which turns to finger pockets. Try to avoid using a key finger pocket for a gear placement and make a tough overhanging corner move via technical stemming to gain easier ground. Immediately start to traverse up and right on a moss covered wall. The climbing should never be more difficult than 5.9 on the face, but it is quite run out through two hard to see bolts that slightly angle right as you aim for an obvious break in the white roof above. Pull the airy roof on huge jugs to a fixed belay immediately above.
6th Pitch- 180’- 5.9R/ Handren’s guide and Mountain Project has this pitch labeled as a bold and run out lead for the grade on suspect rock. We did not see it that way. The 5.9 portion on the previous pitch below the roof was quite a bit more run out on less quality rock. I felt the rock on this pitch was actually quite good by Red Rock standards. The pro was a bit spaced out, but was provided for by several small seams through quite positive edges and holds. Move right and follow the rock up and through an intermediate station about 30’ above that is not needed on the climb nor rap (with double 60m ropes). Continue following the seam above moving left and/or right after it expires into other seams. We moved right and finished traversing back left. The fixed belay is pretty much straight above that intermediate station, so whichever direction you decide to take, angle back towards that direction.
7th Pitch- 150’- 5.8/ The rock quality did start to deteriorate on this final pitch, which is typical for Red Rock peaks. For the most part, climb straight up through horizontal breaks. Many of the better gear placements are in varnished horizontal slots. The final portion of this pitch gets a bit more vertical requiring you to weight the holds and I did break a foot edge during this last section, thus tread lightly. Straight up the wall leads to a fixed belay next to a dead tree (2011). It is at this juncture that the Warrior connects into the top of Cinnamon Hedgehog. 5th class up and left in a gully past a huge tree leads to the summit.
You can rap the route with double 60m ropes or choose to do the Oak Creek Canyon descent by heading to the summit and making two single 70m rope raps on an otherwise walk off descent route. You can find my directions for the canyon descent on the Cinnamon Hedgehog route description. If rapping the Warrior route (my recommendation), take care on the first two heavily featured raps and the final chimney rap which has rope eating chock stones.
I advise double 60m ropes so you can climb the long dihedral without a haul or packs. Bring mostly slings. I doubled up on slings on several occasions to avoid rope drag with a single lead rope and tag line. Handren’s guide discusses single rack to 8” with up to six C4 #3’s. However, we were more than comfortable with a single rack from C3’s to C4 #6; three extra #3’s; one extra #2; full set of off-set wires for the 5th and 6th pitches. We used the #6 on several occasions. We left the #5 and #6 behind after the third pitch as well as two of our four #3’s after the 4th pitch. Handren’s guide also mentions knee pads, however my knees never got a scratch without any. This route gets 100% shade in October. I advise hauling a puffy in the spring or fall.