FLYING ELVIS (5.12) – Cave Creek, Arkansas
Arkansas is stacked with sandstone and at the center of it all, in the heart of the Ozarks, are the Sam’s Throne areas and Cave Creek. Among these areas you can find nearly every grade of climb from traditional to sport. At Sam’s you’ll find overhanging off-width chimneys, steep crack climbs, fun face climbs, powerful overhanging routes combining bolts and gear, and dozens upon dozens of lines to choose from. Cave Creek is primarily a sport area, the climbs tend to be shorter (from 40-60 feet in height) and more technical. Most of the routes are intermediate (5.10 range) to advanced (5.11 and up), but the few routes that are easy are classic, like the two-bolt slab route, Flat Fields (5.8).
The climbs at Cave Creek are easily accessible, you can camp right above the cliffs, there are plenty of climbs to challenge you and the rock is superb.
Flying Elvis sits at the heart of Cave Creek. The wall leans to the east at nearly 45 degrees and might easily be mistaken for a pillar of rock about to fall over. Standing beneath the wall and staring up at the route almost hurts your neck because it’s so steep. The best way to view Elvis is from the base of the route looking out towards the top of the climb. But be forewarned, doing this may deter you from attempting the climb because you’ll realize how steep it is. Not until you begin climbing the route do you see that the all the holds are there: it’s just a matter of finding some of them. Luckily, the route begins at a lower angle so you get a chance to warm-up your forearms for a second before blasting into the upper section. Climbing through the first and second clips is comparable to taxiing down a runway. There’s a sense of inevitability that creeps up as you see the wall arching back further after the second clip. Your power quietly seeps away as you struggle for the hidden side-pull and clip the second bolt, this is immediately followed by a sense of urgency that you have to get to the next bolt and the next bolt and the next one before vaulting off the horizontal ledges into free space. If that happens you’ll have a hard time getting back on; the nearest holds will likely be 10 feet away.
The moves from bolt to bolt are long and powerful. Your feet want to cut loose and your hips want to sag, but you have to continue driving to the top. It’s not over until you clip the chains at the top. The upper section climbs up good holds but he climb only gets steeper. The only saving grace is knowing that it won’t go on forever. A common misperception on Elvis that when you stop to chalk up and shake out your forearms you are resting. Contrary to how it feels for the moment, stopping will not help you….just keep moving…you can chalk up all you want when you get down. Another word of advice: breathe. Your muscles like it when you inhale. If you hold your breath between all those twist locks and lock offs it will catch up with you. Elvis wrings every ounce of strength out of your forearms, if you think you have it made when you grab the last hold, be prepared, clipping the anchors is the crux for most people.
Now, after you have climbed Flying Elvis comes the real crux: cleaning it.