The Father Son Boulders
routes by G.Cornell, winter-summer 2006
The Father Sons Boulders are an interesting addition for Kananaskis and Alberta bouldering. The location works great for family’s with kids as the approach is five minutes most of the year and if you camp at the nearby Beaver Flats you can simply walk up the road to the trail in minutes without starting the car.The rock on the west side of the Elbow River, the ‘Son’, is mostly low-balls that would work nice for kids but also has some very challenging problems for the elderly. The ‘Father’ boulders on the east side of the Elbow are much more challenging, higher and expansive – especially what can be found in the upper rim of the forest. The rock quality on both sides is superb – impeccable for Kananaskis. Virtually all the boulders have not an ounce of choss but ascend clean, rounded faces using nice cracks and pores and many problems have at least one great hueco! The relaxing surroundings make the Father Son’s a good destination.
ACCESS: to get to the Father Son Boulders drive west from Bragg Creek on Hwy#66 towards Elbow Falls. Keep driving about 1.5km further and park at a big unsigned scenic pullout at a steep curve in the road just past Beaver Flats campground.You should be overlooking a treed valley cut with the Elbow River. In the winter months, park at the closed gate and walk for about 20 minutes to this same spot. But a more preferred winter walk is to drop down onto the beautiful Beaver Lodge Trail and through the Beaver Flats campground. The Son’s are at the small slide upstream on the right and the Father’s littered in the forest up to the left across the river. In the winter hip waders are necessary to climb at the Fathers.
TRAIL: from the road, pop over the guardrail and drop down the scree to a drop overlooking the river. Follow a trail down to an overhung band of rock (Old Tracheodon Wall). Hop over small Rainy Creek and follow a good trail along the bank of the river. The boulders appear within 5 minutes of walking. To get to the Father boulders you must wade the river and extra caution must be used as the height/speed fluctuates with the seasons; it was never above the knee during development – be very careful! A good place to cross is at a small boulder along the trail about 150m past Old Tracheodon – look for a cairn across the river. Another crossing is at a gravel-bar between the campground and Old Tracheodon. To get to the Upper Rim either hike up the gentle slope before or after the scree slopes above the river but don’t attempt bee-lining up these as they are horribly slippery. Trail lines on the topos may only be cairns, flags or animal trails following the natural flow of the land.
The area is totally climbable in winter as the Son gets morning sun and the Father side sees sun most of the day and snow tends to burn off quick. The Elbow makes a good water source as well. In winter just park at the winter closure gate near Prairie Creek and bike or walk the open highway west.
Camping: the Father Sons work great- you can walk to them from Beaver Flats open from May-September.
HISTORY: not much is known about this area but extensive exploring will reveal some clues to the past. The Stihl Boulder on the Lower Father sits next to a log jam with logs cut by a chainsaw. The forested hillsides above Enchanted Forest have man-made cutlines with metal stamped markers on trees and a heavy ground marker is in the forest across from the campground. Much of the forest in the Upper Father has very old signs of a forest fire buried below decades of new growth. Near the Smokejumper’s Boulder is a well made campfire pit which obviously hasn’t been used for a long time due to the moss growing inside it.
If you look closely in the talus slope above Yellow Fever red stains of fire retardant can be found. Many campfire rings are found around the river which may be the work of McLean Creekers as ATV tracks were left in the snow on the Son side during an exploratory day in January 2006. Father Son Boulders were about 2 weeks too late to being part of Marcus Norman’s guidebook Bouldering in the Canadian Rockies. A number of people have been since and said the rock is very awesome, expansive and too bad many were not that much higher in height. Oh well, that is what nature gave us! The melting snowman on the road below in the slideshow, was taken over the winter months on different months during cleaning and climbing.
ROUTES: the “SS” description refers to sit-start problems here and laydown, crouch or standing starts are noted otherwise. Average size and low-ball problems rein here but there are many highballs to do. The Upper Father may seem far from the car but since a boulder exists every few minutes the distance is not too much. Although many hard problems are still unclimbed there are very few boulders without a route. FATHER SON STAR RATINGS: stars attached to boulders do not mean every problem deserves it.
Some boulders would be seen one week and then could never be found again! There is a boulderfield above Pluto and the odd Tree of Knowledge rock but no routes have been done here yet. Hiking south down the Elbow River in 8 minutes is a swimming hole with some problems about.
**It should be noted the list below is not in the same numbered ordered as the original PDF topo: random VBs have been omitted.