Fraser River Unexpected Rock Climbing

Fraser River Unexpected Rock Climbing

In April I went to check out two claims in the area North of Lillooet, BC. These two claims are close to the one that I wrote about in my Southern Cariboo Prospecting Trip.  On the way up the Fraser Canyon I stopped at the old Alexandra bridge to get a peep at a claim that I have on the other side of the river.  The old bridge is part of the original Cariboo wagon road that serviced the gold rushes of the Fraser and Cariboo.  The Alexandra bridge that stands today was built in the exact same spot of the original bridge from in 1861.  The current bridge was completed in 1926.  There’s a lot of history here.

Alexandra Bridge 2 Bridges

In the second photo you can see the latest bridge in the distance that replaced the old suspension bridge in the 1960s.  The old bridge has an open grate for a bridge deck.  I’m not afraid of heights but it is a little hard to trust a bridge that has been decommissioned.  There has to be a reason right?

Long way down

Once again I travelled up the West Pavillion forest service road to do some gold panning.  This time though the road frequency had been changed, and the new one wasn’t posted yet.

Pavillion Road Sign

There were some phone numbers and a website posted but this area is outside of cell range so that is not really helpful.  I had a my trusty Baofeng but it wasn’t any good without the proper channel.  Here’s a link to the new posted channels for the area, FYI.  According to that site the new channel is 150.11 MHz.  Fortunately it was a quiet day on the road and I didn’t see anybody.

Claim #1, other viewClaim #1

I got to the first claim later that day.  I found a nice camp site near the dirt road and eagerly began hiking down to the river to take my first samples.  It looked pretty steep on the topo maps and with my prior experience in the area I was expecting it to be.  The maps were accurate and it was at least as ugly as I had imagined.  Loose gravel and significant slope on the way in.  I was hoping to find a more civilized route up once I got down to the river.

SamplesApril

I managed to get a couple samples before the light started to fade.  The samples that I take consist of two full pails each, and partially processed on site.  I use the pyramid pan to concentrate that down to about 1L and store the samples in a waterproof zip lock bag for the hike out.  It takes at least an hour to excavate each test hole in this area due to the abundance of large rocks making up the beach.

RockClimb1

My hope of finding a “civilized” route was not fulfilled, I marked the climbing route in the above photo.  I was faced with either hiking up the super steep talus slope or rock climbing up some exposed rock.  I chose the rock climbing.  I must mention that I am experienced with rock climbing and don’t recommend this course of action if you aren’t comfortable.  Its not exactly safe, especially with a backpack loaded with a pick axe, shovel, 5 gallon pail, samples, gold pans and all the other prospecting gear.  Not to mention no rope.

April Fraser Looking South April Fraser Looking North

I made it up OK, with a little bit of a gut check at the top, then hiked the rest of the steep slope up to the camp for some well deserved beer and food.  Little did I know that was just the beginning of the unexpected climbing on this trip.  On the previous trip to this area we thought that climbing ropes and gear might be needed for these claims but it was impossible to tell until you come over the edge towards the river.

AprilClaim2 Canyon AprilClaim2

The second claim was just down river from a small canyon.  This is a good thing for trapping gold but it does not make for easy access.  It all looked good on the way down but it dropped off steeply as I descended towards the river.  Pretty soon I found my self perched on top of what was a near vertical drop.  I spotted a line down but I couldn’t see the whole path.  At this point I was committed.    The further I descended the worse it got and next thing I knew I was reverse rock climbing down to the beach.

Claim2Beach

Once again I hoped that I would find a better route up.  This time around I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.  I had a whole day of sampling to do so I’d worry about climbing out when the time comes.  I managed to get three good samples from the beach and inevitably the time came to climb out.  I knew the way in was very dangerous and didn’t know if I even could climb back up.  The photos below show the route to the beach.

Claim2ClimbDownClaim2ClimbDown2

I spotted a route to rock climb out but it was nasty too.  It looked like solid rock with good holds so I went for it.  It turned out not to be solid and almost every hold I grabbed broke loose and slid down the slope.  I got to a point about 3/4 the way up the rock climb section where I was certain that I was screwed.  No way up and no way down.  Not a good feeling.  After several minutes of gathering my courage I decided I had no choice and went for it.  Once I was on top and able to walk on my feet I was relieved and more than happy to hike up the rest of the steep slope to my camp. I didn’t get a great picture of the route up from the beach.  The photo below shows the approximate route.Claim2ClimbUp

I’ve gotten myself into these sort of situations more times than I’d like to admit.  Honestly though the unexpected situations are one of the most exciting parts of prospecting.  At the time you are terrified and wonder how you ended up in this situation but afterwards those are some of your best memories.  Without a sense of adventure who would go out to these places looking for gold?  As luck would have it, these claims actually had some decent gold.  The trouble is how am I going to get in there next time?

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Where does placer gold come from?

Where does placer gold come from?

If you are trying to find gold it helps to know where it came from.

gold-panning

To start with there is only one kind of gold.  Placer gold and lode gold both come from the same place and are made of the same stuff.  Gold is not actually formed on earth it was formed millions of years ago in distant stars.  In large stars, much larger than our sun elements are combined together in their cores through the process of nuclear fusion.  Our sun like all stars runs on fusion too but it does not have enough mass to produce atoms larger than carbon or oxygen.  Larger stars can generate the gravitational force and heat in their cores necessary to produce elements as heavy as iron.  To create things like gold even more energy is required and that takes place in a supernova.


Supernova

When a large star runs out of light matter the fusion reaction is no longer sustainable and the star begins to collapse on itself very rapidly.  The supernova collapse takes place in a matter of seconds.  While the star is collapsing it produces heat very rapidly and explodes in what is essentially a humongous nuclear bomb.  Supernova events are so bright and powerful that they are brighter than then entire galaxy that hosts the star.  This nuclear explosion allows for higher energy fusion reactions that can produce heavy elements like gold.  The explosion also scatters the newly created material over great distances.
SolarNebula

So how did the star dust make it into the mountains and rivers on earth?  When our solar system began approximately 4.6 billion years ago it was a cloud of dust and gas called a nebula.  This nebula was composed of the remains from older stars that had spread their guts around the universe in supernova explosions.  The molecules of the nebula naturally pulled on each other by the force of gravity growing more and more dense.  As the nebula was collapsing in on itself it also started to spin faster and faster.  The condensing and spinning action formed the nebula into a disk, much like you spin dough into a pizza.  In the center where the force of gravity is the strongest a new star was created, our sun.  The swirling mass around the sun clumped together into the planets, moons, asteroid and comets that we see today.
Early Earth

The early solar system was different that it is today.  The big planets did not form all at once, it was a gradual process.  Small plantoids formed first and crashed and coalesced into each other to form larger planets.  In theory the distribution of gold was basically even in all the rocky material that made up the early solar system.  In the early earth, while it was still completely molten the heavy material (such as iron and precious metals like gold) all sunk to the center of the planet to form the core.  The process is similar to the way that dense material sinks to the bottom of your gold pan.  If you could mine the core you would be very rich but it would be very difficult with current gold mining equipment.  Current scientific theories estimate that there is enough gold in the core to cover the surface of the earth with a 4 meter thick layer of pure gold.


earth-core

We can only reach gold that is trapped in the crust of the earth.  The precious metals in the crust were put there by meteor bombardments that took place after the crust had formed.  As these meteorites crashed into the surface of the earth they disintegrated and mixed their material into the upper mantle.  The meteorite guts had the effect of enriching the amount of precious metals in the crust.

 

So we know where gold came from and how it was formed.  Stay tuned for a future post to learn how the gold formed into deposits in the mountains and streams that we mine.

 

Check out Part 2 & 3 here:

Where Does Placer Gold Come From? – Part 2 Deposits

Where Does Placer Gold Come From? – Part 3 Placer

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Southern Cariboo Prospecting Trip

Southern Cariboo Prospecting Trip

Here is another trip report from March.  This trip was to a claim in the Cariboo region.

The claim is located approximately 30km to the North of the town of Lillooet on the Fraser River.  Access to the claim was gained via Highway 1 from the lower mainland to Lillooet, then 4×4 roads to the claim. We took the West Pavillion FSR and turned onto an un-named dirt road towards the claim.  The driving distance from Abbotsford is approximately 316km and took about 5.5 hours to drive.  The map below shows the route taken.

Map to Cariboo Claims

Upon arrival to the claim we spotted some old buildings and decided to check them out.  It turned out to be a really cool ghost town.  There were several shacks that are still standing and a very well preserved church.  I haven’t been able to find out any information on the ghost town.  It is really one of the best preserved ghost towns that I have seen.

DSC00705 IMG_2385 DSC00714 IMG_2390.DSC00718IMG_2382_mod

The trip was off to a great start.  After checking out the ghost town we tried to find a suitable route down to the river.  The sides of the river in this part of the valley are very steep.  We tried out a route and it ended up being a little too steep, we were able to make it but it wasn’t easy.

DSC00723 DSC00732

The next morning after looking over the topo maps and weighing our experience from the previous day we decided to take an old creek bed down to the river.  The creek bed was not a direct route but it is much easier walking and a fairly consistent grade.  We arrived at the beach and began scouting sample locations and started digging.

IMG_2420 IMG_2411

 

We managed to get four samples this time.  As usual we used a measured volume of material, screened on site and hand panned down to a manageable amount.  The gold values were not super exciting from this round but there was gold in each sample.  I saw some small flakes in the gold pan in a couple spots.

IMG_2421 Trommel

Across the river on a different claim we spotted some old mining equipment.  It looks like an old trommel with a hopper and possibly some jigs.  That property was a past producer but it looks like it hasn’t been worked in some time.  After three days the trip was over and we headed back to civilization.  To top off the trip we spotted some mountain sheep on the side of the highway.

IMG_2452_mod

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Propsecting Tools: The Gold Pan

Propsecting Tools: The Gold Pan

There is a whole world of tools to assist in gold prospecting out there.  Every day you hear of a new innovative product that will do all the work for you and leave you with clean gold while you sit in your lawn chair and drink beer.  Some of these claims are true, most are partially true or only work under ideal conditions.

There are concentrator jigs, highbanker sluices, magnetic machines, trommels of all shapes and sizes, rockers, dredges, blue bowls, miller tables and anything else you can imagine.

The quintessential tool for any prospector is and always has been the gold pan.  It is the go to tool in the prospector’s tool kit.  The concept is quite simple, you shovel gold bearing gravel into the pan, agitate it and allow the more dense material to reach the bottom.  You then remove the lighter material from the upper layer and re-agitate.  After repeating the motion several times you are left with only the dense material including gold.  Everyone has their own little tricks for panning, including myself, but it all boils down to the same thing.

Gold pans have not changed dramatically over time, historically they used a metal, shallow smooth pan.  Much like the one in the photo below.  That’s me in the photo, I was on an exploration trip in the Yukon and found that pan in an old cabin.  It was old and rusty but still worked.

Indian River Yukon

Today there are many styles of pans available with different kinds of riffles and shapes.  There are square pans, pyramid pans (which I’ll cover in a future post), and round pans.  Also they come in different sizes from 6″ to 30″.  Essentially the larger the pan, the more material you can run.

Realistically a pan is not a production gold separator by today’s standards.  You will really use a pan to test areas to see if and how much gold is present.  So a gigantic one doesn’t make a lot of sense.  I use 14″ pans in the field for testing, they allow a reasonable amount of material to get an idea of the potential grade.  I also have some smaller pans around 8″ diameter.  They are great for the concentrating process after you have collected your samples.
Assorted Pans

I prefer the green plastic pans made by Garrett.  The plastic gets roughed up over time and works to keep gold in the pan.  Also they have very effective riffles and a smooth side for finer panning.  The green color shows the gold really well.  Black works OK but in my opinion green is the best for spotting small gold.

I don’t like metal pans for a couple reasons, they are heavier which matters to me because I go to a lot of rugged areas that require hiking in.  They have less aggressive riffles.  Metal pans are also susceptible to rust and they require that the oils left over from manufacturing be burned off prior to use.

As a beginner or experienced gold panner I recommend plastic pans.  Check out the links below to get some for yourself.

 

Garrett 14″ Gold Pan ($10.60)

garrett14inchpanI have three of these pans and they work great.  The big riffles make it easy to move lots of material.  The gravity trap in the bottom holds fine gold very well.  They are tough!  I have fallen on them and dropped them down rock faces and they do not crack.  Also the green color makes gold extra visible.

 

VAS 8″ Gold Pan ($5.79)

IVAS8inchpan have a couple of these smaller pans that I use for cleaning up samples and panning small amounts of material.  This is a versatile pan, the large riffles work well when you have the pan full.  I use the smaller riffles most of the time for fine panning.  This pan also has a trap in the bottom like the Garrett and a similar green color.

 

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