Last week my neighbour phoned me and asked if I wanted to go on a road trip to check out an adit by Harrison Lake. Of course I said yes. Who wouldn’t be down for a short road trip to check out an old mine adit.
The trip only took two hours from my home in Abbotsford, BC. We drove up to Harrison Hot Springs then transitioned to the 4×4 road called Harrison East FSR. Conditions were great for the trip out we got hit by rain on the way back but that’s to be expected on the West coast in March.
I brought along my mountain bike night riding light and it worked awesome! You can see the difference between my super light and a standard headlamp in the video. Check out the video below showing our exploration in the adit:
This adit was created a long time ago, probably a during the period of the Fraser River and Cariboo gold rushes (1860s – 1880s). No records have been found from that time period describing the adit though. During the gold rushes the Harrison was one of the major routes to the Cariboo and many miners worked in the region.
The adit extends for approximately 50m with a slight bend half way in. It cuts through altered schist formations and has several small quarz veins exposed inside. We sampled one of the veins which will be sent to a lab for fire assay. The map below is taken from a 1983 geological report of the area.
In addition to the 50m adit a vertical shaft had also been excavated. Unfortunately the shaft is filled with water so it cannot be explored at this time. Both excavations were carried out to explore a sizable quartz vein. The shaft is right on the 1m wide vein and driven vertically into the bedrock. The adit that we explored was intended to intersect the shaft and the vein. It seems that the miners missed. It is difficult to tell by how much.
Inside the adit there are wooden tracks that line the whole tunnel. These were probably part of an old rail system used to remove the excavated rock. It is not known why the miners abandoned the property, without any information we can only guess. There are other adits in the area that we’ll explore another time. Not bad for a Tuesday afternoon.
In September I went out to check out a claim in the Thompson River area of Southern BC. This claim has an adit on it that was hand excavated prior to World War 1. A government report from the 1930s says that a sample from this adit assayed at 9.12 g/t Au. The report also claims that the adit extended 80m into the rock face and intersected several large quartz veins.
The claim was staked in 2006 by the previous owner who held it for several years. They were able to locate the adit in 2007 but were not willing to enter the portal because of its precarious position on a vertical rock face. It seems as though nobody has entered this lost mine since the 1930s era. Naturally I wanted to check it out.
I was accompanied by a guy that I met on the internet named Rob. He turned out to be a great partner, and took most of these photos. We geared up with some rock climbing gear as well as prospecting equipment and a camera.
The claim covers an area with a couple of narrow valleys with steep sides. Its beautiful country but tough to get around in. According to a prospecting report from the previous claim owner they were able to photograph the adit from the other side of the valley. Take a look at their photo below.
So we had a photo and even a coordinate from the report. We were ready to show up and heroically rappel into the adit. We did not know exactly what we would find in there but I wanted to verify the old assay and hopefully find some gold. Whoever put in the time and effort to dig an 80m tunnel into solid rock held a strong belief that there were riches in there. It was all looking good and as usual I remained skeptically optimistic.
Right off the bat we headed up the creek towards the coordinate from the 2007 report. It didn’t take long to reach the location. There were no signs of an adit or anything that matched the picture. It is difficult to tell though when looking straight up a rock face. We proceeded to hike along the bottom of the vertical wall trying to spot the entrance. Later we climbed to the top of the ridge to see if we could spot the adit from above and rappel down as planned.
We did not have any luck. We walked all over that ridge but were not able to spot the adit. We went around for one last look and managed to find a decent quartz vein. The vein was a decent size and seemed to continue in to the rock. I took a sample which will be sent to a lab for assay to see how much gold is in it. No gold was visible to the eye but it rarely is. The quartz looks pretty good though, some iron staining and nice crystals in part of it.
While taking the sample my camera fell out of my packpack and tumbled all the way down to the creek. It must have bounced down at least 100m. I scrambled after it expecting to find it in pieces to my surprise it was not shattered just soaking wet. I was able to dry it out several days later and it seems to be OK.
Having failed to find the old mine we climbed the opposing ridge across the valley. It was somewhat easier climbing since there wasn’t much vertical rock to deal with. It was mostly talus which poses its own challenges. We tried to recreate the photos from the report. Rob and I took lots of photos with the hope that we could later spot the adit using a computer. Sadly none of the photos turned out well because the sun was facing us straight on.
What started out as a plan to saunter up to a lost mine adit and rappel into it. It turned into an all day scouting adventure and climbing two different steep mountain ridges. It almost seems as if we were cursed, every attempt to locate the adit had failed. Fortunately nobody got hurt and we did manage to get a nice quartz sample, even my camera survived.
I’ll be back soon to find that adit. Our failure gives me even more enthusiasm to find this thing. I just refuse to be beat by the mountains.
Searching for a legendary lost gold mine is a little different from a typical prospecting trip. Instead of picking an area based solely on its mineral potential our clues were derived largely from literature and first person accounts from decades ago. It was half treasure hunt and half geological prospecting. Before the first trip we did a lot of research reading up on the legend and accounts of previous explorers of the area. Some background is mentioned in “Part 1 – The Legend”. We also consulted as many topo maps, aerial photos, geological reports and other information as we could get our hands on. It always blows me away how much different terrain can be than what it shows on the map. A topo map can show you several contours close together over 2 or 3 cm of paper but when you get out there it’s a different story.
We chose to check out the area around the Terrarosa and Stave glaciers in Southern BC. The legend says the mine is somewhere North of Pitt Lake, and Volcanic Brown’s last camp was found just below the Stave Glacier. In the early 20th century there was a lot activity on Fire Mountain which is just East of that area so we know that gold has been found close by. Geological maps show the boundary between several geological units at a large fault in the valley between the Stave and Terrarosa glaciers and we wanted to check that out. On both trips we took rock samples for lab assay and panned some of the best looking areas.
In 2012 we launched the first trip to the area with myself, my brother and a trusted friend. To access the area we travelled up the side of Harrison Lake and took the 4×4 roads up to Fire Lake which is beside Fire Mountain. Several historical high grade hard rock mines are located there. From the end of the road we began our trek to our planned campsite at Terrarosa Lake. The walking distance from the parking spot to Terrarosa Lake was about 17km. Right off the bat we had a very steep incline towards a ridge that would keep us in the alpine as we headed towards the lake. I much prefer alpine over bushwacking up creeks. Its a bit of a push to get up there but no real vegetation to deal with once you do. This ridge offers amazing views of Glacier Lake and the mountain peaks all around. You can see several large glaciers from up there. Non stop postcard quality views.
It took us two days to reach Terrarosa Lake. We took a pretty sketchy route to an unnamed lake above Terrarosa. We had to do some rock climbing to get up there which is not easy with backpacks loaded with gear. On the 2014 trip we took a much better route. The terrain up there is extremely rugged, you are either climbing a talus field, an insanely steep slope or descending on ice most of the time. Coming into Terrarosa Lake was an amazing sight, perhaps the greatest view I have ever been rewarded with. It kind of reminds me of a job I was on once near Atlin, BC. When the company sent me out there my boss told me it was going to be “scenic” and my co-workers all started snickering. I later found out what they meant. The camp had no showers, no floors in the canvas tents and no toilet, it was beautiful though.
Before we reached our main camp site at Terrarosa we had to cross the run off from the glacier. There was no way through without crossing a maze of alder bushes and several knee deep streams of ice cold glacial melt. I always hated alders but after the first trip they will forever be on top of my list of plants that I hate. It was quite a relief to reach the camp. We spent three days checking out the area around the lake and tried to make our way into the valley to the West. Unfortunately we were not able to make it into the valley on that trip. We did find some great samples of mineralized rock but not the placer that we had hoped for. After exploring as much of the area as we could we departed on the two day hike back to the logging road. Once we reached my SUV though we were unpleasantly surprised to find my battery dead. After several failed attempts to bump start it we had to make the 20km hike out to get a boost. It was pretty heartbreaking after 7 days of hiking in some of the roughest terrain there is.
On the return trip in 2014 our primary target was the valley to the West of Terrarosa Lake. On the way up we spent a night at the Sloquet hot springs and had our last real food and beer before the 9 day trek ahead. For backpacking we use the freeze dried astronaut food and other lightweight foods. The logging road up to Fire Lake had been fully deactivated since the 2012 trip. There were deep drainages to cross and pushed the limit of my SUV, I bent my hitch somewhere along the way. This time we were more confident in our hiking route as we had learned by trial and error on the previous trip. Instead of camping up above at the lake we moved our camp right down in the valley. It took three days to get in and another three days to get out of the valley and added some even uglier slopes. It also rained for five of the nine days that we were out there which only added to the difficulty. We did have a better planned route though.
The valley had some amazing rock with lots of quartz veins and signs of gold. There are several creeks down there that have potential for placer gold as well. We saw several waterfalls too. It was tough going and to reach one of our targets we had to wrestle our way through the worst alder bushes I hope I ever see. They have sideways branches the size of a human thigh filled in with smaller bushes. It was like some kind of cruel jungle gym on a steep mountain slope. We managed to reach all of our targeted spots this time with a few mishaps along the way. At one point my brother had to jump naked into a freezing creek because he dropped his rock hammer.
The climb out of the valley was very treaterous. It was almost too steep to walk up, we spent a lot of the time crawling and holding on to vegetation like a climbing rope. There were a couple of close calls but we made it up OK. We hiked back around the lake and set up a camp for the night. It took two more days to reach the SUV again. This time I disconnected the battery to prevent a repeat of the previous situation. After a couple of well deserved warm beers and some clean clothes we hit the road. We took the long way around and stopped in Whistler for one of the most rewarding hamburgers of our lives.
The trips we took up into Slumach country were some of the most memorable of my life. The scenery and sense of accomplishment from mastering that kind of terrain will forever be etched in my memory. Both expeditions had numerous challenges but we made it out alive and well. I have everything mapped out in GIS but because of the time, sweat and money investment I won’t post it publicly. Slumach’s curse did not take us yet. As for the gold? I’m not going to give away too much info on what we found up there. I have every reason to believe that the legends are true.
There are many legends on the West Coast of lost treasure, mines, and caches of precious metal. They are entertaining and spark our adult imagination the same way fantasy novels did when we were kids. I have to admit that I am fascinated with theses stories and the lure of stumbling upon a huge reserve of gold is hard to ignore. The closer to home the legends are the more tantalizing they become. One pervasive legend is the legend of Slumach’s lost gold mine. I have been part of two expeditions to find this mine in 2012 and 2014.
On the West coast this legend is well known. Books have been written about this legend so I’m not going to regurgitate the whole story here, this is about my own search for the treasure. I first read of the story in a book called “Lost Bonanzas of Western Canada”. There was a description of the legend and stories of historic attempts to find the mine. Another great book on the subject is “Slumach’s Gold: In Search of a Legend“. There is lots of info online as well.
The legend states that in the late 1800s a Coquitlam native named Slumach would occasionally come into New Westminster with a bag full of gold nuggets. He would blow the wealth on liquor and brothels and eventually return to his cabin on Pitt Lake. Slumach allegedly would never tell the location of his mine to anyone. In 1890 Slumach was found guilty of the murder of man named Louis Bee and hanged a year later for the crime. There is a lot of debate around the circumstances of the murder, it may have been self defence but that is irrelevant as far as the gold is concerned. It is said that prior to being hanged Slumach put a curse on the mine in the Chinook language “Nika memloose, mine memloose”. When translated into english the curse means “No man who finds the gold will live long enough to bring it out.”
There are all sorts of ideas about the facts surrounding Slumach’s trial, his life and so on. The truth is there isn’t much recorded history about the guy. Some say he took women up the mine to cook for him and murdered them to hide the location. Others believe their is no mine at all and he got his gold from robbing other miners in the area. None of that really matters as far as finding a rich gold deposit in the mountains North of Pitt Lake.
There are other characters in the ongoing story that hold much more compelling evidence. Not least of which is a prospector known only as “Jackson”. He left a letter vaguely describing the location of a creek rich with nuggets. Apparently Jackson found a very rich gold bearing stream somewhere North of Pitt Lake. He carried as much gold with him out and buried the rest due to the weight under a tent shaped rock. Jackson seemingly wrote the letter from his death bed in San Fransisco unable to return to claim his gold. Here is the text of the Jackson letter:
It will come to you as a surprise after all these years to hear from me for no doubt you have long since forgotten me. But you will remember the old man you so kindly grub staked with money and provisions at Guytos. Since then I have prospected with the varied success that usually goes with the life of a prospector.
In 1901 I went to B.C. and it is of this trip I want to tell, and hope you will gain by it untold thousands for your kindness to me. I heard you went broke like most everyone else at Guytos but had lost all trace of you since then except that you had gone to Washington. Well, I made a great discovery in New Westminster but after coming out for supplies and tools was taken down with a severe attack of rheumatism that ever since has left me almost bedfast until a short time ago, when I recovered sufficiently as though to make the trip again.
I made up my mind to hunt you up and take you with me. In hunting over a Seattle directory I found your name and address and concluded to come to Seattle and talk the matter over with you. A few days after arriving here from my little place in the hills, I was suddenly stricken down again and the Doctors say that I will never recover and may drop off any time for my heart is badly affected. So I will tell you of my trip and what I found and direct you to the best I can to find it. It is too great to be lost to the world and I know with you it will be in good hands.
Well, I arrived in Vancouver about the first of July and hired a couple of natives to take me to the headwaters of the ____ then dismissing the natives I struck out in the mountains, and they are rough ones. I prospected up beyond the lake but found nothing of importance. But the formation looked all right. I concluded to prospect back towards ____ Lake. I kept well up on the mountains but was often compelled to make long trips down before crossing could be found on the deep canyons.
I had been out about two months and found myself running short of grub. I lived mostly on fresh meat for one can’t carry much of a pack in those hills. Found a few very promising ledges and some color in the little creeks, but nothing I cared to stay with. I had almost made up my mind to light out the next day. I climbed to the top of a sharp ridge and looked down into a little canyon or valley about one mile and a half or two miles long, but what struck me as singular, it appeared to have no outlet for the little creek that flowed at the bottom. Afterwards I found the creek entered a ______ and is lost.
After some difficulty I found my way down to the creek. The water was almost white. The formation for the most had been slate and granite but there I found a kind of schist and slate formation. Now comes the interesting part. I had only a small prospecting pan, but I found colors at once right on the surface and such colors they were. I knew then I had struck it rich at last.
In going up stream I came to a place where the bedrock was bare and there you can hardly believe me, but the bedrock was yellow with gold. In a few days I gathered thousands and there were thousands more in sight. Some of the nuggets were as big as walnuts and there were many chunks carrying quartz. After sizing up carefully I saw that there were millions stowed away in the little cracks. On account of the weight I buried part of the gold at the foot of a large tent shaped rock facing the creek. You can’t miss it. There is a mark cut out in it. Taking with me what I supposed to be about $10,000 proved to be over $8,000. After three days of extreme hard traveling it would not be over 2 days of good going but the way was rough and I was not feeling well. I arrived at the lake and while resting there at the Indian Camp was taken sick and have never since been able to return and now I fear I never shall. I am alone in the world. No relations, no one to look to me for anything.
Of course I have never spoken of this find during all this time for fear of it being discovered. It has caused me many anxious hours but the place is so well guarded by surrounding ridges that it should not be found for many years unless someone knew its being there.
Oh, how I wish I could go with you and show you to the wonderful place for I find I can’t give any exact directions and it may take you a year or more to find it but don’t give it up. Keep at it and you will not fail and you will be repaid beyond your wildest dreams.
I believe any further directions only tend to confuse so I will only suggest further that you go alone or at least take one or two Indians to pack food and no one need to know but you were going on a hunting trip until you find the place and get everything fixed up to suit yourself.
When you find it, and I am sure you will, should you care to see me advertize in the “Frisco Examiner” and if I am living I will either come and see you or let you know where to find me but once more I say to you don’t fail to look this great property up and don’t give up till you find it. I am very sorry I can’t give you more definite instructions. Of course I expected to have gone back long since. I have drawn a rough sketch that will help you. Success and happiness.
Not much else is known about Jackson. There is another character called Volcanic Brown also known as R.A or “Doc” Brown. Unlike the previous two Volcanic was well known in BC in the early 1900s. Volcanic was a respected healer and prospector with many successes. There is even a ghost town from a mine that was discovered by Brown that is called Volcanic City. He discovered the large scale Copper Mountain mine outside of Princeton that is still operating today. Volcanic Brown is said to have gained a copy of the Jackson letter and started looking for the lost mine in the late 1920s. He would go each summer and stay out there for several months. In 1928 he got frostbite and amputated one of his toes and continued to hike out. I can tell you after hiking this area myself I would not have come back after that.
Volcanic Brown would check in at the small logging community of Alvin at the head of Pitt Lake at the end of his season. In 1931 he did not check in and soon after a search party went out looking for him. The search party trekked over the Stave glacier in November to find Volcanic (no small feat in itself). They didn’t find the man but they are said to have found a collapsible pup tent, some cooking utensils, a double barreled shotgun, a notebook containing herbal remedies, and a glass jar containing eleven ounces of course gold. The gold is said to have contained traces of quartz and was believed to have been hammered out of a solid vein. The rescue attempt was well recorded, it even made the newspaper. So Volcanic Brown definitely found some nice gold out there. His last camp was found in the valley at the beginning of the Stave river near Upper Stave Lake. My expeditions were in a similar area.
The final character is Stu Brown, no relation to Volcanic. For me the Stu Brown story is what made the Slumach legend believable. Brown had several science degrees and was a world war two air force veteran. He apparently used stereoscopic air photos to identify the area described in Jackson’s letter. The area that he identified was inside Garibaldi provincial park. Stu Brown wrote numerous letters to the government asking for permission to claim the site and extract the gold. He was unsuccessful in persuading them to allow him to mine, he even sent a letter to Teck mining corporation.
Stu described a 100′ high natural rock dam blocking a stream where water shoots out of a hole in the dam. He described a pool at the base of the dam that is ankle deep in gold. Stu was never able to give accurate directions to the spot however.
In 2012 I embarked on our first expedition to Terrarosa lake which is at the foot of the Terrarosa glacier and near the Stave glacier. We did some gold panning and sampling in the area of interest. This area was selected because it is near Volcanic’s last camp and vague clues that Stu Brown gave out seemed to fit in this area. The geology of the area is very favourable for epithermal gold as well with a huge fault passing through from Glacier lake marking the boundary between two geological units. In 2014 we reached a lower area in the valley between the Stave and Terrarosa Glaciers. 2012 took us 8 days and 2014 took 9 days of unsupported backpacking and rock climbing in very rugged terrain. My next post will describe the details of the expeditions.