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quarts in rivers

slumach's gold



This particular story has been nagging me for quite a while. Common sense coupled with my personal beliefs on where, if anywhere, Slumach’s gold is located.



Slumach’s gold is about a native gentleman who explored North of Pitt Lake in BC in the late 1860s. What is of interest is the amount of gold he brought out of the Bush [woods] and cashed in. Normally this would be a made-up tale generated by newspapers and storytellers but he did it more than once and over the decades two other people did the same thing. Each one taking out an abundance of gold proving the existence of a hidden deposit north of Pitt Lake.

There are several versions of the story but one description had old Slumach hacking gold  out from an ore vein with his ax. The location has been said to be a hidden Valley north of Pitt Lake. Ironically the few people who have found what they say is Slumach’s gold have all had frostbitten feet or complications due to hypothermia in the lower legs. One of the would-be miners described “falling into a hidden valley you would never know was there”.
There are a couple possibilities once you add up this evidence:

•             A narrow crevice cut into the rock by water located on a fault line.

•             Ultra thick growth masking a very narrow valley.

•             Due to the abundance of glaciers in the coastal mountains, a snowcapped ice valley against bedrock. You would have to fall through just to find it.

I’ve never look for Slumach’s gold but I know where I would start. The edges of where the glaciers touch the mountain passes and 50 feet above that level. Since most glaciers are retreating, it only makes sense to also search where the ice sheets were.

I favor the glacier approach based on the problems the few other [miners?] had with frozen feet and it would be among the last places most people would look for gold.

Now picture a hydrothermically formed gold vein [in quartz] thousands of feet underground. Millions of years pass and this thing gets pushed up into a narrow mountain range, namely an intrusive coastal mountain range. Since it’s enclosed in granite or other extremely hard rock, erosion takes place but, the quartz is a dissimilar material from the surrounding parent rock and cracks occur ultimately exposing the gold vein. It’s still too early for trickle down trace signs to show up and this vein is sitting along a glacier. Along comes Slumach traveling on top of the glacier probably to make better speed. Either he get thirsty or wants to get off the glacier so he heads to the side where the mountain rock is and starts worming his way down.  He drops into a crevice where the mountain is on one side and the glacier on the other. To his amazement he spots the exposed gold vein practically glowing in the reduce light of the crevice. In his pack he has an ax which he uses to hew out chunks of gold.

Now no one else would ever think or want to look there for much of anything so Slumach’s find remains undiscovered for decades until another person uses the glacier for faster travel and also wants to descend into the valley. Now traveling on glaciers or in upper Alpine Meadows would certainly be much faster than “the wall of wood” in the valleys below which accounts for the hypothermia in the would be prospectors feet. Once the gold is discovered, the fastest way out is using the glacier as a pathway. It’s not warm to begin with at these upper altitudes and there’s always a wind and you’re walking on a massive sheet of ice so you should expect hypothermia rather than not.

Option two is still in narrow valley but even if you could find it, I mean the right one-with gold, you still have to get out. Remember Slumach knew this country well so he knew the streams and where most of the caves were. He also knew to stay on the glacier in the fall because of the bears feeding on the Alpine berries were not to be disturbed.

This second scenario has Slumach possibly overnighting in an upper elevation crevice or small valley. To find these small valleys from the top down you can use one of two ways:

1] Trace the drainages from the bare mountain rock or upper meadows down using natural plant growth as a guide (the green growth marks the main drainage) until you hit broken rock. In essence, you’re looking at a broken rock perimeter around a recessed crevice. Something will look different from the descending drainage. Due to the high altitude growth around any potential hidden valley may be sparse.

2] Sudden rises or little hills in an otherwise rolling mountain side should occur along breaks, valleys or beside higher altitude streams. This is the same approach as point number one. You’re looking for anything out of place or “different”, such as a large rock mass sticking out of the normal mountain rock.

Gold may be soft but it is carrying quartz along with it.  That coupled with the probability that this gold vein pretty much has to be on a fault line points to one extreme or the other. Either a sharp descent in the surrounding rock [hidden valley] or a sudden difference in color in the rock possibly with the rocky mound. Either way, the goal should be located in a dip or depression because there is no way gold will extend above any rock surface, it’s just too soft.

Option three has us trace streams uphill exploring any side channels they may have. This would be my last choice because of the amount of time it would take to properly explore them all. At least with the high altitude exploration you have less chance a surprising any bears are cougars. Still, the remote streams would take you into some uncharted country that few have explored. Of course most of us picture a pretty little stream, we work our way up until we are in an Alpine meadow but, the reality is a bramble of half fallen trees crisscrossing the stream’s descent making walking up it an act of determination.

I like the top-down method better as it is faster and you can cover more ground.


This one could be applied to most northern gold areas as the method of exploration is the same as looking for Slumach’s gold.

My first question is “What areas are rarely explored pretty much by anyone?” The answer is “Definitely glacial valleys”.

Back in 1860 when Slumach found a large gold deposit, the earth was somewhat colder than it is today. Glaciers extended their icy toe a considerable distance further down mountain valleys. As I’ve mentioned before, my bet on where this large gold deposit is would be in the upper reaches of mountain valleys. That would include the interface region of glaciers and mountain rock as it was in 1860.

A retreating glacier leaves behind relatively freshly broken rock that has been recently scoured from the surrounding mountains. The material on the valley side would be somewhat representational of what’s in the surrounding rock. The recently broken rock will have sharp edges and corners and older rock will be less sharp on exposed points.

If you choose to walk the valley and just look for quartz [okay and broken out gold veins within that quartz] also scan the valley sides for dissimilar rock, preferably quartz. Footing is dangerous at best when walking in these areas because of the rocks and a slip or fall usually will end up with a cut. Expect wind and cold but few bugs. These upper valleys funneled the win like you’ve never seen. If you’re lucky the wind will be from the valley below and not off the ice sheet further up. Besides falling, the number one danger is weather changes. When the weather shifts there will usually be a slight calming followed by an ever-increasing blow either up or down the valley. It will darken, usually within 15 minutes and if you’re lucky, it will just rain.

I’ve had the chance to explore glacial valleys west of Whitehorse Yukon. It’s cool and it’s wild. You see things few others have and I’m not talking about just rocks. The water down the center of these valleys is generally pure and cold. You’re drinking clean water thousands of years old. Looking into the semi-clear ice sheets is awe-inspiring. I’ve seen what looked like a couple of rocks right in the middle of the ice wall and wondered how they got there.  Don’t linger too long in front of the ice as chunks break off from up top without warning and smash the rocks below.

You can search the center the valley if you like. What you’re looking at is upper valley still under the ice sheet. It truly would be cruel to find gold/quartz pieces here as you’d have to wait 60 to 100 years for the glacier to retreat enough to reach where the rock came from.

At the front edge of almost all glaciers there are caves. These hollows are made by melting water flowing from the ice above. The only glacial caves we are interested in are the caves at the valley sides. Generally I don’t recommend going into these deathtraps, in fact, since 1860 there should be no reason to explore these water worn caves. Remember, Slumach’s discovery was over 100 years ago and what we are looking for is probably half a mile down the valley where there is no longer any ice. My reason for exploring these ice caves was adventure with little thought given to safety. The first thing you notice is the hollow echo of falling water punctuated by sudden loud cracks and low groans of the slowly moving ice sheet. The rock sidewalls are smooth and cold and there’s a weird permanent twilight affect. These glacial side caves only extend back a short distance before you can no longer go any further but you probably will be the first human eyes to see the freshly scoured rock face that’s within.


There are so many wild tales about Slumach’s gold that I wanted to approach the subject with some practical thought. The reason I believe there is a large gold deposit hidden somewhere north of Pitt Lake is because of:

  1. Slumach did this more than once and the evidence is the gold he brought out with him. That’s what created all the excitement to begin with.

  2. Historical evidence points to two other people doing the same thing decades later, again the proof being the gold they brought out.


This story has been stretched a lot by newspapers and other writers. I’m using stories I was told by my uncle and some old-timers back in the 70s. Their stories were all similar to what I have already mentioned. Remember, that gold was actually brought out way back when and was then reported by the government who paid out the money for the metal.

My personal thoughts about the probable location is based on common sense and where the majority of other people have already explored. I DON’T believe in a cache of gold under a tent shaped marker.

I also DON’T believe in gold nuggets big as walnuts scattered all about because it was not brought out and cashed in.

I DO believe there is a large hydrothermically formed vein of gold yet to be rediscovered because of the difficulty of exploring glacial country and because of the intrusive nature of some spots of the coastal mountains.


I already have too many irons in the fire. In addition, a person could spend an easy 20 years looking for this gold and come up empty-handed.

I’ve learned some time ago now that if you help other people find what they are looking for you will find what you’re looking for through seemingly incidental help.

A practical example of the type of commitment I’m talking about is best expressed in a real story. About 2% of all explorations are successful when looking for new discovery.

People would laugh at you back in the early 90s if you said you were prospecting for diamonds in Canada’s North and yet against all odds a young female geologist named Eira Thomas found what is now Diavik diamonds.

It was on her last test hole drilled under a lake where she found a two karat diamond in the test core sample. Incredible! However, for her success there are many behind her who have failed.

So the same is true for this vein of gold. Many have tried and failed. Most of these people have looked from the bottom up not the top down. Then you overlay what is known about no trace signs of gold, frozen feet and the hidden Valley and ther’s only one practical possibility where this vein could be.

If you choose to explore for what was called Slumach’s gold please be prepared for extreme conditions. Get yourself in good shape, plan your trip and don’t rush. If you treat this as more of a fun adventure you will have already won before you start. If nothing else, you will have some really cool rock samples to bring back with you. Oh yeah, don’t feed the bears… In any respect.

Have fun, hope you bring back nuggets slabs of gold.

    My Gold Panning

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