Back in the mid-1990s when I was researching the history of the mines around Carcross, I knew of the existence of a cabin that was built high above Windy Arm in 1901, but in my dozens of exploratory hikes I never did get to that site. Over the years since my book, Fractured Veins & Broken Dreams, was published, I’ve looked at the cabin through a spotting scope many times, and had decided that I really need to see it up close. It can be seen dead centre in this photo that I shot on October 15, 2007. Yesterday I finally made it to the cabin!.
The climb up to it is quite difficult, and back down is even more so. People have died climbing on this slope and this hike should be considered only by people who are experienced in steep off-trail hiking. The first photo shows the location of the cabin as seen from the spot where I parked, near the highway crossing of Pooley Creek.
I left the car at about 10:00 – you can see it at the bottom left in this photo. The route starts up a steep, rocky avalanche chute. The spectacular views may slow you down more than you’d planned on! This was shot at 10:17.
Cliffs like this are frequent and take some thinking about the best way to go up or around them.
Much of the slope, though, is steep but requires more physical effort than mental This photo was shot at 10:52.
Still climbing at 11:24.
A long telephoto shot looking down past the towers of the aerial tramway that led to another silver mine called The Vault, to the South Klondike Highway.
I reached the cabin at 12:15 and was extremely pleased to see what great condition it’s still in after 108 years! This was the first building associated with the Venus mine, which was staked by Jack Pooley and Jack Stewart in August 1901. Climbing to the property to work every day was of course not reasonable, so a ledge was blasted into a cliff face and this cabin then built into it the rocks. It has only one full wall of poles – the other 3 cabin “walls” are the rock face.
This is what the cabin looked like in 1901 or 1902.
The inside of the cabin and the view. It’s incredible on a day like this, but try to imagine living here through a Yukon winter!
How’s this for a lunch spot?
I’d tried to reach this location from the south before but both times I got stopped by a canyon that I couldn’t find a way across. This time I decided to see if I could locate the telephone line that connected all of the Conrad mines by 1906, hoping that it would lead to a reasonable route. In this photo I’m walking along that telephone line (2 of the very small, now fallen, poles that led the wire can be seen to the left of the trail).
Finding the telephone line was indeed the key to getting across this rugged slope. A few minutes past this spot, at the base of a cliff about 20 meters high, I found the remains of a feminine-style shirt – it was in this area that a woman was killed in a fall a few years ago. Many of the cliffs are hidden from the top by thick junipers and other brush, and it would be very easy to think that you’re pushing through brush down a slope and go over one of those cliffs
Looking straight down over the Venus No. 2 workings to the mill on the beach of Windy Arm. The mill was built in 1908, and then the gravity-powered aerial tramway that had run down to a dock where the ore was loaded onto barges, was moved slightly to feed the mill.
Another look at the Venus No. 2 workings, taken during another mine-exploring hike.
There are adits, shafts and winzes all over the upper slope, many no doubt dating right back to Pooley and Stewart’s earliest work. One of them can be seen at the lower left in this photo, which was shot at 1:42pm. Many of the holes are barely large enough for a man to get into, and reports from those days tell of one man crawling in to work, relying on his partner to pull him out with a rope tied around his ankles!
The last 300 or so vertical feet were surprisingly challenging to get down, as there is a fairly continuous wall of cliffs. I finally did find a route by going much farther to the south than I’d expected would be necessary. This is looking down on the engineer’s shack that was used into the 1980s, at 2:24.
I got back down to the highway just after 3:00pm, and then it was a simple half-mile walk back to the car. All in all it had been an amazing day, with memorable weather and a good deal of historical information to add to my files.