Hiking to the upper Venus Silver Mine, Yukon

On Thursday I returned to the historic Venus silver mine, but this time planning on a full day of exploring, with the 1905-1909 Venus No. 2 workings being the goal. There was a larger goal as well, to see if I still have enough passion about this mine (these mines, actually) to re-write my book about them and get it back into print.

With a forecast for a mostly-sunny day, I was away from the house just after 9:30, and at 10:50, started hiking up the gated mine access road at Km 82.2 of the South Klondike Highway.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Twenty minutes later I reached the junction where I had turned left on my hike 2 weeks ago. This time I went to the right, and 5 minutes later reached the area where I’d start going vertical, though I wasn’t sure exactly where yet. This building was the mine manager’s office for the Venus mine operation whose 2 main adits tapped an ore body at a much lower elevation in the 1970s.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
I wanted to get close to the route of the 2,500 foot long aerial tramway that took the silver ore from the mine to the wharf and later the concentrator on the lakeshore, and the base of the rocks in the center of this photo looked like a good place to start.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Starting up, at 11:25. I was hiking alone as I almost always do. My “safety partner” on these hikes is always Spot, my Satellite GPS Messenger. Some of you have no doubt noticed that I seldom take either dog with me. The reason is simply that the country I usually go into is simply too hard, dangerous and/or dry (no drinkable water) for Monty and Bella and I need to focus on taking care of myself.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
While historic ruins were my main reason for being here, the views are a big part of what makes this slope so rewarding to hike. Just around that rock face, though, the route went vertical and there was no time to enjoy the view or take pictures. It was a hands-and-feet scramble up about 400 feet of mostly juniper and loose rock with the odd firm rock for relief.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
The piece of wood in the foreground was a claim post from the main staking of this slope in 1905. Some of these posts on the mountain have Roman numerals carved into them that are still legible after 110 years, but this one was too badly weathered.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Flowers were quite plentiful, including a few Western Columbine (Aquilegia formosa Fisch). Alaska’s state flower, the Alpine forget-me-not (Myosotis alpestris) was by far the most prevalent flower, but there were close to a dozen species in bloom.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Within 25 minutes of starting up, the views of the mine workings were excellent, though a ravine full of brush kept me from the tramway route. I could have fought through it, but it wasn’t that important – there was plenty to see anyway.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
The piece of land sticking out into the lake to the north is the delta of Pooley Creek, the site of several support operations for the Venus and other mines over the years, including the warehouse and shop for the Venus in the 1970s. Now privately owned, one of my friends’ private home is the only building in use.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
The view to the south, along Windy Arm and the South Klondike Highway towards Skagway.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
At 12:30 I was at the mine and it was time for a leisurely lunch break – “a table with a view please, garcon” 🙂 The collapsed building I’m standing on was the bunkhouse and cookhouse. My younger readers may have a hard time understanding how incredibly good it feels to be able to get to places like this at 64 years old. When I first started hiking this mountain 25 years ago it was a given that I’d be able to get wherever I wanted. That’s no longer true – now I celebrate days like this.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Time to dig into the details. The elevation of the mine is about 3,100 feet, 950 vertical feet above the lake. The building in this photo was a small shop which included a forge.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
This is the location that really excites me at this site – the control station for the aerial tramway. Imagine working here not just on a spectacular day like this, but when you’re in thick clouds with an icy rain or snow being driven in by a strong wind. Today, every step needs to be considered, with hazards everywhere.

Aerial tramway control station at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Ore storage bins flank the tramway control station. Depending on the quality of the ore being brought out, some would go straight into the bins, some would have to be hand-sorted so that only the high grade ore was sent down the tramway. That was particularly true in the early days when the ore was all shipped out. Once the concentrator was put into operation, lower qualities were sent down.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Inside the workshop beside the adit, with the blacksmith’s forge still in place.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
This once-level area used to have tracks running its length – this is where the hand sorting of the ore was done before sending the ore cars out to the storage bins. I need to check my photos from the 1990s, but I’m quite sure that the tracks were still in place then, and that subsequent slumping of the slope resulted in this wreckage.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
The adit. In mining terminology, an adit is open at one end (and is by far the most common form of drilling on a sloped property), while a tunnel is open at both ends. A shaft is vertical. This is by far the best-preserved of the many adits on Montana Mountain. No, I’ve never been in it – having worked far underground at the Granduc copper mine, I have great respect for such places. To bring out the detail, this is an HDR image created with 3 photos with varied exposures.

The adit at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Finding garbage at a site like this really upsets me. What is wrong with people who come to a place like this and then trash it? I packed it all out.

Garbage at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
And I mean this sort of juvenile disrespect as well.

Grafitti at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
This is the route the ore took from the adit or sorting area to the storage bins. Any volunteers to push the ore cars out there? Nobody was ever killed at the Venus mine.

Ore dump at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
The very dry climate has allowed even items like this to survive.

Century-old boot at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
A broad view of the site from the end of the ore sorting area.

The historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Looking down over the only standing tramway tower to the highway and the concentrator.

The historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Even some of the door hinges made from heavy belting are still intact. Metal hinges were used on the doors at some of the other Conrad mines in the area.

Hand made door hinge at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
No photos seem to exist of the construction of any of these mines. After the huge timbers were brought to the beach below by sternwheeler, how did the men get them up here? A winch was probably used for many of them, but how did they get the winch up? The slope is certainly too steep for any sort of animal assistance. As much as I know about these mines, there are still lots of questions to try to find answers to.

The high-level railway at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
High on the cliff directly above the adit, a telephone poole still stands. All of the Conrad mines were connected by a private telephone system by 1906, and some of the trails along the telephone lines on this slope in particular can still be walked.

Telephone pole at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
I started back down just after 1:30, and got a closer look at the tramway tower, which is under 20 feet tall, one of the smallest on the mountain.

Tramway tower at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
I took a slightly different route down, preferring small scree slopes interspersed with firm rock to the juniper-covered slopes I came up on. I had a fairly constant nag on the way down that I should have kept exploring, but I had come with no detailed plan beyond getting to the main workings, and was basically happy with the day.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
My route down took me to the same rock face I had identified as a good starting point on the way up, and only took 40 minutes. At 2:40 I was back to the car, with 164 photos saved in the camera.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
My broader goal of trying to re-kindle the passion I once had for these mines worked. I’m now anxious to get back up there as soon as possible, and have started to develop a much broader plan of exploration and a much longer day. I shot this photo of the site while flying with my friend Kyle Cameron 2 years ago when he invited me to join him and his partner to explore an old logging operation nearby (see “Flight to Yukon History” from August 2013). In this photo and others, the telephone line and other trails can be seen for the next outing.

Aerial photo of the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
A couple of days ago, one of my readers pointed me to a project he’s involved in, Track Kit, which provides mapping of hikes and other trips – this is my first test of the system, which creates a track using the waypoints my Spot creates. It will take me a while to fine-tune the output, but it looks like a very useful tool. The map is interactive – just click on it to enlarge it, get lat/longs, move around, etc.


Tomorrow afternoon I’m flying to Kelowna for a week to help my Dad move, but I’ll be back #ExploringYukon soon. A week to Dawson City and back with the family in the RV is the next plan 🙂



Comments

Hiking to the upper Venus Silver Mine, Yukon — 15 Comments

  1. Amazing!!!! I too was wondering how they got the wood up there!!?? Thanks for sharing!!

    • My guess at this point is dragging material up the slope with an ever-larger series of ropeways, but I need to find some photos or a procedures book from that era.

  2. Hello Murray.
    I just discovered your web page and as a former Yukoner, I can totally relate to your affinity for the Yukon! I am also a good friend of Kyle Cameron. I really enjoyed your photo-essay of the Venus mine. I have driven past that spot 2 dozen times and always wanted to climb up there to have a look. Yukon has the most amazing history and I’m glad to share your enthusiasm in exploring it. Looking forward to future posts and new discoveries!

    • Hi Warren. It’s always particularly a pleasure to welcome former Yukoners to my blog. I hope that you enjoy our future travels.

  3. Really enjoyable post Murray. Always find your scenery jaw-droppingly beautiful.

    (Off to do a bit of Googling about “Pooley Creek”, my Grandmothers brother E A Pooley left Aus.in early 1900’s as a young man and moved to Canada, where he served with some distinction,there are a few members of the family in Vancouver.)

    Wish we could get around outside without a hat !!

    • Thanks, John. Pooley Creek was named for one of the first silver miners in the area, John Mervin “Jack” Pooley, who arrived at Carcross from Dawson in the early summer of 1900 with his partner Jack Stewart.

  4. Hello, I came across your article on a friends Facebook page. I recognized the first photo straight away. My family is from Whitehorse. my father is 86 years old and was a truck driver for many years on the Alaska Highway from the late 40’s to the early 70’s. He hauled fuel to this mine and I have heard him tell us about this mine. He also hauled to other mines in the Yukon. He knows the Alaska Highway and has ton of stories about driving all over the Yukon. I have encouraged him to write these stories down but he has only shared them by telling them to family and friends. A lot of people who drove those days are now passed. He would maybe have a story or two for you. Please contact me if you are interested.

    • Hi Barb. Thanks for your comments. The Dalziel name is certainly well known in the transportation history of the Yukon – what’s your Dad’s name? I’m involved in gathering stories from the Alaska Highway’s past, and we’d love to talk with him.

  5. your article is so interesting,my father and grandfather worked in the goldmines many years ago before my time and I worked at a mine site in Newfondland for 5 years.i really appreciate reading about this,can wait to see more on your travels there,you did an awesome job on this,Best of Luck and always stay safe. thanks so much for sharing.

  6. Fun to watch you explore Murray. I’ve done that hike but never made it as high as you did! I’m glad you found some passion to re-publish the book. It’s going to be a best seller 🙂 Have a great time in Kelowna!

    • Yes, Neal, the mines there did operate year round except for brief periods when the weather got really severe (that seems to have been only a combination of deep cold and winds which affected the aerial tramways).

  7. You are so lucky being able to do so many interesting things. I only spend 12 days with you, but enjoy reading about all your adventures.

  8. Enjoyed this so much (we used to explore the desert and mtns of CA,NV as a kid w my dad who had the mining history bug bigtime…went back to read and enjoy the pics a 2nd time. Yes, I hope you do the book over.

  9. Hi Murray,
    Have been reading your blog for quite some time. I love it!! I’ve been to the Yukon, Haines and Skagway, AK. We took the ferry from Prince Rupert to Haines, AK. and drove home down the Alaska Highway. I thought the drive to Skagway provided the most beautiful landscape that I’ve ever seen!! Looked like a lava bed. I loved every minute of it!
    I’m an animal lover and I deeply appreciate how much you and Kathy love animals…ALL animals!! Breaks my heart that Monty is going down hill…I’ve been there and it ain’t pleasant! My deepest sympathy and love to Monty!
    I agree with you on the graffiti…how thoughtless of people…that sense of entitlement is EVERYWHERE!!! They somehow think that those rocks were put there especially for them to deface??? with not a conscious thought about anyone else…stupid is right!!! Anyway, that’s my rant…:)
    I love your blog!! Thanks for providing so much enjoyment for me!