Collecting Quartz Japan-Law Twins on Foley Peak, British Columbia
Dave Van Dieren came to visit me at my home in Kamloops back in 1986. He is a mining and mineral processing engineer and he was starting to develop an interest in collecting natural mineral specimens. He is an avid hiker, and had encountered crystallized minerals during some of his hikes and, also, during a summer job working in mineral exploration. During the visit to my home, he noticed a specimen with small Japan-law twinned quartz crystals, from Peru, and said that he had a larger one that he had found a couple of years earlier. I was skeptical but on the following weekend, on a collecting trip to Monte Lake, Dave pulled out a specimen to show me. Surprisingly, it was a small but well formed specimen of a quartz crystal twinned according to the “Japan-Law” of twinning in quartz. A Japan-Law twin is one where two crystals of quartz have formed together with axes oriented at almost 84 degrees and 33minutes to each other. While quartz crystals are common around the world, these kinds of quartz crystal twins are not! He told me that he had found the quartz crystals while hiking on Foley Peak, in the Cheam Range, near Hope, in southern British Columbia. It is a very close to the Canada-USA border. I suggested to Dave that, if he was ever going to hike to that place again, I would love to accompany him.
A couple of months later, Dave called me and invited me to join him and two other friends on a hike to Foley Peak. On a Friday night in late July of that year, we drove up to within 4,500 feet or so of the peak and camped overnight. In the morning, we woke up to a gorgeous, sunny day and a clear view of Foley Peak and surrounding mountains. I thought, Yikes! we’re going to hike up THERE!?! I was a novice hiker while Dave and his buddies were pros!
We headed off in search of the old mule trail that led to the peak. The trail started in lush coastal rain-forest and, eventually, ended up at the 6300 foot elevation in treeless, “Alpine” mountain terrain, complete with permanent ice fields. Although there are many higher mountains in the world, the sheerness of the climb makes the climb a challenge for any avid hiker. My body was not used to such hikes and I ended up with severe leg cramps and was pretty exhausted by the time we reached our destination, a 4,000 foot vertical climb in six or so hours. The climb, although exhausting for me was super interesting as we passed various changes in vegetation. I got a real kick out of the pikas, a rabbit-related mammal, that inhabited the boulder fields at the start of the alpine terrain.
The destination area was mostly barren rock, ice fields, scrub bushes and alpine vegetation. There were very few places level enough to camp! We, eventually, did find a couple of spots between the boulders for our tents. What a gorgeous place! Amazing scenery in every direction that changed dramatically with the amount of clouds and level of the sun.
Foley Peak has been the subject of geological investigation a number of times in the past, mostly for its copper and gold potential. The location of the Japan-Law quartz crystals is actually a skarn deposit marked by copious amounts of copper and iron oxide staining on the side of the peak. Old geological reports note the mineralization in the area and also point out a “zone of giant quartz crystals” in the skarn. While this zone has very interesting sounding potential, in fact, it is just a zone of very large interlocking milky quartz crystals with no specimen potential, as far as we could tell.
The original Japan-law twin that Dave Van Dieren found was recovered from the talus at the base of a cliff at the edge of the Foley Ice Field. When we had recovered from the climb we made our way to the location and began methodically digging in the talus across the base of the cliff. We recovered a number of twins and many individual crystals. At the time, we assumed that the crystals were from the quartz zone underneath the talus, which was only 0.5m or so thick.
Dave van D. and I decided to return to the locality, later, with better digging equipment plus drilling and blasting supplies.
Dave Van Dieren and I enlisted the help of Bill Montgomery, of Kamloops, BC, for the next trip to Foley Mountain a month later. No hiking this time. Helicopter! We wanted to take my Cobra Drill, explosives, packing material plus camping gear and it would not be possible to pack these materials up the trail. Besides, by hiring a helicopter, which only cost around $700.00 for a round trip, we would have more time for collecting and we’d be fresher, as well!
So in the August of 1987, we headed up to Foley Peak again. Weather was iffy but we finally were able to fly to Foley, through the clouds. As soon as we landed, the clouds moved in, again, and the helicopter was trapped for a while. After a couple of hours, the clouds parted and the pilot flew the helicopter off of the mountain.
We dug across the base of the base of the deposit, again and recovered a few nice twinned quartz crystals, including the largest one, 5.5” across. Dave Van Dieren won the coin toss, at the conclusion of the trip, and selected that large one as his own.
We dug out the talus along the stretch of the base of the deposit right to bedrock which was solid quartz. Trouble is, it was SOLID quartz with very few openings. There were no good crystals in it! We scratched our heads and, after gazing at the cliff above the talus. Duh!!!), we realized that the crystals were originating from large vugs in the cliff above the talus. Actually, the reason that we were finding some crystals in such great shape and not smashed to smithereens on the talus is probably because they fell out into snow and were gently laid down onto the talus as the snow and ice melted.
We did explore around the sides of the mountain but found no other good spots. So we split up the crystals that we had found and decided that we could not collect anymore great twins at the location that trip. We’d have to come back with climbing gear and tackle the vugs high up on the mountain face some other time.
We did plan to return to Foley Mountain a year later. This time, Dave and I enlisted the help of my friend, noted collector, rock climber, caver, gemologist and geologist Brad Wilson of Kingston, Ontario. I took rock climbing lessons in Ontario and Dave was taught rappelling technique by mine rescue workers at the mine he worked at, Highland Valley Copper, near Logan Lake, BC. So Dave and I knew the basics but Brad brought the right gear and the right level of expertise to the venture.
The plan was that we would climb up above the vugs and then rappel down to access them. We would empty the contents of the vugs while suspended on ropes, lowering packsacks of specimens to the icefield below by a separate rope. This system worked well.
Upon arrival, we climbed to the designated spot. What a view!! It has to be one of the more spectacular views from a collecting site! Brad anchored the main rope, with a tension-equalizing knot system, to several scrawny but tough old shrubs that held to the mountain tenaciously. He was the first to go over the edge to have a look at the vugs, clearing the cliff face of loose rock on the way down. We waited for his report on the radio system that we had purchased for the occasion. Brad did encounter three sizeable cavities in the cliff face that contained quartz crystals and actually found a couple of Japan-Law twins on the side of one of the cavities. For the most part, however, the linings of the cavities had collapsed and required careful excavation. Two of the cavities were large enough to sit in once some of the material had been removed. So we took turns rappelling down the cliff face, digging, lowering packsacks of specimens and admiring the view.
This time, many of the twins were pristine. After all, they had not fallen out of a vug to the talus slope below. As well as loose crystals we found several very nice matrix specimens showing a twin amongst many other un-twinned crystals.
In addition to the quartz crystals, there was a fair amount of calcite, often as disc-shaped white crystals to 1.5cm or so perched on and between quartz crystals.
There was also adularia feldspar in heavily striated, twinned crystals, on occasion.
I think the biggest surprise on this trip was the scheelite. Dave van Dieren had noticed that some clear, colourless fragments had a very high density. We weren’t sure what they were but, later, after exposing them to short-wave U/V light, we concluded that the fragments were scheelite. Many were clear enough to be faceted into gems by Brad Wilson and some are figured below.
The three large pockets’ contents were largely collapsed. This made digging relatively easy (once were rappelled down to them) and was accomplishable with a screwdriver, pick, etc. We were careful to not damage any crystals that we found in the rubble, and wrapped any good ones immediately. The good crystals and specimens were carefully packaged in newspaper and lowered in batches to the ice field below. It was great sitting inside the vugs, pulling out top class Japan-law twin quartz crystals. As a bonus, it was also great to pause, once in a while, to out over the ice, valleys and adjacent mountains.
We excavated the collapsed pocket contents of the three large visible pockets and, after prospecting the face, found two more smaller, crystal-filled pockets. These pockets contained lots of individual crystals but only a few smaller Japan-law twins.
We took time to explore the other areas around the skarn. We descended the north face and found large masses of solid garnet, characterized by garnet crystals mashed together.
The north face also is where an adit had been driven many years ago to access the copper deposit from below, probably to facilitate diamond drilling. We investigated the adit and found a large vug in there. Mineralization was different, though. Again, quartz crystals were dominant but in the “adit vug” they were partially encrusted with small feldspar crystals and groups of siderite crystals. Brad wiggled into the vug and collected a few dozen specimens.
We prospected the south side of the mountain but found only one vug and a single decent specimen of quartz was recovered from it.
We recovered, probably thousands of single quartz crystals during this trip, many of which we left behind due to weight restrictions. We recovered only about 30 or so Japan-law twins, large and small, broken and whole, and they were split three ways. Brad won the coin toss and selected the larger specimen that was covered with single crystals, calcite crystals and one large, beautiful Japan-Law twin.
Again, due to weight restrictions and our lack of funds, it was decided that only one person could ride back down in the helicopter with the equipment and specimens. I won that coin toss so the rest were resigned to hike back down the mountain. It was not a fun hike since much of it was in cold, rain and, during the last stretch, in the dark.
Dave van Dieren did return to Foley Peak with another Dave, Dave Langevin, during the Fall of 1988. They did find a couple more Japan-law twins including the one in figure 45.
Return to Foley Peak, 2009
I had spoken of Foley Peak many times with Lloyd Twaites, well known collector, from Vancouver. He had hiked up there with his wife, Mary, a couple of times, in the past. We sometimes talked about taking a trip up there to see if we could find any more crystals. During 2008 we were considering the effects of climate change on the various ice fields and glaciers in British Columbia and thought that the melting ice could have revealed more pockets at Foley Peak. We decided that the next year, the summer of 2009, we would head up to Foley Peak one more time.
During the winter before, I contacted Dave Van Dieren, the finder of the first twin and asked him if he would like to go, as well. He did! So with our team in place, we started planning. Dave arranged the helicopter and part of the food while Lloyd arranged most of the menu and logistics with great help from Mary. I couldn’t do much in these departments since I now lived a few thousand km away in Ontario. Dave and Lloyd could drive to the helicopter base.
So in August of 2009, we flew up to Foley Peak another time.
As expected, there was significantly less ice in the glaciers and ice fields than before. It was very different! As a matter of fact there was only one small place to land the helicopter this time! With a little more melt, it might not have been possible to land the helicopter. As it was, the ice melted 0.5m, or so, during our four day stay!
There was more talus exposed this time so we sifted through it and found a few more Japan-law twin quartz crystals, mostly damaged. Only one small one was undamaged.
There was one pocket, the “new pocket” exposed at the edge of the north ice field and we recovered some larger quartz crystals, siderite and scheelite from it.
We went back to the adit and collected in one of the pockets in it, recovering a few more quartz-feldspar-siderite specimens. It appeared that someone else had been in it, though, and pickings were slim.
Interestingly, sometime in the last decade or so, a large southerly portion of the rock face of the collecting area had slid and crashed down to the ice field. The slide material seemed to be made up of skarn material and we managed to find some garnet crystals and scheelite (not cut-able) in that pile of broken rock. As well, interestingly, a couple of new cavities had been exposed, up on the cliff face, as the rock has fallen away. Unfortunately, the rock above the cavities is extremely unstable and it would be foolhardy to try and access the new cavities from either below or above. I’m sure there are some nice crystals in them, though!
The reason that we went back to Foley Peak was to take advantage of “global warming” or Climate change. We thought that we might as well take advantage of an upside” of the warming trend affecting the world! We were not expecting one observation, though!
In some places, there was probably 30 or 40 feet less of ice and snow compared to the last time we were there, 22 years ago. This visit, there certainly was more white on our heads and certainly LESS snow and ice in the ice fields and glaciers. We went there to see what the receding ice had revealed in the geology of the area. What we weren’t expecting was to find other things where the ice and snow had been. At one spot, where there had been 40 more feet of ice and snow, we found a neatly stacked pile of empty fuel drums! These are drums that had been stacked there during the 30’s and/or 40’s, we think, when they did prospecting and small production mining at the site. In other words, the snow and ice levels, now, are at the SAME levels as they were back in the 30’s and 40’s. Actually they are still higher since many items, tools and building foundations were still poking out from under the ice! Maybe the world is warming. I guess it warmed before and then in the succeeding decades, cooled again. And now it is warming again! When we looked closely at the old maps from mining reports, we could easily see that the snow and ice levels, currently, are the same as they were way back then. Interesting. ARE we in a period of long term global warming or are we just getting excited about the normal ups and downs of the climate? I have included some “before” and ‘after” images, below, to show you some differences in the ice/snow levels then and now.
The scenery was a little less dramatic this trip since the air was thick with smoke from forest fires many miles away. One day, the smell of wood smoke was palpable and the scenery was totally eliminated! We could not see anything from the peak for much of the day.
Weather was mostly pretty good and we had lots of sunlight. One night though, a horrendous windstorm erupted and lasted most of the night. I thought we’d be blown off of the mountainside in our tents! The wind lasted through the next morning(under clear skies) until it abated.
We were surprised, this visit, to see various mountain goats above us, grazing on grass here and there on the peak. We were a little concerned when occasionally, they would send landslides of rock careening down the mountainside, mostly down the ice field beside us. See Fig. 50. It would have been extremely treacherous to be caught in one of those slides, with death or serious injury a real possibility. Anyway, it was very cool to see those critters jumping around impossible, treacherous, rocky slopes way above us. We saw none in the three previous trips. They were the only animals that we saw up there, this trip, besides hummingbirds.
Maybe it was because of the receding snow and ice but there were nice wildflowers everywhere. Lots of bumblebees, too. I don’t remember wildflowers other than heather on the previous trips.
The fourth trip to Foley was not nearly as successful in terms of collecting, as the previous trips but it was fun and was a great place to collect. Dave van Dieren and Lloyd Twaites are great collecting companions.
So that ended our recent trip to Foley Peak. Will we go back again? At the present time, there is probably very little to collect. In the future after more ice has melted (if it melts) and after the rock slides have stabilized (in our lifetime?), maybe we or someone else might find some additional nice crystals!
I really do not know who took most of the earlier photo’s but suffice to say some are by me, Dave Van Dieren or Brad Wilson, with some by Canadian Museum of Nature personnel, thus the different styles and formats. The earlier photo’s were copied from 35mm slides and so the resolution is not as consistent it would be with fresh digital images. I won’t try to put photo credits on any photo’s other than from the last trip. Thanks to all photographers!