The Finestones Are Truly Living Up To Their Name

words :: Ben Osborne

photos :: Brian Finestone

Everyone handled quarantine differently—some clocked some serious hours in front of the TV screen, others picked up a new book, and some were lucky enough to have access to the outdoors. Finn and Brian Finestone of Whistler, BC, fall into the latter category.

With plenty of spare time and access to a beautiful backyard, the father-son duo has been doing something unique. In an apparent homage to their namesake, they have taken up hunting for minerals, inspired by some of Finn’s schooling. After some epic shots on their Instagram caught our eye, we sat down with the duo to hear what the hunt is all about.

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Tell us about yourself—who are the characters behind the rocks?

I’m a 29-year Whistler local with intimate knowledge of the Whistler area. I’ve written guidebooks to hiking, mountain biking and skiing/snowboarding in the valley. My son, Finn was born and raised in Whistler—he’s a hard-charging snowboarder and mountain biker who is equally skilled with a fly rod.

How did you get into mineral hunting? Total boredom from COVID, or was it a pre-existing interest?

As a result of COVID-19, Finn had a few courses at school that moved into home study online. One of those courses was Earth Science where they had a block on geology and minerals with an assignment to go out into your community to identify the type of rocks where you live.

“I can promise you a long walk, wet feet, mosquito bites and dirty fingernails, after that anything can happen.” We get skunked often.

Coincidentally a few weeks earlier, my wife had run into a guy digging in a cave at the end of our road who showed her a quartz crystal he had just found. We went to that spot to see what we could see and found a few scraps lying around then dug into the back of the cave and found a fresh vug with some nice little points. They were small but crystal clear, which sparked our motivation to see if we could find more.

Tell us about the types of rocks you are finding—anything valuable, or do they just look beautiful?

We knew very little about what was out there, but it turns out the Sea to Sky area has a rich geology with lots of mineral variety. We are definitely more interested in the crystal forms than the rock mineral side of things. The rocks can be sensational, but often require significant amounts of cutting and polishing which we are not equipped to do.

A typical day of school during the COVID-19 Pandemic looks a bit different—Finn dives in headfirst.

We have been searching for quartz crystal which seems to come in a range of configurations from druzy (thin coating with smaller clear crystals) on a granite matrix to bigger versions, often with a green mineral called chlorite associated with it. The green chlorite can be a coating over top of the fully formed crystal or be an inclusion within the clear crystal known as a phantom. We have also found amethyst, agate and pyrite as well as some quartz variants chalcedony and calcite.

There is a market for both raw and polished quartz but we have yet to delve into that world. So far it has just been the thrill of the hunt to see what we can find, we have not really thought about monetizing the endeavour.

What has the learning curve been like? How often are you going out and getting skunked? Ever? 

The learning curve is part of the sense of discovery, we frequently come home with something and do a few days of research to find out what it is or why it was out there. We are certainly not the first in Whistler to hunt for crystals so we have pieced together clues from other people’s social media posts along with pandemic worthy hours of YouTube videos on crystal hunting.

Sometimes you get skunked, sometimes you score.

Part of the allure is that there is no guarantee of finding anything. As I have told a few people who have asked to tag along, “I can promise you a long walk, wet feet, mosquito bites and dirty fingernails, after that anything can happen.” We get skunked often.

From a father-son perspective, how has it taught you to work together? Has it revealed anything new about each other?

We spend a lot of time together on snowboards, bikes and fishing so this is not really anything new. As a good friend of ours likes to say, “Any time two guys are going in the same direction by the same means, it’s a race.” We are competitive at finding new spots, nicest rock, biggest rock, most rocks but it makes the experience more fun. On days when we go solo, it’s just not as fun. 

What exactly does “Fair Means” harvesting mean?

The term “Fair Means” comes from climbing where a lesser impact ascent is seen as a better ethic. The term has more recently been expanded to encompass other forms of travel and generally means getting to your destination via your own steam. At one point we had accumulated a windowsill full of crystals and came to the realization that all of them had been harvested on foot or via mountain bike, essentially fair means by accident. We often scout out new zones on mountain bikes and return on foot with the gear to dig all day. 

What’s the golden ticket?  What’s the one stone you are praying you’ll find one of these days?

There is definitely a hierarchy of what we value. Size and clarity would be two factors but the ultimate finds are what are called “biterminated” crystals which form unattached to the rock in a cavity and have the classic diamond taper on both ends of the needle. We have been out dozens of days and only have a couple of biterminated crystals on the shelf.

Treasures of the trade.

We would also like to explore some other zones in BC. On a recent trip, we managed to find amethyst and banded agate but there are some other minerals in BC that would be fun to chase. Rockhounding pairs nicely with riding bikes and it’s easy to throw in some tools if you’re going on a trip. The one tool we find most useful is a rock climbing nut pick which we now bring on every ride just in case we see something worth prospecting.

Well, I learned something new today! Thanks for your time, and best of luck on the hunt!

To see more of their adventures, head over to the Finestone’s Instagram page.