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Over the past two decades, oxygen isotope studies have been carried out by a host of authors on most of the principal hydrothermal ore deposits of western North America. These data have been used to interpret the evolution and origin of ore-forming hydrothermal fluids in a variety of different settings. It is somewhat surprising, given the economic prominence of the Cripple Creek district, that it has escaped such attention. This is probably related to two main factors. First, in many types of hydrothermal gold deposits, quartz veins are common, and they offer an ideal sampling medium for oxygen isotope analysis. Although quartz is present in the veins at Cripple Creek, the veins are difficult to sample for oxygen isotope work because they are relatively thin (although very high-grade!) and the quartz is difficult to separate. Second, the scientific community has had access to few mine exposures at Cripple Creek over the last few decades, and sampling has been severely restricted.

This study was initiated because of the opportunity to sample the Altman open pit, which was accessible to the authors in 1989-1990. This pit was developed over the Phamacist vein system, which had been mined using underground methods by the old-timers. The wall rocks around the vein zone are hydrothermally altered, and they contain enough disseminated gold to be mined by open pit methods. These altered igneous rocks have recorded geochemical information about the hydrothermal fluid which passed through them, and are well-suited to oxygen isotope study. Samples were collected in three dimensions through the hydrothermal system.

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