Fox, October 18 - 21
You can't go to New Zealand and not climb a glacier, the only decision is which one? Fox or Franz Josef? We chose Fox because we had heard it wasn't as busy as Franz Josef and we had heard only good things from people who had done it.
We met at the Fox Glacier Guiding building (just a short stroll from the hostel because Fox is the tiniest town) at 9.15am to get our gear on. We had to wear thick wollen red hiking socks and hobnail boots - these weighed a ton so it was an effort just to walk to the bus that would take us to the glacier.
Our first glimpse of the glacier was of something that looked like a big dirty rock. The terminal face is quite dirty with debris from surrounding soil and rock so it doesn't look like ice at first. To get on the ice we had to walk for an hour uphill through forest at the side of the glacier. At one stage we had to hold onto a chain to cross a perilous part of cliff which had a sheer drop down the
side. Then we had to climb up a ladder - Simon, with his fear of heights, managed to do all this without requiring mountain rescue.
The walk to the glacier was pretty tiring, especially wearing unfamiliar heavy boots, but the sight of the glacier was out of this world. From high above it we could see different shades of blue and it seemed to go on for miles. It is actually 13km long and falls 8,000ft on its journey from the base of the Southern Alps to the west coast. The neve (the snow accumulation area at the top of the glacier) is, at 36kmsq, bigger than Christchurch city. For more interesting facts visit Fox Guides
Before we got on the ice we had to pick up a long wooden stick to help us traverse the glacier and put on crampons. I never in a million years thought I would ever have the need to wear crampons. Then to complete the explorer look we had to tuck our trousers into our socks. Another good fashion moment.
The ice was fascinating. Our guides, who were brilliant, used axes to cut steps into the ice to help us along. We
stepped over giant crevices that seemed to go on for miles and saw the most illuminous shade of blue in the walls of an ice cave. We ate our packed lunches at the side of the glacier while our guides made a path for us down to the ice cave. We then walked through a tunnel of ice which was just like being inside a giant ice cube. Although the ice is, obviously, cold it was really warm on the glacier when the sun was out. We could see the different textures of ice - some parts were just solid like brick while other parts were made up of what appeared to be thousands of loose ice chips that you could pick off. It was truly one of the most exciting things we have ever seen. I guess climbing a glacier isn't something we ever thought about before we got the chance to do it. It was fascinating.
This part of the country is stunning and completely different to what we had seen in the north island. On our bus journeys we saw the landscape changing from rolling green hills to giant snow-capped mountains. New Zealand is truly a
land of contrasts.
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