Glacier helihike day

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Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Franz Josef
March 22nd 2007
Published: March 22nd 2007
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Descent into an ice caveDescent into an ice caveDescent into an ice cave

This was the trickiest part
Awoke to a glorious sunny and clear day. The peaks and glacier crystal clear in the distance. We were very excited about today's helihike. After checking out from the hostel, we headed to the helicopter office to check in. They sent us to the shed to collect our waterproof jackets, boots and 'talenz' which are steel grips for your boots. We were divided into groups and given a safety lecture. Then the moment came and we clambered aboard the helicopter and put on our headphones and seatbelts. The ride was incredibly exilerating. The pilot gave us a brief scenic tour on the way up to the glacier - swooping incredibly low and manoeuvring sharply near the rock face and glacier. The rotors seemed dangerously close to the rock and ice at times. The views were magnificent and the adrenalin buzz fantastic. The helicopter landed on a small piece of rock scree in the middle of the glacier and we rapidly exited and waited for the remainder of our group to arrive on their helicopter. The glacier is hundreds of feet thick at this point. We were shown how to put on our 'talenz' (I first tried to put mine on upside down until the guide pointed out, much to my embarrassment. that the spikes need to point downwards). We were each issued with an ice-axe and then set off in a column led by our guide who cut ice steps on the steeper sections. The glacier is intensely beautiful close up with crevasses, caves, small waterfalls and holes and superbly nature shaped sculptures. We could not believe our luck with the weather - the sun shone down and the mountain air was crystal clear. The talenz provide superb grip. Jen doesn't normally enjoy walking on slopes much but she coped incredibly well (far better than some others in the group). At one point we had to descend into a deep ice cave, which was pretty hairy - but Jen did fine - some others chickened out and went around the ice cave. On ascending from the cave an American man slipped and started to slide but managed to come to a halt before he slipped into a small crevasse. We all shouted for him to use his ice axe to dig in. It was a bit of a scary moment but I don't think it would have been too bad even if he had slipped all the way. After two hours we had to head down to the helicopter-landing place. Just before getting back, there was a loud raw as a big chunk of ice fell higher up the glacier. It was frantic at the landing area because three helicopters landed and took off in quick succession. As each landed we were showered with blowing ice. We quickly scurried aboard ours (Jen getting one of the front seats). The views as we descended were again lovely but over far too soon and we found ourselves back at the helipad. What a magnificent experience - one of the highlights of the trip. After a coffee with some of our glacier buddies, we jumped in the car and set off for Hokitika - a small town further up the west coast. The road winds through heavily wooded mountains. The town of Hokitika greeted us in pleasant sunshine and we checked in at the backpackers attached to the Jade factory outlet. The hostel seemed very quiet but is clean and cheap ( 45NZ$ - £18 for a double). We restocked at the local supermarket and had a quiet night in after the earlier excitement - relaxing on the sofas in the comfortable lounge.

Additional photos below
Photos: 20, Displayed: 20


Previous helicopter leavingPrevious helicopter leaving
Previous helicopter leaving

Missed this helicopter - there'll be another one along shortly
Jen in the front seatJen in the front seat
Jen in the front seat

(but thankfully not driving)

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