A Cooler Way To Fox It Up


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Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » West Coast » Fox Glacier
September 7th 2012
Published: August 9th 2017
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Geo: -43.4643, 170.018

It was time to continue the journey down the west coast, known for it's rain, but in our case, once again we were lucky with the clear blue sky. We only had a few hours till we reached Franz Joseph Glacier.
We were watching the weather forecast closely though as the forecast was for rain which didn't quite fit in with our Ice Climbing plans on Fox Glacier. We walked up to both Glaciers, Franz and Fox which were both impressive in their own ways. Franz is more steeper and rugged whereas Fox is more mellow and smooth.

That night we had to find a place to park the camper, but in a small town like Fox Glacier, finding a spot that you can camp with out paying is near impossible. We tried at the school but was told that we would be fined and that there was free camping at Gillespies Beach which was 21km out of town.
We almost drove all the way there while going through dense bush before concluding it would be better just to pay for a caravan park.
Paying to stay in a caravan park defeats the purpose of having a camper to sleep in, why pay extra when you already have a bed?
I understand that a few people who have decided to ruin it for the rest by, lets just say, not using public toilets. So we had to fork out $17 each, but at least we got our first shower of the trip.

The morning was quite cloudy but we had been put on the reserve list for the full day hike if the Ice Climbing had been cancelled due to bad weather. This was going to be fun, and we were hoping for the rain to hold off. For most of the day it held off nicely, until the last hour or so where it was constant. But by that time we had completed all that we ever expected, and more.

Our guide was a bit distant at the start. He didn't really bother to explain or help out as much as we thought. In the end I was the one explaining to Anna how to ice climb and tie knots, seeing as I had done it a few years back before.
He even had us belaying each other which was fine, but maybe not for the first climbs of the day.
As the day pushed on, he got better and more friendlier which made the day better for us.

We may have not had the luck of a blue sunny day for climbing but that counteracted the luck we had when we had our own private guide, just the two of us. This meant we weren't waiting for other climbers, a maximum of four. We completed two climbs in the early stages, thanks to Anna's great skill.
Our guide was happy to be quite flexible, I guess at the amount we paid to have this experience we should be allowed to do as we choose. So we chose to push further in to the depths of the cold and icy force that is a Glacier and see a few ice caves and crevasses.

As we were leaving, a group of half day hikers were returning, our guide asked how they liked it, but no-one seemed convinced. Half day hikes which are about 4 hours only spend about an hour to two hours on the ice.
So obviously it depends on separate circumstances, but I would do the full day hike instead of the half day hike.
Oh and it turns out that you can't do any of this at Franz Joseph Glacier anymore because of the glacier retreating so much that they are not able to get onto the glacier safely. This is understandable, but they still advertise that these hikes can be still done, even though they can't.
So we were lucky to have chosen to ice climb at Fox Glacier as it was new for both of us.

We arrived at a very cool second climb, quite high and not as easy as it looks when we got to the top section. What was also cool was that we were lowered in to a hole at the start of the climb.
It was by far the best climb around, the top was the toughest part.
It had just gone 11.30 and we had already done what most ice climb groups do in a day thanks to only being the two of us. So we asked if it was possible to walk up to where the full day hikers walk. It was fine and we got to walk all the way up to and in among the lower ice fall.

So effectively we got to do the Ice Climbing and the full day hike in one which ice climbers don't really get to do. So we were so happy and amazed to be able to have that opportunity.
We got to the lower ice fall where and enjoyed amazing ice formations.
As the rain settled in, we were able to squeeze one last climb at the front of the glacier where we were lowered in to a hole about 20 metres deep and to climb out of it. By then our gloves were soaked among our boots and pants.
It had been an amazing day and we were pretty stuffed afterwards as we headed back to town to enjoy a cup of milo.

Our guide was great and the whole experience was one to remember and even recommend.
I was also very proud of Anna too who did really well on all of the climbs for her first time, and what a day to remember for her too. It's not everyday you get to do this.




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