Sunday, 31 January 2016

Fox Glacier and the Heli-hike

There are a number of different hiking experiences you can have up in Fox Glacier. You can hike up to the glacier, you can heli up and hike down... Plus the hike all over. You can hike in a group, learn to ice climb, extreme hike (hiking and climbing and generally saying "f***-you mountain... Today I win!" ;) 

I have opted to Heli-hike for a number of reasons. First, it's a 4hr excursion in a group. I expect to meet people, hopefully have them fall in love with me and my cheeky Brit humour for the day and subsequently have an awesome day as a bonded group. Second, although I want to do the Extreme Fox (you get a t-shirt that says extreme fox!) my right knee is not feeling so great and hasn't been since an awkward manoeuvre scrambling over rocks in Queenstown - the 4 hours dancing in a club afterwards probably didn't help either ;) 

My third reason is the most lame of all. I am tired! I know as I have gotten older that I get tired sooner than I used to, it's not a huge difference but noticeable one. I used to be able to pull 16hr shifts at work for many weeks at a time and still be bouncy and chirpy and now I bail and go home after about 13-14hrs. Things change and today after a lot of exercise and concentrated effort driving yesterday I feel my brain is foggy - or maybe the breakfast was more gluten contaminated than I thought. Either way I am not keen on being on a glacier at 9am and I just wriggle back underneath the covers and think: "I should probably get up and going." and then I catch myself in a should moment and I realise that my tired state means I am in danger of should'ing all over myself. 

So I curled back in bed, deciding on an early afternoon flight and watch a show I've been missing on my iPad using the free wifi....woot! Part of living a life true to yourself is first learning how to really listen to yourself. I have the most delightful indulgently lazy-ass morning, moving only when I realise that I have a whole slew of bites on my ankles and lower back. "Damn it!" I treat these irritating little scratchy punctures with some bite ease and then comfort myself with some chocolate in bed and my tv show. This bit of devoted rest re-energises me and my excitement to explore returns in spades... Let's go!

I explore because I want to, I eat when I want to and because I want to, everything I do is what I want and as I want and done when I want - Such as it is to be free. 

In the end I have to slightly rush but I still arrived at my target time in Fox Glacier before any of the other fellow hikers. 

First come the clothing, I am already suitably attired in my waterproofs (thank you Phil) and the guy uses me as the example of an excellent outfit. Go me!

Our tour to the glacier today has a majority of people coming from Bejing, China. A lot of these folks do not speak English and so there is a lot of translating going on. 

We hop onto a coach to taken us over to the heli-pad. The chap in the seat in front of me will be very red by the end of the day... Eeek! 

At the heli pad point we get listed out with out boots. 

With thick pink socks to go with. 

Our own shoes go in the box till we return. 

Boots on and all ready we now get weighed on some large grey scales with yellow edging,  so they can work out helicopter 'loads'. 

We are given safety instructions for how to approach and get in and out of the helicopter. Basically don't go near the blades and the doors fall off easily so don't touch them. 

Panorama of the helipad area

Our chopper! 

The front people load first. 
Now for me!! :)
Taking off in a helicopter is more fun than I had ever imagined! I imagine this is how hover flies could feel... The power to move in any way :) It feels great! 
It's a tremendous ride and I would really recommend getting onto the glacier via helicopter if you've not been in one before. If you have, use your judgement as it is of course more expensive. 

The chopper flies pretty close to the mountains :) 
And then comes in to land on a square of ice marked out with pebbles
We are on a glacier! 
I'm here! This rocks! I don't want to get burnt! ;) We are told that we won't go to close too the mountain as a big chunk fell off yesterday and made a hell of a noise and mess and scared a lot of people including the guides.
We meet our tour guide Duncan and are told that this area has earthquakes roughly every 300 years. "It's been 298yrs since the last one! and these rocks will likely come down then." 
Another helicopter arrives and we all crouch down and cover our eyes so flying ice doesn't hurt us. 
"How many days do you work up here?" I ask Duncan. 

"Most days! So it's great when the weather is like this!" 

"Does that mean you are likely to be up here when the earth quake comes?" 

"Erm yeah! Yeah I guess it does." 

Hmm possibly shouldn't have said that ;) 

I take a picture of the glacier close up. It's pretty ice ;) 

We are given crampons to fix to our boots. These work a treat and the ice becomes easy to walk on without slipping. 

This is Duncan our guide. He is great! :) 

Single file we stomp across the glacier :) It's up, down, up, down, up, down as we make our way across the terrain. 

It's definitely not snowy terrain here... Very hard, very sharp in places and you need to stab your feet in to get grip. It's also an incredibly and unusually sunny day up there and people aren't as prepared as me with the sun lotion. I offer mine around but all decline saying they are ok... Many turn out not to be ok. 

The scenery is spectacular, although by this point I expect no less from New Zealand. :) 

Many pools have formed here where the water runs down the glacier. "This is glacier melt water" and Duncan steps close and has a drink "Cleanest water you'll ever drink." No one drinks ;) 

The terrain is so craggy we don't see the other groups that we are told are up there. 

A beautiful waterfalls add a rushing sound backdrop to the other peaceful sky (apart from all the helicopters ;)

We are walked to many caves. The glacier is shifting and changing a lot so a cave today may not be there at all in a week. 

I smile knowing I am wearing factor 50 for kids... Oh yeah!

Here in my hand I hold a piece of glacier. 

The glacier. 

I find a stream of glacier melt water and I bend down to try it. I have met a lovely lady called Nicola here and she takes my photo as I taste the water. It tastes like sun tan cream. I try to wash my hands better in the cold stream. 

Waterfall and cavern.
Here you can see how sections of the glacier are twisting. 

I watch Duncan using the ice pick and I have my photo take with it to look cool. 
Duncan takes a selfie of us. He thinks it's great that I am travelling solo. "It's better because you can do exactly what you want when you want!" I agree although in the future I will probably travel with people :) 
The clouds look awesome at the top of the mountain :) 
I tried to take pictures of the underwater ice spikes... They are apparently very sharp so you have to be careful. 
Duncan sets up some ice holds for us. It's so warm he says this is the third time he has had to do it because the ice melts too fast. 
We use the rope in place to aid our way down the ice cave. 
It's slippy and wet and very cold on the bum. Because I am sitting as I scootch my way down I am very cold and wet at the bottom... Ba dum tish! 

Nicola maker her way up the next ice cave. 
I stop for some snaps to prove I did it ;) 
Ice selfie in the sunshine
Then back in the chopper to return to base. This time I got to go in the front seat which is much better. 

Me beside Nicola. The guide shown at the back was a bit burnt in the face. 
Our helicopter lands, we get out and then it leaves just as gracefully. To where? Who knows! I like to think that they just fly about waiting to be called down ;)

It was a fun but tiring day hiking over the glacier! I return to the hostel tired but happy and realise I need to do some washing... Ahhh the little things never go away but with so much excitement Peta needs clean pants ;) 

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