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Franz and Fox

NEW ZEALAND | Tuesday, 16 July 2013 | Views [507]

Us on the glacier

Us on the glacier

The day we left Queenstown actually started as a lovely day, we drove up past Lake Wanaka and through the Haast Pass and Mount Aspiring National Park.  The scenery was just stunning, so many beautiful lakes and mountains everywhere you looked!  We stopped at some waterfalls on the way as well.  The weather got worse as we got closer to the West Coast and by the time we arrived in Franz Josef it was wet and windy! In our wooden room on the end of the block we could hear the gusts of wind and hail battering the wall.  We drove into town for dinner and discovered the place we’d been recommended all dark, we could see people inside so we went in and discovered there was a power cut!   I guess it must have happened in the few minutes we were in the car because the power was on when we left the room!  We had a limited choice of dinner but they had candles and little lamps.  It made me realise I haven’t been in a power cut for ages!

The strong winds and rain/hail carried on all night and the next morning.  We were booked on a Heli-hike but there was low cloud and with the gusting wind it was cancelled.  Instead we decided to go down to Fox Glacier and do the walk to the bottom of the glacier.  The rain was coming in showers and we had our big coats so thought we’d go in a dry spell and hopefully not get too wet.  We got as far as we could down the track until it was closed because of flooding.  We nearly made it back to the car park before the heavens opened again, as it was blowing sideways only the front of our trousers got wet!  We dried off over lunch and as the heli-hike was confirmed cancelled we thought we’d head down to the Franz Josef glacier in the afternoon in case we didn’t get to see it otherwise.  This was a longer, more open walk along the river through a couple of hail storms!  Needless to say we got absolutely soaked – jeans, socks, shoes wet through!   There were some good views of the lower part of the glacier, although the top was covered in cloud.

We were very lucky to have a beautiful morning on the day we were due to leave.  We had a view of the mountains from the place we were staying, that we hadn’t even realised was there!  Our heli-hike was on for the morning and we kitted up with boots, crampons and waterproof trousers before getting in the helicopter to be taken up the glacier.  The views from the helicopter were amazing as we flew up the glacier and circled around the upper parts before landing in the middle section, well above where we’d walked at the bottom.  After waiting for a couple more trips to bring the other hikers up we set off with our guide walking over the ice and snow.  The storms had brought some fresh snow so we didn’t need the crampons and it made walking around and climbing up slopes easier.  We walked around for a couple of hours, exploring the glacier looking at ice formations and a big waterfall where the sun was catching in the spray to make a rainbow.  The scenery was totally stunning, the ice was so blue and it was an amazing experience.  The guide told us that he’d been working there for 7 years and the glacier had retreated and changed a lot in the last 5 – the waterfall we saw used to be under the ice so they didn’t know it was there but a lot of it has melted in the last few years.  As the sun came round we could hear the ice on the slope cracking as well as a couple small landslides on the sides.  The guide also told us we were the first group they’d been able to take up there in about 5 days due to the weather so we ended up being pretty lucky with the day we had - a first time for everything!

I would definitely recommend it to anyone – just make sure you factor a couple of days there in case the weather doesn’t play ball!

Tags: glacier, hail, helicopter, hiking, power cut

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