Helicopter, Ice, and lucky weather: Fox Glacier Heli-Hike

I had heard someone recommend we visit Fox Glacier while in New Zealand. I did not know what Fox Glacier was, yet alone what a glacier is. I admit, I’m ignorant. I thought a glacier was really a geyser, and I was going to see water shooting out of the earth. I guess I was wrong! Isn’t that the reason I’m traveling, to learn? Thank god we learn new things everyday!

For those of you that are ignorant like myself, a glacier is large amounts of ice constantly moving. INSERT WIKI DEFINITION. Here in New Zealand they have over a thousand glaciers but Fox Glacier has been named one of the most beautiful and important glaciers of South Island.

 

Without knowing exactly what we were in for, we made Fox Glacier our second stop on our road trip. We had been told the experience of a Fox Glacier hike can be amazing in any weather but we really wanted a sunny day. We checked out the forecast late Sunday and found out the only sunny day in the next few days was going to be Monday! It’s a 4 hour drive and it was already too late to drive to Fox Glacier on Sunday. We book our heli-hike experience for Monday! So on Monday morning, we wake up at 6:30 am to start our drive at 7 am.

We drove from Lake Hawea to Fox Glacier, a 250 km trip with most of the trip being inside a national park! It was an amazing driving experience. We saw the sunrise over the lake, beautiful mountain ranges, went down to the coast, a foggy rainforest, and more.

We arrive at Fox Glacier an hour before our scheduled departure. We had an option of a half-day or full day hike experience or the Heli-Hike option. We opted for the Heli-Hike because happy gal had never been on a helicopter before and we wanted to reach parts of the glacier that are only possible with a helicopter. WOW! It was amazing!

We started off by borrowing boots, socks, and jackets specially made for ice conditions. After all, we would be walking on ice for the next 3 hours. We gear up and after a short 7-10 minute flight up to the glacier, we land on the ice with a guide waiting for us!

We were very lucky with the weather, apparently, it rains 1 out of 2 days at the Glacier and we had a bright blue sky with the sun shinning on us.

We walk out of the helicopter and are instructed to put on crampons (spikes) on our boots. These things really break into the ice and give a whole new definition to shoes. The six of us tourists start our walk through the glacier with our guide. It’s basically only us 7 and the huge mountains, waterfalls, and ice around us. We walked in between crevaces (cracks in the ice created by water streams, that if you get stuck in them, you’re sure to break a rib or two and probably be unable to get unstuck by the time you die), looking for unexplored ice formations. Our guide was in the exploring mood and asked if we were adventurous enough to follow him. Without thinking it we said, of course!

The next hour includes exploring the unexplored, breaking ice with an axe, going into ice tunnels created by water streams, and hiking around the glacier. It was an out of this world experience. Even now, a few days after the experience, I still cannot grasp mother nature. It has given me quite a few surprises and the Fox Glacier was definitely one of them. Here are a few shots of the ice formations:

What’s been your favorite mother nature experience? Where should our travels take us next? Let us know in the comment section below!

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