Posted by Shannon Higgs
Hiking on a Glacier could just be the most breath taking thing I have ever done.
Asides from feeling absolutely tiny and insignificant, being surrounded by walls of ice, you also have this feeling of amazement, at just how amazing this planet we live on really is.
Fox Glacier is situated on the West Coast of the South Island in New Zealand and is the larger Glacier that resides on the West Coast. Fed by four Alpine Glaciers, Fox Glacier falls 2600m on its 12km long journey to the coast. It gets it uniqueness by being one of the few glaciers in the world to end among lush rainforest only 300 metres above sea level. It is also renowned as one of the most accessible Glaciers in the World too.
The Glaciers here move fast. Because of the unique combination of climate and shape means that Fox Glacier moves at approximately 10 times the speed of other valley glaciers around the world. This is due to the funnel-like shape of the glacial valley and the huge nevé, the snow accumulation area, at the top of the glacier. Fox Glacier’s nevé is 36 square kms, bigger than the whole of Christchurch City! Unfortunately Fox Glacier is in the retreating stage. Glaciers advance and retreat depending on the amount of snowfall at the top of the Glacier and the ice melting in the lower part. An increase of snowfall in the neve' (the top) results in advancing but a faster ice melt in the lower part results in retreating. Fox Glacier was advancing from 1985 to 2009 but is currently in the retreating phase.
Having learnt a lot of this information during my tour it was pretty sad to think that in 50 years, Fox Glacier will probably not exist anymore if it continues retreating as it is. It felt pretty special to see it in the form it's in to think that one day it will just be an alpine valley. We had to take a helicopter up onto the Glacier as where we explore is maybe about half way. The ride was short but absolutely stunning! Having never flown in a helicopter before it was pretty exciting, more of a floating feeling rather than the feeling you have when a plane takes off. Walking around on the ice we had to wear crampons, sharp metal clasps that wrap on to the underside of your boots for grip, the ice is very slippery! Because the glacier moves so fast it changes every day, so our guide had to re carve some of the walk way as we were going along which was pretty neat to see. He mainly used an ice axe for it. We got to explore different areas of the glacier for about 3 hours, including ice caves and some small crevasses! The ice is a beautiful bright turquoise color in places and then a crisp white in other areas! We would come across little pools of the clearest water I've ever seen and even got to fill up our drink bottles with Glacial water before coming back down.
We were very lucky with the weather for our trip, clear blue skies and not too cold - perfect conditions. The weather in this region can be pretty 50/50, because of the small range between the coast, temperate rain forest and the mountains in can get pretty gnarley, but when its good, it's good!
An experience I will forever cherish and most definitely recommend to others