Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fox Glacier.

So, as you all know, I went hiking on Fox Glacier yesterday. The whole experience was incredible. Another one on the ever-growing list of coolest things I've ever done. I took enough physical geography courses at school and had a basic idea of how glacial processes work, but I realized yesterday that I didn't really understand at all. First off, the main part of Fox Glacier is the size of Christchurch City. I couldn't see it, but you can take a helicopter ride up there and see it then hike on the top. I will have to come back some day and do that when I'm very rich. The part we hiked on was basically a little drip of ice that comes down out of the mountains where the melting occurs. Also, the glacier is not smooth at all (I thought it would be...). It's all giant chopped up pieces. The surface of these huge chunks of ice melts in a speckled pattern, like a giant golfball. It's really quite difficult to walk around on. We had to wear crampons and the guide was constantly chopping steps into the ice for us.

We all met at the guiding building at 9:00 am. There are only about 4 places to stay in town so several of the people were at the same hostel as I was. Everyone in the group was really nice. We all had to listen to the introduction and put boots and gear on. The company supplied wool socks and mitts and rain gear, if you needed it. The bus left Fox at 9:30 am. It was only about a 10 minute drive to the base of the glacier where the river came out. We then had to hike into the glacier through the spillway, up 800 (ugh) steps and over a narrow trail along the bluff wall beside the glacier. This area is a rainforest and it was SO hot and humid in there (and we were all dressed quite warmly). I found a lot of cool orchids, but wasn't allowed to take pictures because your hands had to be empty to hold onto the chain so you wouldn't fall off the cliff. You can't go near the face of the glacier because ice is constantly melting off and it's very dangerous. That is why we had to climb up and around and onto the ice. At the edge of the ice the guide gave us all alpinestocks (walking sticks with points on the end to dig into the ice) and crampons for our boots. There were 11 people in my group including 4 other Canadians and one that had graduated from Guelph the year after me. They were all really cool. Also, one of them was celebrating her 25th birthday, so that was fun too.

The rainforest we walked through. This area gets 10 m of rain a year. That's 3 more metres
than the Daintree Rainforest gets! It rains 200 days out of the year. It sprinkled on us, but just a little. There was a strange warm breeze coming off the glacier and the guide said it was probably an indication of a strange weather event about to occur. Then, all of a sudden, the clouds were so thick. We heard the the heli-hike people might be stuck at the top of the glacier because the helicopters couldn't get in to pick them up. They were rescued though when the sun broke through for a few minutes.

On ice. A fitting way to spend December 1.

Our group walking up the glacier. Sort of like Gordon Street in February.

While we were up there, Malisa told us that we had actually crossed over a major fault line where two tectonic plates meet. There is generally a huge earthquake there every 200 years. Right now they are 260 years overdue for a 'big one'. When it happens, the westcoast will most likely be seperated from the rest of NZ for 7 months. No one will be able to get through on land. They have had a lot of meetings regarding this and there are some big hospital ships that will come from Australia to rescue the survivors. I'm sort of glad I'm not over there anymore. Though if the big one happened, all of NZ would shake.

Grade A glacial mud. They collect this for expensive spas. It is very smooth, but I don't really see the appeal.

Climbing up out of the moulon we took turns exploring.

Trying out the ice axe. I don't know how the girls do this all day long.

The ice looks very blue because over time the oxygen moves to the top layer and goes into the atmostphere. The dense ice reflects the blue light and that's what we see.

The rock fall at the side of the glacier. The ice is carving away the mountains and whenever it rains a lot the mud holding the rocks in will let go and the rocks will slide down the side.

The ice features are constantly changing as the glacier flows. The rocks that get mixed into the ice cause all sorts of crevasses and moulans (holes) to form.

Our guide, Malisa, a local girl who grew up on a farm in Fox, and the view out over the front of the glacier down the valley.

We returned to town at 6:00 pm and we were all so exhausted. I went out for dinner with the Canadians and had green mussels and chips and Monteith's Apply Cider. yum. We then went over to the cornerstore and picked up a case of beer and ice cream cake then went back to the hostel to hang out in the room and fall asleep talking about how cool Canada is and how many weird things the Aussies and Kiwis do. I think I convinced them all to come down to Guelph for Hillside Inside and I'll definitely be attending a Toronto Football Club game next summer.



  1. Love the pics, looks pretty neat. I'm adding walking on a glacier to my list of things to do in my lifetime.

    WOW, these last four months have just flown by, just over 2 weeks till your home, I'm looking forward to seeing you when you're home! Actually I can't wait...

  2. I think everyone should walk on a glacier at some point in their lives. Maybe we can go heli-hiking some day?

    Also, I knit that toque I'm wearing in the pictures. I made it with the nicest, squishiest Australian wool ever.