by sam on 16th April 2017 4 comments
Terminal face walk with our guide Jamie
No decent wifi and technical issues with the blog site providers (that cant be sorted on live chat with the the patchy wifi!) mean we are a bit behind and still no apostrophes, sorry again for terrible layout!!
Our two days in the West Coast glaciers were like chalk and cheese. The first was drizzly and overcast and pretty miserable. Out cabin overlooked some mountains (everywhere has a view in the South island) but it was so torrential you couldnt see them very well. Turns out when the sun came out the next day that they were right, there were actually mountains close by which the Fox glacier runs behind, but also Sneaking over the top was only the high peak of Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in NZ, the mountain that we spent two days at the base of trying to get a view on its side of the Southern Alps!
There are two big glaciers here, Fox and Franz Josef. They both have terminal faces that end in stream in the rainforest which is a bit of an odd combination when you think about it. Fox is about 6km long and Franz about 8km! But they are both retreating faster than usual currently. We had a helicopter ride booked for the first morning here but there was no way that it was going to go ahead with the this visibility but our walk to the terminal face of Franz Josef was an all weather option. They gave us all tough rain coats and we wrapped up well (lots of layers!!) and took us by mini bus to the car park.
Old guide, Jamie, was a font of knowledge, he took us through title windy tracks through the rainforest to avoid the main path. Pointed out changes in vegetation along the route that have occurred as the glacier had evolved, advanced and receded again. Adam was asked to count waterfalls along the way, which, given that it had rained for 48hrs solidly, were numerous. Adam counted 66, Jamie reckoned there were nearer 100 over the 3.5km walk!
At the end of the official paths we were able to go further and get closer to the face, Jamie offered us, and 3 others in our group, the easy or hard way with better views, we all opted for the better view. It was a steep rocky climb but as we got to the top, the sun was trying hard to come out, the glacier ice was bright turquoise around the grey rock dust (moraine) that protects it. Our hot drink and biscuits at the top overlooking the terminal face was pretty special, and when everyone is quiet you can hear the cracks and crevasses of the ice creak pretty loudly. The sun shone for the return walk, which was getting way busier as everyone else who had been hiding in cafes in the rain in the morning, came out for a walk.
The next morning, we got a call from the helicopter company to say they could fit us in if we could be there in an hour, so off we went up to Franz Josef about half an hour from where we were in Fox. The weather was glorious, and we had a 35 minute ride up over the Franz Glacier and then over the top of the Southern Alps central divide to the Tasman glacier and down over the lake we went on the boat to see the icebergs last week. It was just beautiful. The size of these things from above is vast. The Tasman glacier is the biggest in NZ and is about 35 km long.
When you are flying over the cracked turquoise and white, it doesnt look so big until you look for people ice-hiking or other helicopters landing and you get that great perspective again.
The chunk of glacier we had seen above the terminal face on the walk yesterday had looked huge, until you saw the same rock face in the middle from above and realised what a small portion you see from below before it crowns over the top of the mountains.
It was a settled day so the helicopter landed up on top of the snow, and let us out to play for about 10-15 minutes. Just finished off an awesome couple of days, it felt like you were on top of the world, with Mount Cook and Mount Tasman in the background.
Mount cook getting the last sun
Close up of crevasses
It looks amazing! Love the snowy pics xxx
Loving the scenery
Toooo!! high and cold for me, but you all look like your having a great time up there.