Glacier hiking

Trip Start Aug 24, 2008
Trip End Jul 07, 2009

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Tuesday, June 9, 2009

We defrosted the car and left Wanaka, heading for the coast. It was a beautiful drive past mountains and lakes, through gorges and over rivers, to the sea. We stopped off at two waterfalls, which both had crystal-clear blue streams running past them. They were both in a lush valley surrounded by cliffs and a forest. We reached the coast at a town called Haast, where we stopped at a roadside cafe for fish and chips. We drove north from Haast to a look-out point where we could see out to sea and there were lots of jagged rocks. It was pretty and there was a nice dog there who reminded me of Ruddles. From here we continued past the cliffs, stopping only to look at some strange piles of rocks. We reached the Fox Glacier at 3pm. We walked down the path to have a look at it. Due to rock falls we couldn't get very close, but we got a good view of the ice tumbling down the valley. It was smaller than we had imagined, but very impressive, especially with the surrounding mountains. After taking some photos we found a hostel and booked ourselves on a glacier hiking trip for the next day. We had dinner and spent the night listening to a mouse trying to scratch a hole in the door.

The next morning we woke up early and headed down to the glacier hikes office. There we were kitted up with waterproofs, boots, socks, hats, gloves and crampons and then we got in a bus that took us to the Franz Josef Glacier. We had to walk through the forest for 10 minutes before reaching a dry, rocky river bed. It was then a half hour walk to the glacier face, and the further we walked, the further away it looked. We got some great views of the glacier spilling down from the mountain, and the surrounding waterfalls. We stopped at the base of the glacier to put on our crampons. Then we started hiking up the steep front section of the glacier. At first we found it difficult to balance on the crampons, but we soon found that if you scuff your feet they have a firm grip. We hiked up to the surface of the glacier, where we were given ice axes, so we felt like proper mountaineers! We hiked up the ice through huge ridges with gaps between our feet. We crawled through tunnels, and even found a cave in the ice. The ice was very blue. We had one very narrow gap in the ice to squeeze through, which I found very difficult. Every time I took a step forward I slipped back. After a few hours we reached the high point, where we got a fabulous view of the whole glacier. It was beautiful. We had more steep climbs and walks past lakes of a deep blue. There was lots of water on the glacier, which made it slippery - David even managed to put his foot in a puddle that looked like ice. After 6 hours scrambling about through the cracks and caves in the ice, it was time to descend. We walked back down to the rock and took off our crampons. It was a 40 minute walk back to the bus, with great views of the foot of the glacier. We were cold and wet, and deserved the warm showers that we had back at the hostel. We spent the evening warming ourselves by the fire and eating ravioli with blue cheese sauce (my recipe and David loved it!). We heard the mouse at night again.

The following morning we drove back down to the Fox Glacier. Unfortunately it was a bit misty so we abandoned our plan to hike to a view point and instead went to Lake Matheson. We walked around the edge of the lake to a point where we could see Mount Cook in the distance. We then drove to Gillespie's beach to see the driftwood, which was loads of dead trees scattered all over the beach. By now it was raining heavily (the West Coast apparently has 200 days of rain a year) so we headed north.
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