Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fox Glacier

Afternoon sky in Fox Glacier village

I arrived at Fox Glacier on Wednesday the 15th of July. The air was fresh and you could finally see the snow-capped mountains close-by instead of far off in the distance. It was drizzling on and off, but surprisingly not really cold. The wind was down and the mist swirled around in a mysterious blanket.

Fox Glacier is one of just a few glaciers in the world that are still advancing, while most are retreating due to temperature changes and natural recessions. It has been advancing since 1985, at 10 times the rate of other valley glaciers around the world, to the rate of 1 meter a week. It is located in the Southern Alps of New Zealand and forms part of the South Westland World Heritage Area.

Fox Glacier was named by former Kiwi Prime Minister, Sir William Fox, in 1872. Not a very modest man! I was told by Kiwis and foreigners alike that of the two glaciers in this region, Fox and Franz Josef, Fox had smaller group tours and was a better glacier to go to.

So I decided to do the tour called Fox It Up, which is an 8-9 hour day trip up on the ice where you learn to do some ice climbing with crampons and ice picks and everything! Cliffhanger watch out! It was an amazing day! I'll stop with the writing and let you enjoy the pictures and videos. I highly recommend this!

Rock Flour turns this pool of water a powdery blue. This happens when the glacier's pressure on the rocks beneath grinds the rock into a powder. When light passes through the water, you get these brilliant colors.

Cliffs surrounding the glacier

There are tons of little waterfalls in the mountains surrounding the glacier. We had a rest and a drink at this one.

Fox Glacier behind me

Rock Fallout. It's quite dangerous around the glacier because without warning boulders will come tumbling down the mountains.

Glacier with Mount Tasman (I think!) in the background

Glacier valley. The glacier has advanced and retreated along this path for thousands of years.

Ice sculptures

Preparing for my first climb

Below: A video of me ice climbing for the first time. Ahh! Watch at your own discretion.

I made it!

Rappelling down
So, I was pretty surprised to find out how much climbing we would actually do! We did 4 climbs. I did the first and second ones, but on the second one, I almost didn't make it. My arms were cramped up into claws clutching the picks and I was not able to release my hold on them and grip them more lightly. As a result, I was in a lot of pain, but I did make it up. Denis, our guide, said it was a common thing for people to depend much more on their arms than their feet. Of course it it! I don't trust two little picks on the ends of each shoe to hold me up! No way man! Hence, the cramping.

As a result, I didn't do the third climb because my arms were still shaking and I was just getting them to stop cramping. The fourth climb was the hardest but I only did about half of it, high enough to do the show off pose! But I did struggle at times! Watch the vid below.
Below: last climb

Below: Setting up for the big pose

4th climb. Now I'm just showing off!

Ice-filled wonderland

Below: Ice cave vid

Double entrance ice cave. Aren't the striations just absolutely amazing?!

View from the cave looking out

A blue world

Below: Evening view of the glacier

Vanilla chocolate swirl ice cream in the foreground and bubble gum ice cream in the distance

What animal can you see in the ice?

Group picture as we're heading back

Evening view on the valley from the ice

p.s. On the night of the 15th of July, an earthquake registered at 7.8 shook up the South Island. The epicenter was at Dusky Sound at the southwestern tip of the island. People in Fox and Franz Josef glaciers felt it. Everyone, that is, except for me! Can't figure out where I was at that time! It was the biggest earthquake of the year worldwide and the biggest one in New Zealand in 80 years! No one was hurt, but the end of the South Island moved 12 inches (30 centimeters) closer to Australia. Interesting...


Anonymous said...

Super cool! The ice is so beautiful. Can't imagine how cold it was and how hard to actually dig in with both picks and feet...
But man..you climbed a glacier! Well technically...more than one I guess huh...


L said...

It was really cool to be there but not as cold as I would have expected. It was nice not having to deal with wind, I think that would have been borderline unbearable. And technically, I did climb just one glacier, but a few different cliffs!

You're so cute to be writing at almost every entry. That's just one of the many things I love about you!