Day 4: Fox Glacier Heli-Hike
Fox Glacier heli-hikes are billed as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. That’s partly because after paying our tab we were too broke to consider a second go. Kidding aside, the glacier was amazing.
Having previously had a taste of mountain walks in Nepal, I was by no means keen on walking an entire day just to catch a glimpse of Fox Glacier. Friends of ours highly recommended taking the heli-hike instead, a spectacular – albeit expensive – option for those of us who have more enthusiasm than endurance.
With just two days in Fox Glacier and little allowance for re-arranging travel plans, we booked in advance, paid our 50% deposit, and prayed that the weather would hold. The skies were ominously cloudy the day before, but the day of the heli-hike dawned bright and clear.
Trish served us a huge breakfast spread and then drove us over to Fox Glacier Guides for our pre-flight briefing. Ever paranoid, I’d brought three layers of warm clothing and my not-really-waterproof Clima-Fit pants, only to be greeted by a guide dressed in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. I later learned that Fox Glacier is famous for being a tropical glacier, ending at just 300 meters above sea level. Despite the low altitude, the ice doesn’t have a chance to melt because it rushes along so quickly: on average, a meter each day. This translates to positively balmy temperatures on top of the ice. Much more comfortable for hikers than the freezing cold one normally associates with glaciers.
We attended our briefing, laced on the boots and boarded the helicopter. After a scenic flight through the valley, our helicopter pilot deposited us on the glacier face where our guides walked the twelve of us through the process of strapping on crampons and reading slide lines.
The pictures tell the rest of the story...
The entire experience was like a walk in the park – the polar opposite of our equally memorable Nepal experience. John kept wishing for bad weather to liven up our hike, looking forward to being stranded on the glacier and hoping the guides would have to break out the rescue equipment they keep cached up on the ice. I, on the other hand, glanced at our troop of twelve tourists and sized up the lone slice of plastic-wrapped carrot cake our guide was carrying... clearly, being stranded overnight would not have been a pleasant experience.
Thankfully, our Vertical Limit visions remained just that – fantasies – and all too soon we were back on ground level at the hangar, unlacing our boots and picking up our “I Climbed Fox Glacier” certificates.
Information and Contact Details
- Web site: www.foxguides.co.nz, providing trip information and online booking.
- Fox Glacier Guides is on State Highway 6, Fox Glacier, near the intersection with Cook Flat Road. Click here for directions and a map.
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: 0800 111 600 (local toll-free) or +64 3 751 0825 (international)
- "Our chopper pilot was a bit of a showoff" – 2headedturtle
- "I even went swimming in a little lake..." – Paul Notte
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