Monday, November 19, 2007

Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers

After Abel Tasman we made the long (7+ hrs) drive down the west coast of NZ to the Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers. The west coast of NZ is a pretty desolate place - parts of it are some of the rainiest in the world and there are few people. However, it is also quite beautiful. We drove along dramatic river gorges, ocean drives that rivaled the Big Sur, alpine scenery (see pic below) and of course the two glaciers.

Fox and Franz Joseph are two out of the three glaciers in the world that flow into temperate rain forest. As we drove up to the first glacier we kept remarking that the whole feel of the place seemed off - more jungle like, not at all like the high, cold mountains that we associated with glaciers. Anyhow, pretty cool.
Above is a pic of the Franz Joseph Glacier from a short hike to gain some height. The scenery in the clouds is the 'Southern Alps' and include the mountains around Mt. Cook (the highest in NZ).

The big event was a day spent walking around on the Fox Glacier, the larger of the two. After getting geared up, we started the day by hiking up the mountain running alongside the glacier. After getting above the front part of the glacier with its numerous crevasses, we came down the mountain onto the glacier itself. At this point we strapped on crampons and started wandering about (following the guides wielding pickaxes as they blazed a path) a truly foreign landscape

We went up and down, over and around towers of ice, small and large crevasses, and all sorts of debris churned up by the glacier. All around us water was melting and running down holes in the glacier, collecting in big rivers of meltwater running underneath the glacier and exiting at the front as the Fox river. Pretty cool! Dan of course enjoyed breaking up the ice with his ice pick and sending chunks down the crevasses to see how deep they were. Jules shook her head and concentrated on not finding out for herself in a much more unfortunate manner.

Dan playing in a filled in crevasse - and getting a bit claustrophobic as the walls went up several stories straight above him.
A view of the fox glacier from half way up its flank.

In all we were on the glacier for several hours and by the end of the day, back on the bus into town, we were amazed at how tired we were. All of the continuous up and down and the weird manner of walking with the crampons left us totally exhausted. Jules was sore for days (walking around like an old lady!). Fun though!

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