Walking on Ice
Today we got to walk on a glacier! The day started with a beautiful view across the lake and a short drive to Franz Josef.
After using the shower at the YHA because I wouldn't 'steal' a shower from the local holiday park (that was the woman at the isite's advice!), the sun was shining and we took a few walks to see the Franz Josef glacier from different angles. It was beautiful to see and the reflection of it in Peter's Pool during one of the walks was incredible.
We then drove down to Fox Glacier to take our trip to walk on the ice. At the shop, the team talked us through what we'd be doing over the next few hours and gave us our equipment - walking boots, thick socks and crampons! We took the a bus to the beginning of the glacier, and one of the guides told us this is one of the few places in the world where you find a glacier right next to a temperate rainforest. She also showed us where the glacier had come down to years before and the rate of change is incredible.
It was an hour or so walk just to get to the ice in the glorious sunshine, which made it hard to believe we'd be walking on ice shortly. We got lots of information about the glacier, how it was formed, how its changed over the years and it's recent movements - including that it actually grew in size in recent years, but has now receded again.
When we got to the ice, it was quite incredible - the sound of water running through it and the blue and white of the ice, despite the debris on it. This reminds me of a tripadvisor comment I'd seen, about these trips, where the visitor had said he was disappointed that the ice wasn't cleaner?! Obviously he wanted the 'Disney' glacier walk. It was time to out on our crampons, grab some walking poles and get on the ice!
It was so exciting to be walking on the glacier and I think walking up the dug out steps was one of the best bits for me, because you could see the depth of the glacier, even at this shallow point. The change in temperature was remarkable, I went from wearing a tshirt and leggings on the walk, to adding a fleece as we got closer and then before we got on the ice, a windbreaker, hat and gloves. We walked across the ice, safely following the guide while she pointed out different parts of the ice, including the markings in the ice that showed where the snow had compacted. There were lots of cool crevices, some where you could hear the water running through again, and deep, blue pools of icy water that you could fit your whole walking pole in. The guide also told how they have found remnants of an old hut that used to be further up the glacier, beer cans from old adventurers and even tools this far down the glacier because of the movement over the years! This was the same for the rocks and debris on the glacier, it was rocks that had fallen years and years ago.
There was a family who were the obligatory annoying group that you find on every tour - and as they say, if there isn't one on your trip, then it's you! The mum asked the guide questions and didn't bother to listen to the answer, and the dad and son kept walking off on the glacier despite the guide asking them to stop for their safety.
The trip was so much fun and interesting too. This time last year, I didn't think I'd be wearing crampons and carrying a walking pole, let alone enjoying it so much! And we only got to see the tip of the glacier really.
Once we were back at the shop, we took a short drive to see the Fox Glacier from another side and also get a glimpse of Mount Cook. It was so beautiful and the perfect way to end a great day.