Sunday, January 12, 2014

9 January 2014: Fox Glacier

Today’s activities included hiking Fox Glacier in the morning and then soothing our glacier-climbing bodies in the Glacier Hot Pools located in Franz Josef.  We really earned our keep this morning, as we needed to get on the road to Fox Glacier, 30min south of Franz Josef, by 8am to keep our appointment with the Fox Glacier Guide company.

Our guide today, Tom, was the most informative guide I’ve had on the glaciers since I began coming to New Zealand: he was articulate, knowledgeable, and very willing to address our questions along the trip.  Tom was our personal guide on our adventure on Fox Glacier, a luxury we have not had on past trips onto Franz Josef glacier.  Given our experience, I’m almost glad that Franz Josef glacier is retreating so quickly that walking hikes onto the terminal face of the glacier are no longer available! 

Prior to leaving the Guide shop, we learned that we wouldn’t be taking any rain gear with us, something that was completely unheard of during my last two times on Franz Josef glacier: on our trip in 2012, it poured rain and the wind howled during our entire hike on the glacier!  We had the most glorious day on the glacier: bright sun, 70F in the valley (about 40F on the glacier), and nearly no wind!  During our hike, we learned about the expansion and retreat of the Fox Glacier along the Fox River valley, how quickly it has retreated during the last 80 years, and how quickly the glacier melts daily (20cm!).  Tom shared with us the Maori story used to explain the presence of the ice mass, which included a love story, a fallen loved one, and the tears of the surviving lover being frozen at the top of the mountain.   Tom was even generous enough to let anyone who wanted to use his ice ax; very cool!  Tom shared with us his experiences as a guide and perhaps gave some of our students something to think about for future plans!    

Our 4-hour experience on the tour was good enough for our group, as everyone was still recovering from our travel out of Abel Tasman National Park and to Franz Josef.  The rest of the day was spent doing laundry in Franz Josef, visiting the Glacier Hot Pools, and chatting with family.  Dr. Moran and I got dinner at a local restaurant and then called it an evening.  We have a slightly slower morning tomorrow, a 9:30am start, but we need to be checked-out of the hostel prior to our meeting with the Department of Conservation on the Rowi kiwi project in the South westland region, so still lots to do in the morning!

David Hobbs (Business, 2016), Stephen Maccleod (Business, 2016), and Jack Capetola (Chemistry, 2016) on the trail to Fox Glacier (middle, background).

Our group scaling Fox Glacier on a beautiful summer's day!

Our group atop Fox Glacier's terminal face.  We explored crevasses and looked into moulins as we crossed the ice.

Me and Dr. Moran inside 'Superman's cave', a compression cave created at the terminal face of Fox Glacier as the leading edge of the glacier gets driven into the ground by the force from the glacier pushing it from behind.

Chris Lorch (Nursing, 2019) wielding our glacier guide's ice ax!

Tom, our Fox Glacier guide, and Sean Harrison (Business, 2016).

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