I anxiously pulled aside the curtain to check the weather and was pleasantly surprised that the rain had stopped, in fact it looked as though it was clearing. I was eager to get on the Magic Bus and move on to Fox Glacier, just a 30 minute drive away, in time to catch the morning heli-hike if it was on. We went straight to the booking office, left our bags behind the counter and paid for the glacier activities only to be told that the heli-hike was still weather dependent and they were waiting for a call from the pilot. Then just after 9:00 am they called us through and we took a bus down to the helipad – the weather looked good to me.
After being kitted out with boots, and a quick safety briefing it was out to the helipad. The first group lifted off and disappeared up the valley. The guide then asked who wanted to sit in the front and everyone sort of looked around at each other, hesitantly so I just put my hand up and said “I would.” With that sorted, my excitement started to reach fever pitch as the helicopter returned to collect us in the second group.
I just love flying and while the flight up was only about 10 minutes, I enjoyed every moment taking as many pictures as I could.
After crossing the river we turned left and caught our first sight of the Fox Glacier before heading straight up the valley towards it with the most incredible views.
We flew over where the first group hand been dropped and carried on up the glacier before banking higher up to give this great view back down the valley.
The pilot then took us down the right side of the valley explaining that he would show us a waterfall and then seemingly out of nowhere this waterfall came into view as we did a steep turn right over it. I got some other photos of it but I just liked the composition and focal point of this one.
We then went across the glacier to land, passing the rest of the group on our right we then banked sharply, circling back and landed on the makeshift helipad of ice which was quite surreal.
Once we were all away from the helicopter and crouching down on the slippery ice, the pilot took off and disappeared down the valley leaving us to enjoy the majesty of the Fox Glacier.
Our guide then showed us how to attach the crampons to our boots and gave a quick demo on how to walk flat-footed with them on the ice to avoid slipping which took a bit of getting used to. As well as a few more safety precautions like watching where you are stepping because of the dangerous crevices that exist on the glacier.
Luckily there was still quite a lot of snow from the storm a few weeks before so the walking was fairly easy.
First up our glacier guide, Andrew, showed us a compression arch created when the force of the ice moving at different speeds down the valley force other sections up but unfortunately it was deemed unstable so we could walk under it. We did however find one higher up that was stable enough to venture into although it was quite a tight fit. The brilliant blue colour of the ice is the result of light refraction.
As we hiked up the glacier we came across some pools of water and streams flowing over the ice.
While our guide cut some steps to make it easier for us to climb certain sections of the glacier I took the opportunity to take some panorama photos looking up and down the glacier, just in awe of this natural phenomenon and in disbelief that here I was, standing on a glacier.
We came across several more compression arches and interesting ice formations as we continuing up the glacier.
Here is the ridge that marked the highest point of our hike before we had to turn around and make our way back to the helipad.
Once back at the makeshift base on the glacier, we removed our crampons and crouched down to avoid the bits of ice kicked up by the blade wash as the first group lifted off. As you can see the weather had started to close in but it was still fine to fly.
After a short, 3 minute flight we were back at the hangar where we were given certificates as souvenirs of our visit to the Fox Glacier.
After that I collected my bags and met up with Karin, who had done the half-day hike, back at the Ivory Towers Lodge. We had to spend two nights there until the next Magic Bus came past but I was just glad to have been able to do my heli-hike. We virtually had the hostel to ourselves and they even have a mini-cinema complete with fold down chairs as well as some classic old movies on VHS, if you can belief it, which we watched for the rest of the day seeing as the weather had closed in and rain had started to fall.
I took so many photos and I couldn’t share them all here but in my next post I’ll post a few more amazing HDR images I created plus a video of the helicopter flight so sign up to not miss out.