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Glacier Climbing

Fox Glacier, New Zealand

The Westland of New Zealand's South Island is filled with lush rainforest, and glacial-carved valleys.

Two easily accessible glaciers remain in this area Fox and Franz Josef - and they form a hub for tourists and adventure activities. We did a short walk to view Franz Josef and then continued on to Fox for one of these activities - ice climbing.

We stayed in a cabin and made some store bought ravioli in the communal kitchen for dinner. The next day we met our guide and began our preparation for the day of climbing. They suited us up with harness, climbing gloves, crampons, and, of course, badass ice axes, and we trekked up the face of the glacier, past gorgeous ice falls and ravines to a suitable spot to set up a climb.

The Fox glacier, like the Franz Josef and the U.S. economy is currently in a recession-period that began around 2009. Geologists think it is in part due to global warming, but also specific New Zealand weather patterns like increased rainfall. They aren't sure how long it will continue but the glacier has been receding in the 100s of meters per year. This makes hiking it a dynamic challenge where the guides have change trail design and devise new ways to explore the glacier. It also makes the glaciers themselves look less impressive. However, not all hope is lost - there have been recession periods in the past even more drastic than currently, that have rebounded with periods of great growth - as recently as in the early 2000s - so who knows what the future holds. For our purposes, there was plenty of ice to go around. Our guide set up pulley mechanisms right into the ice and we began to practice our newly-learned skills. It was a lot of fun and a bit challenging. We got to do 5-6 climbs of varying difficulty before the evening rolled through, including a climb out of a glacial hole that we first were instructed to climb into. Elliot, you would be proud. Very cool! Needless to say, we were sore in strange places the next day.

We woke up the next morning and had breakfast at a cafe by the nearby Lake Matheson - a lake famous for its picturesque reflecting of Mount Cook (New Zealand's highest peak) in its still waters. We did a short walk around the lake and took in the view before jumping back in the car for one of our mega-drive days down the west coast and back inland to Queenstown.

permalink written by  bhkann on December 10, 2012 from Fox Glacier, New Zealand
from the travel blog: New Zealand, 2012
tagged FoxGlacier

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