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The Silk Route - World Travel: New Zealand: Fox Glacier
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New Zealand: Fox Glacier
February 2017

Fox Lake Matheson Helihike on Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier, New Zealand


Magnificent mountains and lakes all around Fox Village make this a breathtaking destination - especially when you have perfect weather for a spectacular helihike on Fox Glacier!

Fox

Fox glacier walk
The Fox River drains from Fox Glacier to the Tasman Sea.

 

After checking into our rooms at the Bella Vista Motel on the first day, after lunch in Franz Josef, the rain had stopped so we decided to walk up the valley to view the Fox glacier.

It was cloudy with mist drifting through the mountains but that didn't stop quite a few people from doing the walk. The glacier is retreating so each year less and less can be seen from below, but the glacial valley it has carved is impressive.

Fox Glacier helihike
On the flight back from the glacier trek: below is the car park, next to the blue lake, from where the walk to the glacier begins.
Fox glacier walk

 

Fox glacier walk
Fox glacier walk
The front face of the glacier - covered in rubble and not very inspiring.

 

Fox podocarp forest
Fox podocarp forest
Fox podocarp forest
Fox podocarp forest

 

Near to the motel is a stretch of podocarp primeval forest, also with glow worms - best seen after dark! Podocarps are coniferous trees with a very ancient lineage. The forest is about as far in character from a leafy English wood as it is possible to get, and still be surrounded by trees!

 

Fox podocarp forest

 

The atmosphere is mysterious, the trees festooned with mosses and lichen, tall tree ferns filtering light to the forest floor.

I absolutely love this kind of forest in New Zealand, it is amazingly atmospheric.

 

Lake Matheson

Lake Murchison
Mount Tasman visible, but Mount Cook covered in cloud.

Lake Murchison
The double peak is Mount Tasman, 3,497m, the pointed peak on the right Aoraki Mount Cook, at 3,724m the highest peak in New Zealand.

Lake Murchison

Lake Matheson lies 5km outside Fox village and is famed for its mirror views of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. You need a clear day and no wind.

Lake Murchison

The walk to viewpoints is also very pleasant and there's a good cafe at the entrance to the walks. We had a very good meal there one evening, sharing a prosciutto, parmesan, rocket and cherry tomato pizza, washed down with excellent Scott Base pinot noir.

Lake Murchison

 

We made a couple of visits to the lake but the conditions were never quite good enough for the chocolate-box shot, but we did get some lovely early morning shots.

 

Lake Murchison
Lake Murchison
Drifting cloud and a breeze stymied our efforts for the perfect shot! Mount Tasman and Mount Cook just visible.
Lake Murchison
Lake Murchison

 

Heli-hike on Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier helihike
A perfect morning for the helihike - Mount Tasman and Mount Cook in the background.

On a perfect day we arrived at Fox Glacier Guiding, just across the road from our motel, at 8:40 and bussed to the helicopters where we were given a safety talk and kitted out with very comfortable boots and socks.

Fox Glacier helihike
A great view of Mount Tasman.
Fox Glacier helihike
Homing in on Fox glacier, Mount Tasman top right.

We got on the helicopter to take us up on to the glacier and I had the prime front window seat!

Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
Bottom left is the ridge that we climbed on the Fox Glacier Valley Walk.
Fox Glacier helihike
This almost looks like two glaciers have come together.
Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
The front of the glacier,breaking into ridges.

It was fantastic weather, not a cloud in the sky.

When we landed our guides showed us how to put on the crampons and our group (6 Chinese, 2 Taiwanese and us) set off with Danny who proved to be an excellent guide.

Fox Glacier helihike
One of the helicopters coming in to land on the glacier.

 

Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike

 

 

We set off in single file following Danny as he told us something about the glacier, how it is generally retreating but sometimes advances too.

 

Fox Glacier helihike

 

We saw ice arches, moulins - vertical shafts in the ice, and slid down a water slide beneath an ice arch. The features are continually forming and eroding so the surface of the glacier is constantly changing.

Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
Our guide, Danny, makes sure it is safe before we traverse the ice arch.
Fox Glacier helihike

 

Danny hacked steps in the ice as we went, though there were guides on the ice doing this too, refreshing the paths that are taken to explore the glacier.

Fox Glacier helihike

It was a really fabulous three hours on the ice, and much easier going than the Perito Moreno.

Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike



Fox Glacier helihike






Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
The ice arches are melting all the time - in a couple of days this will have gone.
Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike
the only life able to survive on the glacier - tiny worms.

Towards the end Danny showed us the tiny worms in pools that are the only creatures that can live on the ice, surviving on microbes.

Fox Glacier helihike
Fox Glacier helihike