Know what? Life’s short. Go and take the chance to heli-hike on one of world’s most accessible glaciers, Fox Glacier, in New Zealand. It’s an experience like no other. Combining a helicopter flight over the glacier and a guided walk on the ice itself, it provides a truly immersive glacier experience and is one of the best hiking adventures you can have in New Zealand.
What’s amazing about Fox Glacier is that it’s only 700 meters above sea level – there’s no other place else at that latitude with a glacier so close to ground level. That means you can opt to hike to the base of the glacier from town within a couple of hours but nothing beats getting a helicopter to drop you directly onto the glacier itself—agreed, huh?
Having to crouch down on its approach and see everybody in the helicopter wear ear mufflers to block out the noise made it even more of a novelty! — By ‘everybody’, I meant everyone except me wore ear mufflers. Why would I need to block out the noise? I’m already Deaf, duh! However, I could see how loud the noise is based on the vibration I get throughout the ride in the chopper.
Besides, they were awesome to let me standby for a complimentary guided tour on Fox Glacier with them, and I couldn’t have been any luckier to catch an available seat. Sitting in the front was kind of a bonus for me though! 😉
The view as we soared through the mountains and swooped down low over the glacier was incredible. Apart from the blue-white ice everything else was so green because it rains so often on the west coast of the South Island.
Flying Fox: Helihike
The fly-in, fly-out helihike combines the excitement of walking on the Fox Glacier with the thrill of helicopter flights, and you can find more information on pricing and whatnot at their website at this link.
There were six of us, including the pilot, in the helicopter, but when we arrived at the base, there were two guide waiting for all of the people from few other helicopters to arrive. From there, we all would spilt up into two groups and we’d go through the same roundtrips through the glaciers, but both groups would go into opposite directions from each other, so we all would meet midway and at the end at around the same time (depending on how your group handle the hiking).
I’d recommend wearing sunglasses to this hike because it was quite windy making it hard for me to keep my eyes open to embrace the views of the glacier. Not to mention the ice was quite bright so it can be blinding at times.
We all were equipped with jackets, crampons and other equipment before setting foot on the ice for the first time. I remember the first time I put on a pair of crampons, it made me feel very important and professional. As if I knew what I was doing.
Stomping into the ice with crampons made my adventurous feet very happy. I felt like I was in a film. I was daydreaming.
Snap out of it, Calvin!
The guide was fantastic! She was very mindful and communicative, especially she went out of her way to write down facts about the glaciers before hacking a path for us with her axe. She made sure everybody was safe. There wasn’t any moment when I felt unsafe. Even I helped out a bit on the hacking and digging, it was beyond exhilarating for me to hack the axe through the ice.
Throughout the hike, we had to walk flat-footed and stomp down into the ice to stay upright and to make sure we didn’t slip. It was fascinating watching our guide dig new paths around the glacier, knowing that the ice moves and shapes itself so drastically every single day. We were led through an ice cave; these occur naturally as the ice moves downhill, forcing ice upwards into cave formations.
After climbing for 40 minutes, we stopped to admire the view and gather our breath before the descent back down. Seeing how all the colors gray, white, blue, turquoise were interspersed with marble swirls of silty brown and gray. I felt like my eyes were deceiving me when the ice changed color every time a cloud passed by or we turned a corner. I just couldn’t believe that so many different shades could exist in only one place.
It’s amazing how many different shapes the ice makes, the glacier looks pretty smooth and two dimensional from above but hiking up close you see a whole different landscape full of holes and crevasses, deep still pools and little rivers of ice-cold water which we scooped up and drank straight from our palms. The different light and depths of the ice caused some parts to look pure white while others looked bright, vibrant blue.
Feeling bummed, we made our return to our helicopter and flew back to our original destination. It went by too fast and I was in my own world when I was hiking. This definitely will be an unforgettable memory for me. Forever cherished.
I love getting to try new things and this was by far one of the most unique activities I’ve been lucky enough to participate in. Not kidding here.
I loved every minute and step I made while hiking on the glacier, and if I ever returned, I’d definitely want to go further than what I had seen in the trip. I’m definitely coming back for more some day. It’s gonna be a lot more challenge and I’m game! Besides the Tongariro Alpine crossing, this for us is a must see and do in New Zealand.
I know it’s pretty predictable for me to say this but I can’t help but agree with all the other New Zealand travelers before me that a heli-hike on Fox Glacier is not to be missed. Don’t forget to add it to your trip!
Fox Glacier Guiding – Glacier Tours & Adventures
- Address: 44 Main Road, State Highway 6, Fox Glacier 7951, New Zealand
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: http://www.foxguides.co.nz/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Fox-Glacier-Guiding-68824220814/
Punga Grove Motel & Suites
- Address: 40 Cron St, Franz Josef Glacier 7886, New Zealand
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: http://www.pungagrove.co.nz/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pungagrove