Fox Glacier Heli Hike

Heli Hiking on New Zealand’s Fox Glacier is awesome. Do it. You won’t regret it. I’ll admit the safety meeting before we got on the helicopter had a few shockers. Don’t let those deter you.  

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Fox Glacier Heli Hike

This was not my first helicopter ride, in fact, it was my second. My first was to Berg Lake in the Mt. Robson Provincial Park in the Canadian Rockies in 2015. During the same trip, we hiked across the Athabasca Glacier. Well not all the way across it, we stomped around in crampons for a couple of hours with a guide. I was oozing confidence when I strode into the building were the Fox Glacier Guiding is located. 

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Safety Meeting

Watching our guide for the Fox Glacier Heli hike run the safety meeting, I felt a mixture of respect, gratitude, and sympathy. I thought I had a hard job. His job is nuts. Imagine preparing a group of adults speaking a variety of languages (mostly not English), with wildly different levels of athleticism, and in the last 10 minutes appeared to have developed ADHD.

With the patience of a saint, he’d say, “I want your eyes to look at me. I want to see your eyes.” There was no need to ask for everyone’s attention after he said “Bring all your medications with you in case the helicopters are grounded and can’t fly. You might need to spend the night on the glacier. Don’t worry he continued we have the same tents they use on Mt. Everest.” 

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(The guide running the safety meeting is wearing the red hat.)  

Until that point, I was mostly worried about my socks and if I could wear my own boots. I’ll admit I was totally consumed in my own private worries and not paying attention. 

Pay attention PEEPS! 

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It never occurred to me there would be danger involved. Well sure, all kinds of things could go wrong while hiking on a glacier, but spending the night on it?

The Fox Glacier guides are excellent. Not only were they patient, entertaining, and knowledgeable, but they are well trained. There is an entire page on their website devoted to safety and training. This page also lists all the pre-existing medical conditions they want to know about before the hike. 

Equipment 

The tour company provides all equipment needed for the Fox Glacier hike including rain jackets, boots, and crampons. I’m not sure how I forgot my rain jacket at the house, so I borrowed one of theirs. Finally an opportunity to wear a base layer, which I didn’t forget to wear. 

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In the months leading up to our New Zealand trip, I enjoyed doling out travel tips to Dianne and Greg our travel buddies. One which came back to bite me was to pack base layers as it will be cold. The weather while we were in New Zealand was perfect for shorts and sandals. I’d even managed to get a sunburn. Dianne pointed this fact out daily. 

Helicopter Ride

The Fox Glacier Guiding site says the following about the heli hike: 

The fly-in, fly-out heli hike combines the excitement of walking on the Te Moeka o Tuawe/Fox Glacier with the thrill of helicopter flights. By flying in you can access and explore a part of the glacier where its forces work hardest and often create spectacular ice caves and arches.

Your landing site on the ice is a remote and exceptionally beautiful part of the glacier at approximately 800 metres above sea level.  You will see the stunning Victoria Falls, which is the melting river from the hidden Victoria glacier. 

Crampons 

Crampons are tricky to put on and even trickier to walk in, but essential for stomping around on a glacier. Your legs get quite tired and if you aren’t super careful you can catch one of the crampons’ spikes on your pants. This is a recipe for an instant slip and slide. One minute you are up and the next minute you are down and sliding. Glaciers are slippery and rain pants provide no resistance. (This may have happened during our hike.) 

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Single File 

During the safety meeting, we were told to walk single file and to follow our guide. Do not stray from the group. No problem.

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Sipping Glacier Water

Drinking glacier water is permitted. Chuck says it tasted like love and freedom. I’m not sure what he was on. When I tasted it, it didn’t have much of a taste. Maybe that is how clean water is supposed to taste.

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Blue Ice 

Why are glaciers blue? It boils down to good vibrations. Joe Hanson of “It’s Okay to Be Smart” video explains why glaciers are blue. If you’ve got an extra 5 minutes and want the full answer, check it out. 

I don’t fully understand why Fox Glacier is blue, but I do know blue ice makes beautiful pictures. 

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New Zealand Itinerary 

Are you thinking about a trip to New Zealand? If so, we’ve got a post for you, our 20-Day New Zealand Trip Itinerary for first-timers. 

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