This post is for Our World Tuesday
Trip Part 11
The glaciers on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand are spectacular. They descend through very steep valleys down into lush temperate rain forest which is only 200-300 meters above sea level. Because they are in latitude 40's there are constant strong westerly winds and associated heavy rainfall. This makes an extra heavy snow pack up in the mountains and the glaciers move faster than is usual for glaciers. (Wikipedia says 10 times as fast!)
We stayed close to the little township of Fox so visited the Fox Glacier first. Both the Fox Glacier and the Franz Josef Glacier have retreated up their valleys for some years so there is quite a walk to get close to them. The walk at the Fox Glacier is advertised as 45 minutes - but it felt like much more! The track is clearly marked and starts off across the flats near the stream which flows out from the glacier.
Then the track winds up the hill above the glacier and finally comes quite close to the icefall at the end of the glacier.
There are barriers well away from the icefall and tourists are cautioned to stay back behind the barriers. In 2009 two people went around the barriers and close to the icefall. Tragically there was a huge fall of ice as they were standing there and they were both killed. I had the long lens on the camera to take both these photos.
The head of the glacier (or at least the head visible from the bottom!) as it begins to descend very steeply.
Finally, of course, there is the walk back to the car park! Click on the photo to enlarge it to see the people walking along the track.
We went the 25 kms north to see the Franz Joseph Glacier in the afternoon. This was some of the steepest and windiest main road I have ever seen. One road sign warned of a corner that required a speed of 15 kms!
Since I had walked to Lake Matheson early in the morning and then up to the Fox Glacier I decided that I would only walk to where I got good views of the Franz Josef glacier. Again, there was quite a long walk across the boulders and gravel previously dropped by the glacier.
I showed photos of Mount Cook when we visited that area on day two of our trip. Here on the West Coast Mount Cook was clearly visible again through a gap in the mountains. This was the view from a little way down a road west of the Fox township.
Extra: If you have had enough of glaciers don't bother reading further! This is History! My sister and I were disappointed in Franz Josef Glacier because it was very different from what we remembered. We expected some changes of course but not such great ones. We remembered a beautiful little church with an altar window that had looked out on the glacier. By the time we traveled there the glacier had receded out of sight but there was still a view up the valley into the surrounding forest. The church is still there but is so far away from the glacier now that it is not even kept open! Then we remembered the walking track going down the same side of the valley beside a stream which had blocks of ice rolling along in it. At one place beside the stream there was a natural hot thermal pool surrounded by rocks. We joined some other tourists there and Mum and the Aunts sat with their feet in the hot water while we played with the ice in the stream and then carried blocks of it to surround the pool. None of this was there now! In fact, no one even remembered the hot pool! But I hadn't just dreamed it all. Dad had taken photos! Finally I found a young lady in the visitor's center who looked up history and dates for me and we found that first there had been a huge rock fall which totally changed this side of the valley. Then a few years later there had been a huge outbreak flood from the glacier which changed the valley again. Nothing stays the same!