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Sights & Sounds: Flying Fox Helihike, Fox Glacier

What is a Helihike?

Fox Glacier Guiding Tour Package?

What you might experience?

Will I do it again?

 

What is a Helihike?

Route:

Walking on ice paved by the guide.

Average Walk Time:

~ 3 hours on ice
Difficulty:

🙂 🙂 (suitable for children of 9 years and above)

Scenery:

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

 

From the portmanteau word, it involves a HELI-copter, and a HIKE. Hence, HELIHIKE! This guided glacier walk on ice takes you into a world of the ever changing glacier transformation with informative mini commentary by the guide!

 

Fox Glacier Guiding Tour Package?

The Fox Glacier Guiding is a company in the Fox Glacier region that provides trips up on the glacier. They have 5 tour options (including the Flying Fox Helihike), of which, not all options bring you up on the glacier.

Because we wanted to try something unique, we chose the Flying Fox Helihike! Not only would we be able to experience the brief moments of flying in a helicopter, we got to have a few hours up on the glacier exploring!

An imperative WIN-WIN! To new experiences- we cheers to that!

The essential summary of the tour package we chose:

Price

Adult: NZD $399 (inclusive of GST)Child: NZD $369 (inclusive of GST)

Duration

~ 4 hours (~ 3 hours on ice)(inclusive of safety introduction, 2 way helicopter flight, etc)
Departure Timings

08 50

11 50

14 50 (only during Summer; October to April)

Reporting Address

Fox Glacier Guiding Building
44 State Highway 6
Fox Glacier

Guide to Customer Ratio

1 : 11

Equipment Provided

a)      Waterproof Jackets

b)      Overtrousers

c)      Socks

d)     Leather Boots

e)      Crampons (given when on the glacier)

f)       Hiking poles (given when on the glacier)

What to wear?

3 – 4 layers of tops and track pants

What to bring?

a)      Sun protection (lotion, sunshades)

b)      Gloves and hat (to keep warm, if necessary)

c)      Water and snacks

d)     Camera

Miscellaneous

Ground transportation to the location for the helicopter flight is provided.

 

What you might experience?

1. Safety Prelude Presentation + Getting Into Appropriate Gear

Upon arrival at the reporting location in Fox Glacier Township, you would be instructed to get your waterproof jacket, if you needed one. And obviously I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to grab anything that could keep me warm up on the glacier.

I reckoned I was the only teeny tiny human in the tour group wrapped in 4 layers of upper body clothing even before going up on the glacier! And to count the waterproof jacket provided, I had 5 layers on me! Looking thick and puffy- it was quite an embarrassing sight! Oh well… 😀

Sounded like I was getting ready for a snow blizzard happening up on the glacier, but it was really because my body was just apt to fail on me, as always. I was adamant to enjoy myself during the trip, so I ain’t letting any cold stop me! Hence, if you are like me, just layer up!

A bus transported us from the Fox Glacier Guiding Building to an area where we would board the helicopter. But first, a mini presentation on safety and changing into proper foot gear (thick socks and boots)!

TIP?!

Wear slippers to the reporting point! As all foot gear will be provided, there’s no point wearing shoes. It is definitely much convenient! 😀

Some prefer to wear their own boots, and it is allowed, however, I would advise against it. You never know if you might get your boots doused in glacier pool during the hike, hence, it is better to wear the boots they provide.

2. Helicopter Flight Onto The Glacier Landing Site

It was my first time in a helicopter, and I was lucky enough to be able to sit at the front; next to the pilot! Taking in the best views of the upper icefall and Victoria Falls, I had an aerial view of the picturesque vistas, which was very much short-lived (approximately 5 minutes flight?).

We were the second group to arrive on the landing site. It was prefect, as this provided a good opportunity for us to get our excitement in check, analysed the terrain, and snapped some shots while we wait for the others!

Before we left the landing site to explore the glacier, we were taught how to tie our crampons to our boots.

Luckily for those crampons, which were initially hard to walk in, to keep me in place, or else I would have ran amok on the glacier due to the excitement of it all. Nah… … Just being melodramatic!

But seriously, the snowy suffused landscape under the sun-drenched afternoon rays and clear blue sky was just so dandy!

3. Hiking- Ice Tunnels, Glacier Water, Ice Gaps & More Hilarious Moments!

Throughout the hike, the guide gave commentaries about the glacier; how the glaciers flowed from its edges carving the landscape into dramatic shapes with their inexorable erosive powers, etc. Or at least that’s what I think she said?? HHhhmm… …

Honestly, I wasn’t paying attention, because every time we stopped as a horde, supposedly to listen attentively to her commentaries, I would be very busy snapping pictures! Wahaha! #inmyownworld

Self-defense time.

I am not usually like this. J, of all people, would know I love listening to commentaries, but this time, however, nothing of what she said went into my brain! Oops.

I remember our very first stop was to enter a little ice tunnel. It was just so invigorating and out of this world! I loved how the cerulean reflected in the tiny tunnel, with the ice ceiling glacier water dripping down on our heads and faces. It was definitely such a refreshing experience!

We were usually the slowest in the group because of us brazenly making quick snaps here and there. 😀 It was to an extent that the all- so- patient guide made us walk close along with her at the front of the pack! But we had our ways to slowly weasel ourselves to the back of the pack again. Haha! We really do sound like a pair of rascals on a school field trip giving the teacher a headache. Sneaky. Sneaky.

The best part of the entire hike on ice had to be us squeezing through an ice gap between tall ice walls. Somehow, the entire process reminded me of the James Franco starred movie- 127 Hours, except this was icy.

First we had to descend down ready made ice steps paved by the guide, and followed her through the ice gap in tandem. Before we advanced, she did mentioned that those who were claustrophobic could give this a miss.

We were the last few to enter the ice gap.

The way to walk through the gap is to place one foot on each side edge and trudged down. In other words, we were walking with our legs slightly open, and there was no platform between our legs. So looking down, it would just be the glacier water streaming. It wasn’t very deep or anything, so even if you slipped and fell in, it wasn’t any issue.

However… If your sunglasses dropped in… Well, now that’s an issue alright. A hilarious one too!

And here’s the dramatic scoop.

So there I was, behind J trying to be as adept as I could. Trudging through, and simultaneously snapping pictures quickly; trying not to hog up the last person behind me. But most importantly, making sure my camera doesn’t hit against the ice walls that were closing up on us as we proceed deeper into the ice gap.

Then I heard an object dropped into the water in front of me, followed by J’s ‘SHIT’ exclamation.

Soon, J was hollering slightly, “My sunglasses. Hhhmmm… Help me!”

The quick current of the water below us had made the sight of the sunglasses long gone. It probably streamed way down to some glacier pool by then. I knew her sunglasses were abjectly gone.

Then, I heard a splash. And a few moments, people at the front were passing the sunglasses to the back as if it was a baton race. Totally comical, as I saw the entire scene from the back. Apparently, the guide had ‘plunged’ into the stream below us to ‘save’ J’s sunglasses. Kudos to her! And shame on J for making the poor guide ‘plunged’ in like that. Tsk. Tsk. Oops! Haha! Just kidding… …

Because ultimately, we all had to ‘plunge’ down as well because the ice gaps were way too narrow for us to squeeze through.

At the end of this segment, our boots were filled with glacier water. Icy cold, my feet were numb, and wrinkled like an old prune.

Thinking back, it was such a dramatic experience that made the entire trip all the more intriguing. And such memories can never be bought. So I have J to thank for such moments of drama.

I mean, it is not every day you see your friend drop her sunglasses into glacier water, and certainly not every day you see the team spirit of passing the sunglasses-baton. Haha! Undoubtedly entertaining!

TIP?

In hindsight, do remember to keep any loose items before entering the ice gap, unless you too want a dramatic experience?

For more experience on Helihike, click on the video!

 

Will I do it again?

I would not do this same tour again, as I feel a onetime experience is good enough. Just as bungee jumping is a good enough onetime experience, so is this. (Though I am not saying bungee jumping equates to helihiking, it’s just a comparison. But I suppose you get my point.)

However, if given a chance, I may want to try Fox it Up: Heli Ice Climbing Adventure. We saw people doing the Ice Climb while we were on the glacier, and that looked like fun too!

Another alternative could also be at Franz Josef! I heard the walk on the glacier at Franz Josef is awesome too!

It is all about trying new things! So if you haven’t tried Helihiking, you really should have a go at it for once; either at Fox Glacier or Franz Josef! Hope this is a helpful insight!

Remember to Travel Whenever and follow your dreams!

Dee

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