Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ice Ice Baby

On my trip to New Zealand, one of the first activities that our group participated in was easily one of the most unique things I have ever done. Our first "extreme" activity (other than the 5.0 earthquake) was hiking up to Fox Glacier, and then hiking on the glacier. And for all the Ahhmurricans out there, glacier is not pronounced "glay-sher". We were quickly corrected and it should sound like "glay-see-er" which is much more romantic dont you think?

The hike was kind of cold, but being from Colorado, it didnt phase me as much as the others I think, not to mention the sun eventually came out. The scenery around us was enough to keep me warm anyway. It was very odd to see these steep cliffs that have been carved out from the glacier over hundreds and thousands of years, rich with vegetation. The landscape was basically rainforest which transitioned into rock which transitioned into a frozen, moving, ice pack. The climate around the area supports both extremes of the environment, and the result is a truly breathtaking assault of landscape beauty. Here are some pictures of the glacier and the surrounding area:

On our way up to the glacier. Just a few years ago, the glacier was here, which is why the vegetation is minimal.

Fox Glacier

Panoramic of Fox Glacier
A crevice (say "creh-voss")

Is it just me or does this look like a howling wolf?

Looking at the surrounding area. Notice the ridge in the middle on the left? The glacier used to fill this valley and was as tall as that ridge.

Contrary to popular belief, this glacier is not very affected by "global warming". Just a few years ago it actually grew several hundred meters -- it is always changing, morphing, and moving.

The valley were we approached the glacier...from on top of the glacier

One of the enormous cliffs on the way to the glacier. Seriously, this picture does no justice to how tall it really is.
Once we finished our hike up to the glacier, we were all instructed to tie our boots tightly and grab two ice picks each. Our guide then instructed us to take turns practicing our thrusts of the ice picks into the ice pack while standing up and told us that we needed to stretch our quads, calves, and hammies before we jumped onto the glacier. Oh did I forget to mention that? In order to get onto the glacier we had to take a running jump over a 20ft gap, catch ourselves in the ice with our dual ice picks, and pull ourselves up. Luckily we only lost one person from our group to the mystical Fox in peace in peace.

Man is it just me or is it getting deep in here? Someone better get a shovel.

Clearly Im joking. In fact, the glacier was strongly connected to the ridge that we were hiking on, just a few yards from were vegetation was. But before we went onto the glacier (seriously this time) we put on "clamp-ons" and were given a spiked walking stick to help traverse the slippery ice.

Putting on the spikes


Once we were all strapped up, we walked on the glacier for a good hour and a half and it was incredible. Just seeing all the formations from the always-moving object was astounding. It does not have mercy for anything or anyone. It crushes rock with ease, gathers up water inside and explodes it out the front, and owns the valley that it is in. Some of the highlights of the hike were learning how the wind and melting water affect the shapes seen within the ice, travelling down into a crevice, and actually going under the glacier, into a small tunnel where we had to slide out.

Travelling into the crevice

This wave-like shape is seen all around the glacier and it is from melting water, being blown by wind, across the glacier . Very cool.

So blue

Yeah Im pretty much a professional BAMF. Take note of all the ice chunks flying around me. 

I figure I should put this picture on my resume from now on. I mean that wouldnt be creepy would it?

Looking down on a large crevice

In the glacier tunnel

Our tour guide looking down on us in the tunnel

Emerging from the glacier tunnel, this is what I was greeted with
I hope you enjoyed New Zealand post 2 of 5. Still to come is bungee jumping, skydiving, and Milford Sound; each of which was a key point in my trip. As of today, everything is up on Facebook: 4 new photo albums (All Black, All Black II, Where Angels Go, and Dropping Like Its Hot) and a few new videos, including me bungee jumping. Check them out and let me know what you think! Dont be afraid to post on my Facebook wall or comment on this blog (you must have a gmail account to do so), I swear I dont bite!

Talk to you soon!

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