Wanaka to Fox Glacier

Wanaka Wanaka Wanaka

The drive from Queenstown to Wanaka was beautiful in a new New Zealand way. It felt like we drove through Summer Land, Peach Land, a little bit of Penticton, and a dash of Lilooet. 360 degrees of snow capped mountains and scrub bush and grasses.

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Almost at the top of the Diamond Lake trail... thank goodness!

Wanaka is a mellower Queenstown (sans $16 cocktails). There were a few cute businesses that made puns on the town’s name – “Wanakab” taxi service was my favourite.

Set on a beautiful lake, there are lots of hikes and bike trails in the area. We chose to do the Diamond Lake track up to a view of the mountains and lake. Known as “one of the most spectacular day hikes in New Zealand,” it was on private land, so there were lots of sheep around. I got an opportunity to work on my sheep communication skills – something anyone can be driven to when there are this many sheep around and so few people. Anyways, usually I don’t get much of a response from my “Ba-ahahaha-ing,” and I think it’s because of my accent. This time I got through to them though, but Miranda nearly abandoned me. I will be keeping the keys to the car for the next little while. 😉

wanaka 2

The view of Lake Wanaka from the top of the Diamond Lake trail

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A random beach on the way to Fox Glacier was lined with rock and drift wood sculptures - this little guy was just so cute

There is also this odd little place called Puzzling World in Wanaka. It was a puzzling place.. check out the toilets.

WTF... kinda cool in an incredibly tacky way

WTF... kinda cool in an incredibly tacky way

Fox Glacier

fox 1

View of Fox Glacier... if you squint your eyes you can see it turning up the valley

There are very few places in the world where you can walk directly from a temperate rain forest onto a glacier. At 13km long, 800m wide, and 150-300m deep – Fox Glacier is spectacular. It’s neighbour, Franz Josef Glacier, is very well known and more popular because until about 40 years ago the road stopped there, so it did not reach Fox. On my radar from beginning our trip to New Zealand, I talked to a lot of people about the difference between Fox and Franz Josepf glaciers, and which one I should explore. Most people told me they were pretty much the same, so it didn’t matter which one you did. However, after doing some Sherlock-Holmes-ing, I discovered that Fox is actually the cooler glacier to visit and the visually more spectacular.

What makes Fox Glacier so cool?

1. The valley that Fox Glacier is in has a sharp turn in it. This causes the glacier to slow down at the corner and get all squished up. Ice isn’t like playdoh, so squishing = big ass ice towers.

fox 5

Ice pick in hand - and towers behind. This was the highest up the glacier we got

2. The terminal face of Fox Glacier is too active and far to steep to hike onto directly,  so an hour hike along the valley side takes you up onto the glacier at a much higher point then on the Franz Joseph glacier. Benefit is that this means you get more time on ‘clean ice’.

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Blue ice tunnel

3. Fox Glacier Guides take you along the top of the glacier versus along the bottom of crevasses. Both are probably cool, but I can only handle looking at ice walls on either side of me for so long.

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Had to ham it up a bit

4. Okay, this one is a little dorky. Fox is receding, and because the the glacier is accessible from the side, you get to see some very cool glacial features. Like recession arches.

compression arch

Compression arch coolness... hah!

Overall, I’m sure that doing a hike on Fox or Franz Josef glacier would be awe inspiring, but I’m happy with my decision to go with the under dog. After nearly seven hours on the ice, I was exhausted  and exhilarated! So cool to see something that has carved out so much the planet’s geography up close and personal.

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Fox Glacier

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On the terminal face! 75 years ago the terminal face was at that big vertical rock face in the background of this picture

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Talk about a tunnel! This one was sooo cool. Officially called a "moulin" and carved out by water

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I felt like spider man in my crampons - climb anything anywhere!


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