Slept very comfortably in a huge bed and were up at 6:00. Today was the day – Mike had set up a Flying Fox Helihike for us! A helicopter would land us up on the glacier and we would have a guided tour.
Bob and I walked over to the Fox Glacier guides HQ by 7:30, ordered a cup of coffee in the cafe and sat down to wait. We learned that the 8:00 flight was full and were offered a seat on the 11:00 tour. So Bob and I took a brief walk around town (it’s a very brief town) then came back to our room. I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I planned to get some more sleep. Bob went back to the Hobnail cafe to get something to eat. He got back before I got to sleep. He said the next helicopter was scheduled for 10:50, if the weather held. We could be back from the glacier hike by 3:00 this afternoon and then hoped to join Mike as he guided a group on a hike to the glacier terminus.
At 9:00 Mike came in and told us that cancellations had created room for us on the early heli-hike! We threw on clothes and were out the door. Mike walked us back to the Hobnail Cafe where we would catch the shuttle to the helipad.
We were disappointed when we learned that Mike would not be our glacier guide, but the guide we were assigned, Sam, was excellent – funny, informative, and able to leap tall buildings. What more could we ask?
Our first stop was the equipment shack where everyone was outfitted with top notch gear that was really comfortable and totally waterproof. Once everyone was properly equipped we were sorted into groups and loaded on to the helicopters.
The ground crew was very professional (and good looking, don’t you agree?) We were given detailed instructions on how to safely approach and board the helicopter, then lead out to the helicopter, given seat assignments and put on board.
Once we were in the air everyone started taking pictures of the breathtaking spread of the valley below us. Click on the images below to open the slide show.
Once we landed on the glacier Sam got off the helicopter first and then helped the rest of us get out without injuring ourselves or the helicopter (which apparently doesn’t appreciate passengers using the door as a security grab.) Once on the ice we were herded over to a safety zone and told to face away from the helicopter, kneel down, and cover our eyes and face with our arms. We huddled there, feeling the bits of ice whipped up by the helicopter ping our backs, until the helicopter lifted off and headed back to pick up the rest of our group.
When our group of 10 was assembled Sam showed us all how to use crampons. A crampon looks like a bear trap designed to be attached to a boot, but for optimum safety it has to be attached correctly and very snugly. After we had all put on our crampons Sam lined us up and checked our bindings. All of the detailed safety instruction made me very aware that we were not embarking on a walk in the park. Our guide’s attitude of Safety First – No Shortcuts was very reassuring.
Throughout the three and a half hours we were on the glacier Sam explained how glacier ice was formed, lead us across the glacier by hacking steps into the ice where necessary, shared a newly found moulin with us (here is a great You Tube about glacial moulins , ) and helped us understand what we were seeing.
Here is a link to someone else’s video of a Flying Fox Guided Tour. I think it is an accurate depiction of our experience.
More pictures of our adventures on the ice can be found here.
Today’s miles: 10 Total miles: 10,102