Hiking to Fox Glacier’s Terminal Face

We really underestimated how jam-packed this day would be! The last town we are staying in on the West Coast is Haast, but we discover quite a few things on the way down there. Let’s begin!

Fox Glacier: we’ve heli-hiked onto the glacier and we’ve gazed our eyes upon the most reflective lake in New Zealand. But before we leave Fox, there’s one more thing we’d like to do. This morning, we are hiking to the terminal face of Fox Glacier.

One of the most captivating views when taking a helicopter onto Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier is the glacial valleys. By hiking to the terminal face, we get to surround ourselves in the glacial valley.

FOx glacier through the ages

We leave the Ivory Towers Backpackers early and hit the road for just about five minutes until the turn off for the glacier valley. At first, the road runs through rainforest. A sign on the road says: “In 1750 the glacier was here”.

The rainforest eventually runs out to reveal this vast valley, the very one we saw from the helicopter. The road hugs the valley wall while a braided river weaves its way through the middle of the valley. Not too long down the open area we notice: “In 1830 the glacier was here” and so on… Until: “In 2004 the glacier was here”. This is near the car park where we then will need to walk for 45 minutes to a viewpoint overlooking the terminal face. Fox Glacier is one of the world’s fastest moving glaciers, but to see how much it has receded is pretty scary!

The road of the glacier The road of the glacier
The rocky hike to the terminal face The rocky hike to the terminal face
An ice palace An ice palace
The boulders of the glacial river The boulders of the glacial river

Danger, danger!

It has, however, left a glacial valley that make us feel so small. Signs in the car park emphasis over and over again how dangerous the hike is we are about to do. Although it is not a tough one, the valley walls are prone to rock falls and there could be a flash flood if an ice sheet of the glacier falls off… Well, good job the hike goes right beside the braided river and along the bottom of the unstable valley then!

The hike starts along the fine sediment bottom of the braided river bed. The further upstream we follow the bigger the rocks get until we are walking among boulders. Rocks and boulders make up the track that now covers previous rock falls, while there are signs everywhere saying “No Stopping”, “Rock Fall Area”. Yikes!

Glacier valley and terminal face

We don’t worry too much about all that though when we are completely distracted by the sheer vertical sections of the valley sides, or the many waterfalls, or, again, the size of some of these boulders.

It’s one final push to the top of rock fall central where we meet the lookout to the Fox Glacier terminal face. Wow.

Sunlight breaks just over the mountains to shine right on the whitest part of the glacier we can see, lighting it for us perfectly in a show a Mother Nature. Below this pure white and icy section, the glacier has melted enough to mostly reveal rocks it has been carrying for God knows how long.

A cascading waterfall makes its way down the valley side to join the river that is also created by the melting ice of the glacier.

The valley, the mountains and the glacier: it feels like we’re never going to be in such a unique environment again.

A stop at Ships Creek on the way to Haast

Hunting for bluestone

Haast is waiting for us, so we hustle back down the track, lapping up the views from a new perspective all the way to the van.

If we hadn’t quite got our rock fix today, our hosts at Ivory Towers recommended that we check out Hunts Beach where it is possible to find bluestone. It’s like greenstone/jade/pounamu but blue!

We follow the tips that Steve, our jade stone carving tutor in Hokitika, gave us to find greenstone and try to apply it to bluestone. To be fair, all the stones here have something sexy about them with all sorts of patterns and colours coming through.

We leave Hunts Beach with a handful of green stones that are probably not greenstone… And they’re definitely not bluestone.

30-minutes out of Fox, we take a turn off down a short gravel road to a beach that appears to be spilling over with pebbles.

A handful of probably not greenstone A handful of probably not greenstone
Climbing to the top of Ship Creeks' tower Climbing to the top of Ship Creeks' tower
Magnificent views from Knights Point Magnificent views from Knights Point

West Coast untamed!

The road between Hunts Beach and Haast gives us constant views of magnificent mountains and untamed rainforest. We’ve been blown away by the evolution of scenery along the West Coast in general, from Karamea, the coastal road of Punakaiki, the Glacier Country, and now this!

Knights point and Ships Creek

Mountains to sea, mountains to sea: this road is taking us everywhere today, often to lookouts giving us a chance to stretch our legs. Knights Point provides a coastal view of offshore island and rugged coastal scenery. Then Ships Creek has a lookout tower complete with ladders to get some good vistas without having to delve into the sand dunes under the rain. (Yes, our luck has run out with the weather and now the famous West Coast rain is back to get us).

Welcome to Haast

The journey ends in Haast and the Wilderness Accommodation for an evening of work and listening to the rain pitter patter on the roof of the indoor patio area full of rainforest plants.

Tomorrow, we are going jetboating into the wilderness itself! Join us then!

Laura and Robin

In the wake of a glacier
In the wake of a glacier Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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See you tomorrow!

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