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The day after we relished golden sunshine and gallivanted on West Coast beaches, we were supposed to be ice-hiking on one of New Zealand’s two major temperate maritime glaciers.

But iffy weather made for less-than-ideal conditions for the helicopter flights necessary for taking us to and from Fox Glacier. Fortunately, we’d anticipated that weather could be an issue for the helicopters and so had already budgeted in an extra day in the area. So we spent the day hiking to see the glacier and then exploring the village.

© 2016. Pedestrian track to view Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

The pedestrian track to view the glacier’s terminal face is initially pretty level, following a stream that flows from the glacier.

© 2016. Pedestrian track to view Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. View from the pedestrian track to view Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

Then, the path becomes quite steep as it goes straight up the side of the valley, with no switchbacks. The worst part is, plenty of signage warns visitors to keep walking and not to stop, because the risk of rockfalls is so high. We arrived panting heavily at the path’s terminal, where we could finally get a good view of the glacier.

© 2016. Pedestrian track to view Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Pedestrian track to view Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Pedestrian track to view Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

The next day, we returned to the Fox Glacier Guiding building and were delighted/relieved that the weather had cleared sufficiently for us to go on our ice hike. After getting a rundown on glacier and helicopter safety, we walked to the pad with the rest of our tour group: a couple with a young daughter, a brother and sister on holiday and three young women.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

Once on the ice, we met our guide, strapped crampons to our boots and began our three-hour hike.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

Our guide took us down the glacier from the helicopter landing area, where he knew there would be more interesting formations. He’d go on ahead of us, carve out steps in the ice if there was a slippery area and find features like crevices and ice caves that we could explore, once he’d inspected them for safety.

I’d heard that glaciers are constantly changing and moving, but there’s also the phrase “glacial pace,” so I asked him how dramatically the glacier changes. After a pause, he compared the glacier to a baby — day by day, it doesn’t seem to change much, but if you looked at it week by week or month by month, the differences are much more obvious.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

The glacier hike was far and away the most expensive single experience we had in New Zealand, but we agreed it was absolutely worth it. Seeing the terminal face from the pedestrian track was awe-inspiring by itself, but it’s impossible to get a good sense of the glacier’s vastness until you’re flying over it or are exploring it on foot.

 


A selection of these photos can be purchased as prints at prints.christhedunn.com.

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