Tackling the Fox

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Chilly hello to all you folks out there! Well, once again I find myself knackered as I write to you. Yup, that’s right, it was another busy day for ActiveSteve here at the Fox Glacier village. My feet and legs are sore today not from biking, but from all the gear I had to wear today while I was out on the dangerous ices of the Fox Glacier. I spent the whole day on the ice, and learned to ice climb. Well, in truth, there really wasn’t all that much to learn, as Ice Climbing is pretty much exactly like rock climging only you’re on ice instead of rock. So, as a result, I already knew how to tie on and off, belay, and all those sorts of things. However, I had to get the hang of using Ice Axes and Crampons, which was a hoot. Read on for a bit more about my exciting day on the glacier. There’s a map too, but I have a feeling it’ll be pretty meaningless, as it was in my pack hidden away most of the day, so I don’t think locations are correct. Sorry!

I got up this morning around 7am, in order to be at the Fox Guiding offices before 8am. I had paid up all my fees the day before, so I was good to go. There were only two other people in my little group, and they were in the cafe waiting, which is where I first met them. Leah from England, and Maria from Germany. They seemed pretty keen on the day, and were pretty fit looking, so I figured that the day wouldn’t be too hard on us. They were friendly enough, and before too long our glacier guide met us in the cafe and led us to get our climbing gear. We got helmets, hard boots, harnesses, crampons, gaiters and an ice axe. I was also ‘volunteered’ to carry a climbing rope since there were only a few of us. We had a pretty short briefing and were off to the ice. The road was only a few kilometers, and before we knew it, we were on the trail to the glacier.

To get up to the galcier involved a bit of uphill hiking, which was made a bit difficult by the fact that we were wearing big heavy plastic mountaineering boots. It’s a lot like wearing ski boots, to give you an idea. However, once on the actual glacier, and after having put on the crampons, the situation was a little better. In fact, I dare say that life was infinitely better on the ice with the crampons and boots on. It’s really amazing how you can move on the ice when you’ve got those things strapped onto your boots. It didn’t take too long to get the hang of them, and to start trusting them to get us where we wanted to go. Our guide Jeff was a really good guy, taking the time to make sure we were comfortable with what we were doing up there. I guess that’s a good thing, considering that a glacier can be a fairly dangerous place to be playing!

Another interesting side note about Jeff. He’s been all around the world, and lived through some fairly hairy situations. Take for example the time he was climbing in the Himalayas. Can you guess when that was? Well, here’s a clue. Into Thin Air. Yup, he was up there during the same time as one of the deadliest summers on Mount Everest. He wasn’t on Everest at the time, but on one of the nearby peaks, the 6th highest in the world, and was trapped up there during the bad weather. He actually met a lot of the people from that summer like Andy Hall, and his team. Crazy, isn’t it? He’s been guiding for a long time, so I felt pretty safe in his hands.

The coolest part of our trip has to be when we actually descended into a crevasse and then climbed back out one at a time. You don’t get to do that every day of your life and live to tell about it, do you? Well, now I can say I did. I’m really glad that I did this trip, as it offered just as much thrills as any other high-energy ride or skydive or bungy, etc, etc. The plus side of it was that I was in the middle of the splendor of nature while doing it, and also learned some new skills that I hope I’ll get to use in races some days. You never know, especially if I do a winter race in Iceland or somewhere like that. Tee hee.

We were up on the glacier well past the time when we were told we’d be heading back, but it was because we were allowed to do a couple extra climbs while we were up there. I in particular was keen to keep climbing longer, since I still had lots of energy. For most of the climbs that we’d set up, I’d first climb it using two ice axes, and would then switch over to using only one axe to make it more challenging.

Well, that about does it for now, I’m off to watch a bit of a movie, then tackle a new day. I’ve decided to stay an extra day here, so that I can catch up on laundry, email and phone calls back home. Day after, it’s back on the road, and the next little stretch will be pretty remote, with barely any villages between here and Wanaka! Oh well, it’s always fun to get back on the road. See you later, alligators!

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