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Fox/Franz Josef - Is a Heli Hike worth it?

Colchester, United...
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Fox/Franz Josef - Is a Heli Hike worth it?

Hi all - I appreciate there have been a lot of posts regarding choosing between the glaciers, which is why I've tried to make my question a little more specific.

What I am really keen to see on the glaciers (although of course I appreciate the conditions are changing constantly and no guarantees can be made) is ice formations such as caves and arches which you can walk through and explore etc. I have contacted the tour operators for advice but wondered if anyone who had actually been there could offer insight - is the likelihood of seeing these features that much greater on the heli hikes (either glacier) than on the full day walking tours? Fundamentally, is the significant extra cost of the heli hikes worth it for what I am looking for in a trip?

Thanks in advance for your help. If it is of any use I am probably leaning towards Fox glacier as from what I can gather their trips are a little more 'rugged' as opposed to tourist-y.

Greymouth, New...
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1. Re: Fox/Franz Josef - Is a Heli Hike worth it?

her is a link to pics and videos I have taken the helecoptor ride was on Franz Josef, and the walking half day was on Fox Glacier

http://www.flickr.com/photos/26176760@N08/sets/72157621014871180/

Christchurch
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2. Re: Fox/Franz Josef - Is a Heli Hike worth it?

Yes, the glaciers are changing all the time so a cave that was there one day could be gone the next. I don't know what your itinerary is but would suggest that you could pop in to the glacier guiding shop and have a chat to one or two of their guides when they are around at the end of their particular tour. The guides on the ice will know and be able to tell you what the current conditions are like so that you will be able to make a decision on whether to do a walk or heli hike.

Personally, I found the helicopter ride just as big a thrill as being on the glacier and exploring the caves and would not have missed it. It gives you a perspective of the place that you do not get from the ground.

Oz
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3. Re: Fox/Franz Josef - Is a Heli Hike worth it?

Hi,

To actually walk on the glacier you have to take a chopper ride at Franz Joseph as the glacier has retreated so much it is too dangerous to walk onto it from the side. At Fox they run guided tours onto the ice and a chopper isn't required but is an option.

We have visited twice and have yet to take a heli hike as the weather made flying impossible so we have only done the guided walk onto Fox. A fantastic experience BTW. The walk through the rainforest to the terminal face is well worth doing as is the circuit walk at Lake Matheson.

Make sure you have layers of "good outdoor clothing" with a waterproof outer (Goretex) so you can enjoy the area and the walks no matter what the weather Gods throw at you. Remember the South West coast of the South Island is one of the wettest places on earth.

Cheers,

Christchurch
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4. Re: Fox/Franz Josef - Is a Heli Hike worth it?

Orc the original poster wants to know if the non-chopper walk on Fox lets you view arches and ice caves. Did you see those on your trip? I don't know if they are a feature seen low on the glacier or if you need to go higher up. I will try and find out.

Oz
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5. Re: Fox/Franz Josef - Is a Heli Hike worth it?

Hi,

Yes there were certainly caves and arches to be viewed and in some cases entered. While we were at Fox looking at the face from the viewing point tonnes of ice broke away (calved?). This was on the day before our intended heli hike when we were on our own. Glaciers are incredibly beautiful, constantly changing, fascinating and potentially deadly. The information boards with the pictures of the tourists who ventured too close are graphic!

Cheers,

Christchurch
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6. Re: Fox/Franz Josef - Is a Heli Hike worth it?

That is good information that I am sure the original poster will appreciate. If he is still watching this thread, that is.

Colchester, United...
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7. Re: Fox/Franz Josef - Is a Heli Hike worth it?

Hi there. I am still watching the thread, thank you - I just hadn't been notified of these responses in my emails. Honestly I am looking to book further in advance than a few days so don't know that I will get the chance to discuss the conditions with the guides beforehand.

OZRCFLYER - that is useful to know you saw arches and caves without going on the heli ride, that certainly has an impact on my decision. Given this, I think I may opt for the Nimble Fox tour, although I would love to see the perspective from the heli ride, the cost may just be too much given everything else I would like to experience in NZ!

It might also be of interest to add that when I contacted Fox Guides they said it would more likely that I would see ice caves etc on the heli hike and although they may be seen on the Nimble Fox tour, they may be smaller and crevasse features are more likely. I was just wondering if anyone could verify this?

Thanks everyone for your help.

Sydney, Australia
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8. Re: Fox/Franz Josef - Is a Heli Hike worth it?

We spent Christmas at the Glaciers and would do the heli hike again and recommend it.

Firstly, its saves time so you get more time spent on the ice than hiking to/from it. Yes to blue ice, arches and a cave/tunnel but as others said, the glacier changes but the guides know why the tourists are there so they do what they can to find it for you safely.

Ultimately it depends on the weather and we spent a week here so for every brillant sunny near perfect day, there was a ok day and then a rained out day so be flexible is my advise.

San Antonio, Texas
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9. Re: Fox/Franz Josef - Is a Heli Hike worth it?

When I did Nimble Fox we didn't see any big ice caves. We saw a small one, but not something we could walk into. However, it is an absolutely unreal experience. We saw tons of moulins, crevasses, and hiked into the seracs with beautiful blue ice. It really is an incredible value for the money, especially relative to what things like food and gas cost in New Zealand. The guides are great too. Knowledgeable, friendly, funny, and focused on safety and keeping a steady but enjoyable pace so that everyone is having a great time. I can't recommend the tour highly enough. Plus we got significantly more ice time than advertised. I don't know if that's because our guides were awesome that day or because maybe they publish just a minimum time that they'd take you if the weather is really nasty or what, but I think I got almost 5 hours ice time when only 3 were advertised. The cafe in Fox Glacier Guiding's building is outstanding also. They had probably my favorite breakfast of all the great breakfast places I ate at in my trip to the South Island.

San Antonio, Texas
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10. Re: Fox/Franz Josef - Is a Heli Hike worth it?

To expand a bit on what OZRCFLYER said, at Fox they provide you with rain gear on the guided walks, but you still need to bring both warm and light upper layers to wear, depending on the weather. I was just hiking in a really thin T-shirt the first 2-3 hours, but needed my heavy fleece and rain gear (I used my own that I brought) in the afternoon; weather can change pretty fast there. They provide boots and wool socks. Don't wear cotton. Stuff is downright dangerous to wear when it gets wet.