Friday, November 30, 2007

Foxy and Franzy

In a country that so far seems to have every geoogical formation, it should be no shock that there are 2 glaciers about 25 km apart on the west coast. And of course both being glaciers, we had to make some comparisons.

Fox Glacier: We first visited Fox Glacier, the more southern of the two. We did a steep 2 hour climb through lovely native bush with sharp turns across steams, until we got our first drmatic glimpse of the glacier about half way up the mountain. The ultimate lookout point was great, with views of the entire valley left by the receding glacier ringed by sheer cliffs that looked how we imagined Yosemite may have looked 100,000 years ago. Pictures don't adequately capture how steep the ice wall is--its terminal face gives a sense of how the ice chews away the rock. The face is pretty grey--brown, kind of like dirty snow, which I guess it technically is, but above are cathedral-spire blue peaks. On the walk to the actual terminal face of the glacier, we were flanked by masive rock falls that fanned out along the edge of the valley.

Interlude: After our Fox hikes, we decide to squeeze in another hike to nearby Gillespie Beach to see an abandon gold mining operation and a not-abandoned seal colony. We learned a valuable lesson here--carefully study the trail map before setting out. If you don't, you'll end up on a deserted beach walking towards a point for over an hour before turning back convinced this can't actually be a trail, especially as it would be washed away at high tide. Having said that, the pounding surf and the desolation of the place made the walk worth it. Upon returning to the beginning of the trail, we learned that we just needed to walk around the point to reach the miners' tunnel and seal colony. Heavens to Mergatroid!

Franz Joseph Glacier: The first difference we noticed was that Franz was much more visible from the town and seemed larger, stretching back further into the mountains than Fox. We began our exploration by hiking to a viewpoint at the opposite end of the valley. The valley created by Franz is more narrow with less rock falls, but covered with cool red rocks. On our second hike, the approach walk, the glacier was in view the whole time. There's more consistent aquamarine ice, but it lacked Fox's impresive peaks.

So in the final glacial show-down, there is no clear winner--you just have to see them both.

-K & D

No comments: