The West Coast, Arrival


After some passport issues and an unwanted administrative trip to Wellington, Mike Giles, Alexander Thomas and Mike Mageropoulos joined me in Christchurch. After rediscovering that Christchurch really is a city where booking accommodation is a good idea, we slept in various places including the car and the coach of hostel, before making our way to the west coast in the somewhat full hire car the next morning. 

Arriving in the evening to a bad looking forecast, we settled into a hostel in Franz Joseph Township that luckily had a hot tub! A night on the town complete with horizontal bungee and free hats led to a slow start the next morning. Along with the free hats came the same beta from every glacier guide we came across. Heavy (50 – 80 cm) snowfalls had left the Neve filled in quite nicely but horrible to move around on. People kept asking us if we were skiers!

Fortunately the hotel had a hot tub with a view up the glacier. Unfortunately there was just us four guys.
Fortunately the hotel had a hot tub with a view up the glacier. Unfortunately there was just us four guys.

After wrangling some snowshoes from the very helpful Glacier Guides in Fox Glacier, we booked a chopper for the next morning despite a somewhat mediocre forecast. They say that it rains almost every day on the west coast, and I was starting to believe they may be right.

Early to bed that night, with an 8:30 am chopper booked, led to not the soundest sleep I’ve ever had, wondering if there was anything we had forgotten.

Clear cold skies and light wind greeted us the next morning. After a quick breakfast of Latte’s and Bacon and egg rolls, we were boarding a Squirrel six seater helicopter equipped with a ski basket to help handle our over flowing bags of gear and food. A quick flight up the glacier led to the neve and outstanding views of Mt Tasman and the nearby peaks. Beautiful alpine walls of ice and spires of snow and rock surrounded our new home for the next 8 days, Pioneer Hut, in an almost complete circle.

Mike puts on his best Gnar face while I think about all the not hiking in we are doing.
Mike puts on his best Gnar face while I think about all the not hiking in we are doing.

Many of the Ice routes looked very fat, and we got excited for some of the classic routes of the area. None of the rock routes looked free of snow or ice however. A straight forward landing was followed by a little slide of the chopper and the pilots quick remark, “Bit of a slippery landing site!” was a little less that amusing considering the previous months helicopter crash in the exact same location!

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Unloading all the gear, we made our way to the snow and ice encased hut which required and bit of digging and brute force before we could get in. Excavating the fixed line that lead to the toilet with an adze proved interesting unlike digging out the fuel box from the metre of snow that covered it which was a little less exposed and a little more monotonous.

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The hut toilet.
The hut toilet.

More to come soon!

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