Day 193 on the Road
Heli-hiking on New Zealand’s longest glacier
Today we are joining Mt Cook Glacier Guiding for a heli-hike on the Tasman Glacier. If you like this video and want more epic New Zealand bucket list inspiration, then head on over to our YouTube Channel! It’s just the place!
Believe it or not we have heli-hiked on two glaciers already but we are about finally heli hike on top of New Zealand’s longest glacier.
This morning we are leaving the beautiful High Country Lodge in Twizel and we are making our way to New Zealand’s tallest mountain and the jewel of the Southern Alps which is beautiful Mt Cook and the drive to get there is absolutely stunning.
So we’re here to take a helicopter all the way up to the Tasman Glacier and hike it and take a helicopter back cos we’re not hiking all the way down.
As soon as we arrive we’re meeting Tex from Texas which is gonna be our guide and a stand up comedian.
Everyone here needs a breath test alright? Who was out last night?
Equipped with some brand new boots some awesome windproof jackets some crampons and a few more gears we are heading toward the helicopter. As soon as we board the helicopter and the propellers start going the tension starts building we are about to fly above New Zealand’s longest glacier and just below New Zealand’s tallest mountain.
We are super excited as we are about to fly through one of New Zealand’s grandest and biggest landscapes so we’re gonna be following the Tasman Glacier valley right next to Aoraki Mt Cook and while we’re flying in our headsets we can hear the pilot giving lots of commentary along the way. Specifically telling us about the Tasman Lake.
The Tasman Lake is where the Tasman Glacier terminates and it only actually formed in 1989 and has been expanding ever since it’s now 5km and the only way we can really tell the scale is when the pilot points the little yellow boats on the lake.
But this the moment we’ve been waiting for we are now landing on the Tasman Glacier.
Like most helicopter landings it’s a bit of a chaos there is a lot of noise and a lot of wind until the helicopter leaves and Tex starts with a bit of a safety briefing.
We can grab the crampons out of those bags.
Believe it or not putting on crampons is not the easiest thing ever it looks very easy but there is a bit of a dance to it passing the loops and the ropes a little bit everywhere around the boots to make sure it’s really well tight and secured.
Once everything is done Tex is taking the time to tell us a little bit about what we’re gonna be doing today and a few really interesting facts about the Tasman Glacier.
On top of being incredibly funny, Tex is super experienced he has spent over a decade on New Zealand glaciers and particularly the Fox and the Franz Josef glaciers and he tells us a lot of the different between all those glaciers before taking us on a bit of a hike.
The first thing I notice when we start walking along the glacier is that we are completely alone here. Us five are the only people on New Zealand’s longest glacier so that’s really awesome. And amongst everything that Tex is telling us he actually tells us that a third of New Zealand’s glacial ice is actually within this very glacier. Nevertheless it’s still a retreating glacier it’s projected that by 2045 this glacier might retreat by 5km.
Along the way Tex is showing us all these sort of show traps between the ice where you really don’t know what’s underneath them so he’s giving us a bit of a demonstration of what could be a crevasse and the best way to handle this is the basically step over them.
One of the interesting facts about doing a hike on a glacier in midday is that this is usually the time that avalanches happen and Tex tells us to listen to the massive rumble that could come from any side of the mountains and as soon as we hear the rumble we’ll be able to locate where they are and usually the avalanche happens a little bit after that so technically if we here the rumble we could be able to see the avalanche.
Sadly we don’t see or hear any but that’s maybe for the better. Tex is also showing us a lot of crevasses and what they could be hiding. Some crevasses are so deep they could be hiding bigger building than the tallest buildings of New Zealand. that’s how deep and wide they are. And he also tells us that if we were to fall through those crevasses there is almost no chances that we would be found. This reassures us that Tex knows what he’s talking about and we make sure that we follow his steps very closely.
And then we stumble upon a fresh glacial pool.
You can drink from that.
It looks a little bit too deep. I don’t like deep water.
It tastes better than other glaciers.
Best tasting glacier in New Zealand.
Exactly, if I have to rate glaciers in tastiness of their water Tasman is the best one. But I think it’s because it’s much older much bigger and this ice right here has fermented for you know about an extra 10 million years which you can really feel the aroma of the 10 million years. You can feel the dinosaur piss I can feel the toneage from the trilobites.
Because the Tasman Glacier is so big there’s different parts of the glacier that you can do a heli hike on for instance we’re doing the Adventurer heli hike which is pretty much in the middle of the glacier, but no matter on what heli hike you go on this glacier is ever changing so no tour tours will be the same.
However, we’re gonna have loads of opportunity to check out the top of the Tasman Glacier so stick around for those videos.
I’m actually really surprised on how long we actually get to spend on the glacier. We spend 2 hours here surrounded by this epic alpine scenery surrounded by the highest mountains in New Zealand it really is super stunning I can’t stop taking photos.
And then we move onto the next feature of this glacier that Tex is super keen to show us which is an ice cave, or more like an ice worm hole.
This ice cave is really cool it’s all about maneuvering all the way to the bottom of this tiny hole and then when you arrive at the end you need to maneuver yourself all the way around to be able to stand up in this almost vertical cave in order to be able to climb your way back out of the hole.
How awkward was that?
It was a bit awkward I felt like a hamster in one of those tubes.
In true New Zealand fashion as soon as we are making our way back toward where the helicopter is gonna be coming to pick us up the weather changes dramatically. The clouds are here it’s starting to get really windy and cold on top of the glacier, it’s a great time to finish the tour. So we’re making our way back toward the makeshift helipad where we’re gonna be picked back up by the team from Inflight which is gonna take us out of the glacier and back safely to the Mt Cook Village.
Because the Tasman Glacier is so huge size and distances can be quite deceiving and it actually takes us about 30 minutes to make our way toward the helipad.
The helicopter landing is on par with every blockbuster action movie that I’ve ever seen everything is shaping the wind is battering our clothes our bags and our faces and boarding the helicopter makes us feel like superhero. I really love taking helicopters and as soon as we are taking off from the glacier we start getting some views and understanding the views even better cos we can see where we were hiking just a few minutes ago.
On the way back to Mt Cook Airport it really feels like the pilot isn’t rushing to get back to base giving us plenty of time to soak up these amazing glacial views and get loads of photos along the way this is definitely one of the highlights of this tour.
I just can’t get enough of flying over this area again seeing that amazing Tasman Lake where we can even see ice burgs floating in the lake itself and its vibrant blue colours and not to mention all the mountains and forest around this really is such an extreme and epic landscape and exactly what many people come to New Zealand for.
As we unboard the helicopter we say a huge thank you to the Mt Cook Glacier Guiding team this has been such an awesome introduction to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park and now we’re hitting the road to Mt Cook Lodge which is gonna be our accommodation for the next few days.