The Storm Troopers

The forecast was not looking good for the West Coast, or the Wild Wild West as I like to call it. The storm we were waiting for, to kick start winter, was on it’s way ..

Now you want rough weather when you visit Punakaiki, so you get good sprays from the blow hole. But thunder & lightning is not that popular when it comes to Glacier Hikes. (Why do we say thunder & lightning, when it should be lightning & thunder? I know, I know, light travels faster than sound so in theory it’s correct, but from where I was sitting, I was blinded by lightning, then deafened by thunder, then hail).

There is generally two sounds you wake up to in Franz Josef:
1: Helicopters = nice day, with people getting whisked away for a scenic flight or Heli hike.
2: Rain = not so nice day, but Franz Josef Glacier Guides will kit you out head to toe in gear.

On the odd occasion it is a 3rd sound, rolling thunder followed by rain & hail. That is what I woke up to this trip. My first thought was ‘my poor peeps’. Then ‘I wonder if they will still go?’. I must have had the toughest craziest keen beans this trip. They made their way down to the Glacier Centre, in the most hideous weather, to check in early for the full day hike, only to find that the guides were getting blown over on the glacier, so they were going to re-assess things at midday. The hail looked like snow as it accumulated into 15cm high piles along the side of the road. We even got the odd sprinkling of snow.

10 of my crew decide to brave the conditions and do the afternoon hike that has been given the go ahead. Dressed alike in their blue jackets, navy over-trousers, red crampon waist bags, they look like soldiers off to do battle with the elements, as they march out the door to board the shuttle bus. One of my girls has a look of apprehension and ‘what are we thinking?!’ on her face, as I wave her off. Well my Storm Troopers tenacity paid off! They were rewarded with a great hike, even some blue sky and a story to tell.

The storm lashed the West Coast further south too, creating an interesting drive the following day. Snow on the Fox hills and the Haast Pass, making it look like a winter wonderland. Hearing comments like ‘It feels like Christmas!’ and ‘Snow in July, now that feels weird!’, makes me smile, as the opposite is true for me.

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