Taking down the Tasman (Glacier)

This story comes from the never times of 10 years ago when I was a naive and inexperienced backpacker and was a story I felt happy to share.

Do not ever try hiking steep, rocky hills the morning after sleeping in a frigid car at 8,000 feet above sea level. I would like to think I am incredibly fit person, which has only been accentuated by the lengths I had recently walked with my backpacks. I was in no preparation for the plunge I was about to make into this rocky path we thought we were taking for the Tasman Glacier. For some genius reason Ben and I decided to ignore all signs for the hiking trails to the glacier, and started making our way up a rocky, inclining service road. In delirious and stupid Frodo and Samwise style, we plugged on for an hour and half talking about girls, as 22 year old guys who are ill prepared for a big hike tend to do. At the least it distracted from the burning pain inside my lungs and the sensation that my head was floating away. With all the times I have spent in moderately high altitudes, I had generated the confidence of a Nepali Sherpa. I was far from this. In my arrogance, I plugged on with my eyes bulging out of my head, and my body feeling like Sodom and Gomorrah

After an hour and half of plugging up this rock and receding glacier-decayed slope, we started to question if we had taken the correct path. Despite it being the breach of winter, thus making other backpackers minimal, we had not seen any other form of life despite my exasperated face since we left the car park. I could not knock the terrain we were summating, minus the toll it had taken on my life, but surely we should have seen a sign somewhere. We finally decided to climb this hill that we had been straddling for the entire trip to catch a glimpse of how much longer we needed to go. In all our worldly knowledge, we had been walking alongside the glacier the whole time, and all we had to do was walk up this hill. After another grimacing climb where I thought I was going to give birth to a gremlin via my skull, I found myself on the side of one of the Tasman Glacier, the largest in New Zealand. We gazed out onto this rough and tumble block of perpetual ice, mixed with dirt and marveled at the jagged blue streaks created by the pure ice. As beautiful as the glacier was due to its vastness and the beautiful mountain backdrop, I was severely disappointed by the esthetics of the glacier. For all of its blue beauty, there was five times as much dirt and dust grounded into the blue and white. It looked like a cookies and cream mess, except for nowhere near appetizing.

Having most of my energy sapped by this treacherous altitude, we then made our way downhill towards the car park, where we assumed we would find the correct, promisingly shorter trail. Despite my heads fury, I was able to enjoy a downhill slope into a glacial valley displayed stunning views. It warmed me to think that if and when I succumbed and keeled over, at the least it would be in a happy place. I gained a lot of respect that day for the two little hobbits that saved mankind that fateful day a long time in the past. They really persevered through some epic terrain, accomplishing something I sure could not. After some kidlike adventure back to the glacier, and throwing rocks into these green pools of frozen glacial water, we got into the car, I died, and Ben drove us southward, out of the mountains.

I have since grown up and learned from my mistakes, ha. Feel free to shoot me an email if you want help planning your trip to New Zealand – mike@fearlessleaderstravel.com

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