The Sad Glacier (Part Two) – Falls Creek

“On a Mish” #60 The Sad Glacier (Part Two). Falls Creek. Fiordland National Park. 3.5.2018. Sadly, New Zealand has had some of the largest glacial recession on earth. What were once giant moving masses of ice are now miniature disappointing versions of their former selves. The warming of the globe has not been very helpful to our coolest areas. On maps of Fiordland there are areas of ice marked but on closer inspection it turns out there is only the remains of what was once a mighty glacier…

After setting up camp I spent the afternoon exploring the upper valley. With my remaining energy reserves I clambered my way up to the unnamed lake under Mt Suter(2094m). Below the huge cliffs were the remains of the once mighty Falls Creek Glacier. Looking very sad, the ice is now just a dirty lump waiting to melt into the lake at its base. I have seen some pictures from the past showing the ice looking much more impressive.

After checking out the upper valley I returned to camping for dinner. When on missions into wild country like this sometimes leaves me feeling a little bit greedy. I had the entire valley to myself on a perfect day and then night and with views like the ones seen in Falls Creek I was left wondering why I was the only one there.

The night was clear, and the cool air reminded me it was the start of May and winter was just around the corner. In the moonlight I could see the sparkle of frost beginning to coat anything exposed to the elements. I woke to a good freeze which kept me in my sleeping bag a few minutes past early-ish.

The outer fly of my tent was completely frozen inside and out. For me to get out I had to push past the ice which left my arm and some of my back covered in ice dust. I’m sure that back in the past mornings in May were much colder.

I packed up my semi-frozen tent and after one last look around, I started my hike back down the valley to the Milford Road. Not long after leaving my campsite I came across the Falls Creek Rock Bivvy. I had missed it on the way up the valley thanks to my detour through the scrub. The natural shelter looked very comfortable and dry and would be a great place to return to one day to stay. There are very few huts in this part of the world, so rock bivouacs are absolute gold.

On the return journey I could see where I had got the route completely wrong and ended up going bush. The odd wrong turn is just part of the fun of visiting a new place, and when you get back on track then a slight mishap like getting off route just becomes just another part of the story.

With another epic adventure nearly finished I made my way back down the steep section of the track near the Milford Road. Just before getting back to the concrete and cars I ran into a European couple who looked like a couple of fish out of water. Wearing street clothing, the pair were armed with only a camera. I got the usual question of “How far to the top” and when I told them it was at least three hours away the girl made the most hilarious face of disapproval and then gave her boyfriend a look that would melt any glacier!

I continued with my own outing and got back to my car tired but satisfied with where my feet had taken me. Hopefully the couple had turned back and decided to tackle another adventure. But for me I was looking forward to getting back to the car and taking off my boots. My quest to the top of Falls Creek was over and although the glacier at its head was a sad version of its former self, I really enjoyed the challenge. It you are up to it; I highly recommend you venture up Falls Creek. Although you better be quick if you want to see the ice of the glacier that used to live there…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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