CON­FES­SIONS OF A GLACIER GUIDE

A day in the life of Lisa Pod­lucky

Adventure - - Contents - By Lisa Pod­lucky

It’s so sur­real, ev­ery­where you look you see the past and you see the fu­ture of where the Fox Glacier used to be or where it could end up, and yet stand­ing on this in­cred­i­ble, unique Glacier leaves you in awe ev­ery sin­gle day. The un­pre­dictable power of the ice is not a force you want to reckon with. Ev­ery day the glacier moves and twists cre­at­ing mag­i­cal blue caves and arches, tall walls for test­ing your skill and fit­ness haul­ing your­self up by ice axes and only the front points of your cram­pons stick­ing into the ice, the Glacier def­i­nitely pro­vides some­thing for ev­ery­one, no mat­ter where you’re from.

"A RE­TREAT­ING GLACIER LEAVES BE­HIND PER­MA­NENT SCARS IN THE LAND­SCAPE EV­ERY­WHERE YOU LOOK."

The Fox Glacier is found on the South Is­land’s West Coast in among lus­cious Rain­for­est and the moun­tain peaks of the South­ern Alps in­clud­ing the high­est - Ao­raki, Mt Cook. In the tiny vil­lage of Fox Glacier, where my day starts ev­ery day and mem­o­ries are made through a guided trip on the ice.

A re­treat­ing glacier leaves be­hind per­ma­nent scars in the land­scape ev­ery­where you look. Now what we are all hop­ing for is that we can all work to­gether as a com­mu­nity, as a na­tion, as a world­wide col­lec­tive to help save frag­ile phe­nom­e­non like the Fox Glacier.

For me it all started on the 23rd Au­gust 2016, first day of work with Fox Glacier Guid­ing. First im­pres­sions ex­ceeded my wildest ex­pec­ta­tions and I knew I was in the right place. The time, care and the thought process that was put into our train­ing was amaz­ing. The pro­fes­sion­al­ism that this com­pany shows ev­ery day to­wards its staff and clients with the goal of giv­ing ev­ery cus­tomer that walks through our doors the best ex­pe­ri­ence we can. It leaves you with a smile on your face at the end of the day, know­ing that your clients walked away with hav­ing one of the best ex­pe­ri­ences they ever had and leav­ing the guide em­pow­ered and smil­ing.

A typ­i­cal day would start by pack­ing per­sonal gear that I would need for the day then do­ing morn­ing jobs in­clud­ing hos­ing down and sweep­ing buses, record­ing weather data, put­ting on and pack­ing away laun­dry etc.… Meet and greet clients with a warm and en­thu­si­as­tic wel­come and get­ting them equipped with the nec­es­sary gear in­clud­ing boots, socks, rain jack­ets, alpen­stocks and cram­pons along with a friendly help­ing hand. The all-im­por­tant safety brief­ing ac­com­pa­nied by lots of crazy hand ges­tures and a few for­eign lan­guage trans­la­tions which al­ways gets a few chuck­les or hys­ter­i­cal laughs from a few peo­ple.

Clos­ing the door of a very ex­cit­ing he­li­copter ride up to the ice, which is now our only mode of trans­port to be able to get onto the ice, thou­sands of pho­tos and videos are taken or just hold­ing white knuck­led onto the guides arm un­til the he­li­copter lands safely onto the he­li­pad. A guide ap­proaches the he­li­copter - again a set of funny hand sig­nals as we try to get peo­ple to take off their seat belts and head­sets. A rush of cool glacier air fills the cabin as the guide opens and helps you out of the he­li­copter and di­rects you to a wait­ing area where all too of­ten the real ex­cite­ment starts and we run fran­ti­cally around to catch caps, selfie sticks (which are a men­ace in and around the he­li­copters).

“Make sure the spikes go into the ice and not into your boots” I try to ex­plain to peo­ple as they fid­dle with their cram­pons, again in re­sponse I get a few chuck­les from the group. After go­ing through a basic cram­pon brief­ing we set off on an amaz­ing hike around the ice.

Ar­riv­ing at the first cave, a few dif­fer­ent fa­cial ex­pres­sions of ei­ther ex­cite­ment or terror are cast in my di­rec­tion be­fore I could even ex­plain that it’s not manda­tory to go through, which brings re­lief to many. After check­ing and demon­strat­ing how to go through the fea­ture safely, many make their way through with some odd noises be­ing heard as ev­ery­one starts get­ting cold hands - (what do you ex­pect, this is frozen snow after all) - ev­ery­one emerges slightly damper than what they started out to be, but still with a smile on their faces and ready for the ad­ven­ture. I love see­ing the hap­pi­ness and ex­cite­ment in peo­ple when they achieve some­thing they have never tried be­fore.

And be­fore you know it, we close the door of the he­li­copter and wave our groups good­bye and await in an­tic­i­pa­tion for what’s next. For me ev­ery time be­ing on the ice it still feels like it’s the first time I have seen a glacier, walk­ing on a slow-mov­ing con­veyor belt, you know that noth­ing is go­ing to be the same to­mor­row as it is to­day.

Guid­ing for me is my great­est pas­sion but also an ev­ery­day chal­lenge. I go out there ready to shimmy, squeeze, jump through caves, arches and crevasses with the big­gest care for cus­tomer hap­pi­ness and safety. It is phys­i­cally and men­tally tir­ing but that’s what makes it fun, swing­ing a big step cut­ting axe around all day, tak­ing pho­tos for the clients, dunk­ing your head into the crys­tal-clear pools or just be­ing su­per ex­cited when you see the sun for the first time in what feels like eter­nity, keeps me com­ing back day after day en­joy­ing this amaz­ing place with amaz­ing peo­ple.

Even though with the re­spon­si­bil­ity of guid­ing clients around the glacier, I still have time to cap­ture the ev­ery­day life on the glacier through my pho­tog­ra­phy which clients highly en­joy due to the ex­tra time to add funk­i­ness and fun to the trip and what more can you ask for. Of course I will take pho­tos for you stand­ing in front of this amaz­ing cave so you can trea­sure this ad­ven­ture for many more years to come.

Thank you, Fox Glacier, you melt and you melt my heart ev­ery day and ev­ery­one who comes takes away a piece of you in their hearts.

"GUID­ING FOR ME IS MY GREAT­EST PAS­SION BUT ALSO AN EV­ERY­DAY CHAL­LENGE. I GO OUT THERE READY TO SHIMMY, SQUEEZE, JUMP THROUGH CAVES, ARCHES AND CREVASSES WITH THE BIG­GEST CARE FOR CUS­TOMER HAP­PI­NESS AND SAFETY. "

ABOVE: Be­low the sur­face, the glacier shows you her in­ner beauty. BE­LOW: Would you dare to squeeze through here? OP­PO­SITE PAGE: The vast ex­panse of the glacier, def­i­nitely makes you feel small. Here a group en­joy­ing the chal­lenge on the Ex­treme Fox Trip.

ABOVE: Photo op­por­tu­ni­ties are plen­ti­ful. Whether 1 or 1000 pho­tos, take away this in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence while it lasts. OP­PO­SITE PAGE: Cel­e­brat­ing this day with the rare West Coast sun­shine and an abun­dance in ice caves….. and all with a smile.

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