Aoraki Mount Cook Ultimate Scenic Helicopter Ride
8th of May, 2018
Apprehension, nervousness, trepidation, anxiety are all probably the best verbs to describe how I felt when I committed myself to a 55-minute scenic helicopter ride with the awesome Heliworks Mt Cook company. Shortly followed by excitement, exhilaration and elation as I have explored Aoraki Mt Cook National park on foot and in a boat, so I knew, weather permitting I was in for a real treat. It’s a magical place and gets under your skin!
As luck would have it I got the perfect weather day. My flight was due to leave at 2.00 pm so the lovely Kylie advised me to check in at 1.30.
I knew what was coming, the dreaded weigh in! I was horrified at my weight and am now consequently on a green tea and vegetable diet! There were 2 other couples flying with me and the Heliworks team organised who would sit in the front for the first half of the ride and then who would sit in the front on the second half. They stamped the chosen ones on their hands. I wasn’t one of the chosen ones, (weight related) but I got a great window behind Justin the pilot for the whole journey, no complaints there!
One of my main fears was being ill! During a tandem paragliding flight in Wanaka last year, unfortunately, I threw up on the pilot, mid-air! The pilot, Grey, was a friend of mine, and thankfully still is, but he advised me to avoid helicopters and small light aircrafts! I was so worried about ruining the helicopter flight for the other passengers, but as my husband always says, “worry is a wasted emotion”, and I was fine, having munched my way through a half packet of sea legs!
The helicopter ride was smooth as! No turbulence, no wind, just perfect, really enjoyable. I do urge anyone reading this who may have doubts and fears to lay them to rest and just do it! You only live once and what you get to see is truly magnificent.
Our journey began flying over the Tasman terminal lake.
The Tasman Glacier is the longest in New Zealand currently standing about 27kms long. Although it is shrinking at a rapid rate. The scenery is breathtaking.
Justin our pilot then look us it would seem just an arm’s length away from the face of Aoraki Mt Cook. I was just amazed at being so close to the famous summit of Aoraki Mt Cook, The Cloud Peicer. Some people spend a whole day in The Mount Cook village and never see the mountain, let alone be so very close to New Zealand's highest alp!
Looking down we were flying over numerous smaller glaciers such as The Hooker Glacier, electric blue ice fields with huge iceberg forests, we were all speechless with beauty and wonder of Mother Nature.
Within minutes we found ourselves hovering above The Fox Glacier on the West coast, next we did a 360-aerial view of Franz Josef glacier. Seriously the only place to view these glaciers on the day, as lower down the Alpine villages of Fox and Franz were shrouded in cloud! Justin also pointed out the remote red mountaineer’s huts such as the Gardiner Hut and Empress Hut. They hung to the mountainsides, covered in a fresh layer of snow, my mind boggled at how the Mountaineers ever get to these places!
We continued flying over calved icebergs, rivers of ice and hanging glaciers until slowly and skilfully Justin landed us at the top of Tasman Glacier. A perfect snow landing. Justin turned the helicopter off and we waited until it was safe to alight. And there we were randomly standing on top of Tasman Glacier in the snow, with no sound, total silence. Beautiful. We did hear what sounded like a distant thunderclap but with the blue skies, we soon realised it was ice falling somewhere in the heart of the mountains. The snow was deep, up to our knees if we went off the compacted ice we sunk, it was amusing. One the highlights for me was seeing the unseen face of Aoraki Mt Cook. Only those who get to land on the Tasman Glacier or those crazy mountaineers get this view, priceless!
We hopped back in the helicopter, and the couples swopped seats, a nice touch I thought. Justin turned the helicopter back on, communicated with lovely Kylie, “copy that”, hearing her voice down at the base gave me more reassurance that everything was just fine. We flew close the face of Aoraki Mt Cook again, meaning we had flown a whole circuit of the summit and slowly returned to base over the blue lakes and a huge waterfall cascading down the mountain.
This is an absolutely amazing experience which is thrilling but safe. Not once did I feel sick or scared, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of Southern Alps. Heliworks Mt Cook are a joy to fly with and come very highly recommended by us, Real New Zealand Tours.