Blue Ice: Franz Josef Glacier Day Hike, South Island, New Zealand

Blue Ice: Franz Josef Glacier Day Hike, South Island, New Zealand

There are a lot of glaciers in New Zealand, and they are all in the South Island. For whatever reason it was always my plan to do the day hike up the Franz Josef Glacier. It seems to be the most obvious one to do, there’s the slightly bigger glaciers nearby of Fox and Tasman, but for me it was Franz Josef.


I’d never been to a glacier of any kind before and wasn’t really sure what to expect. Is it ice? Is it rock? Is it both? It was time to book the tour, get my gear on and find out.


In many ways, it was a good preview of my trip to Antarctica. I would have cold conditions, ice and snow, lots of rock, warm clothes and unpredictable weather. So a month before my epic trip to the southern continent of Antarctica, I found myself in the lonely Franz Josef Township, staying at Glow Worm Cottages with the only reason for staying there being that I was booked on an 8.30 am all day glacier trek.


The price was $165 for the full day trek. To be honest I didn’t even consider doing the half day trek, despite the price difference (I think it was around $108) as I thought I might as well make a day of it and walk further up into the ice.


I arrived brave and early at the tour centre. I was doing the trek with the lovely Israeli couple from the hostel, Alex and Natali. They had booked it the night before to get onto the same trip as me. I had booked mine a few days before hand at the i-Site in Christchurch. 


There was a big crowd there that morning. First we got these neck tags, which would double up as a handy camera hanger, to keep my camera dry in the wet and cold conditions.


We collected a coat, gloves, hat, trousers, boots and crampons. All the gear was provided as part of the cost and it was all essential. I did actually have some of my own stuff, but didn’t use it to save the washing, plus I’d paid for their gear so I thought I’d use it.


I got all kitted out in the busy changing room and soon boarded a bus.


The bus to drive us to the car park, a 4 kilometre drive to the start of the Franz Josef Trek.


The entrance to the trek. Those timings and distances on the board are wrong, and mainly refer to where the forest part ends, about 3 kilometres from the actual start of Franz Josef Glacier.


The wild life at Franz Josef consisted of only green Kea Birds. Apparently they have the intelligence of a five year old child.


Where the proper trek began.


On route to Franz Josef Glacier.


The scenery on either side of the valley.


The Franz Josef Glacier was once here, and has melted away slowly since the 1800s.


With Natali and Alex on the Glacier Trail.


The big group of us walking towards the Glacier.


Crampons – basically spikes for your boots to walk you through the ice.


Start of the Glacier.


Using a pick axe to carve through the ice the best route.


We stopped half way up for lunch. It was freezing and cold and wet.


The sky and my camera were drenched!


Lunchtime on Franz Josef Glacier.


Further up, displaying my country’s colours in the blue ice ravines.


Our group doing Franz Josef Glacier.


In the narrow sections of the Glacier.


More cravasses.


Looking back down towards the valley from the top of the Glacier.


Near the top.


Relaxing near the peak of Franz Josef Glacier.


We didn’t go all the way to the top, we didn’t have time – and you dont on a one day trek. But you basically get to see the amazing ice formations, and are walking on the ice for about 6 hours.


Some of the trek was uphill, some was downhill. Some was through ravines and cravasses.


The tour was entirely guided by an English guy from Manchester called Dean. He also carved the route for us as we headed up.


Some of it involved the Franz Josef “shuffle”, which was a feet movement technique. This photo just after a slow hike downwards.


Some of it involved abseiling down narrow ice carved steps.


There were caves near the top.


The day went so fast however, and it was amazingly enjoyable – I urge you all to do it if your in New Zealand.


We got the bus back to the main street in town, handed in our wet wet clothes (my clothes underneath were also drenched that day – the wettest day I’ve experienced in a fair few years). (This region of New Zealand is famed for rainfall).


There was free hot chocolate back at the base which was well needed. I took two cups and spoke to a lovely American couple, who were well travelled. Shauna was a flight attendant/air stewardess and Michael was a pilot. In jobs like that you get to see the world. They noticed my top and remarked on how they had once been to the Giant’s Causeway.


Having just got back from Antarctica, I have to confess, the Franz Josef Glacier Trek was MUCH MUCH colder. It may well be because I had more thermals on during the Antarctic Tours. But I think it’s actually because despite its coldness, Antarctica is the driest continent and it rarely rains there. On this particular day at Franz Josef Glacier we were soaked to the bone.


Nationalities Met – Israeli, New Zealand, Hong Kong, German, English, American

Length of Hike – 8 kilometres

Height of Hike – 600 metres above sea level

Time of Hike – 7 hours

Terrain – ice, rock and water

KEY SONGS:


AC-DC – BLACK ICE:

VANILLA ICE – ICE ICE BABY:


GETTING MY GEAR ON PRE- HIKE:


THE BUS TO THE SITE OF FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER:
THE 2.7 KM HIKE TO THE START OF THE GLACIER:


WALKING ON ROCK SURFACE BEFORE START OF GLACIER:


FIRST SIGHT OF THE GLACIER:


FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER PART 1:

FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER PART 2:


FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER PART 3:


FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER PART 4:




FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER PART 5:



FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER PART 6:



SQUEEZING THROUGH THE ICE AT FRANZ JOSEF:

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