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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
AC-DC – BLACK ICE:
WALKING ON ROCK SURFACE BEFORE START OF GLACIER:
FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER PART 5:
FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER PART 6:
SQUEEZING THROUGH THE ICE AT FRANZ JOSEF: