Franz Josef Glacier lies in the South Island of New Zealand and stretches some 12 kilometers. Almost five years ago in 2011 myself and two friends joined an 8 hour guided hike from the base of the glacier. Luckily, our group kept such good pace and the rain stayed well away that we were able to hike further up the glacier than any group had in the last year. Rumour has it that in 2012 Franz Josef Glacier Guides lost hiking access to the glacier due to retreating ice and it is now only accessible from helicopter ride that will let you disembark further up the glacier.
To this day, my hike up Franz Josef glacier is one of my favourite hiking experiences and here is a photo diary to show you why!
The day started in the tour office where we were split into small groups and introduced to our tour guide, we got a super laid back dude with a pretty hot kiwi accent, score! It was then a 2km walk to the base of the glacier and time to strap on them crampons (huge spikes for your walking boots)!
From the base it is nothing but excitement as your feet walk across a frozen world of huge openings, ice caves, splits and cracks. The ice changes from colours of snowy white to ocean blues, some blues were so deep in colour it looked like you were walking on water.
The adventure continues as you squeeze through tiny gaps, crawl through holes and caves, jump over huge cracks and climb the steps carved by the tour guide with his pick-axe in the huge towering walls of white ice. It’s so exciting it’s the ultimate winter wonderland you feel like you are navigating your way through a huge Santa’s grotto (or maybe that’s just my imagination!?).
Our guide was so relaxed he allowed everyone time to explore, take photo’s etc. Even helped stage this cheeky little stunt…
Once we reached our finishing point on the way up, we were so high that we were all in awe with our surroundings. The glacier still continued on further yet looking back at the base between the valley seemed like a days hike away. The sky had a show in store for us too as it presented a rainbow in full circle of the sun. Our tour guide said that folk law has it that it means rain is coming, a bit like the old saying “red sky in the morning…” I suppose.
The hike back down was equally exciting as our guide picked his way through a new route back. We also got to taste the icy cold water that was running through a small crack in the ice. Eight hours later we arrived back at the base of the glacier feeling an awesome sense of achievement and luck considering the weather…. just as the rainbow predicted, the next two days were a total wash out in Franz Josef!!