Conquering a giant ice block... our time at Franz Josef.


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Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Franz Josef
January 26th 2008
Published: February 20th 2008EDIT THIS ENTRY

After Lake Mahinapua and the "legendary" poo pub party, we were off to Franz Josef to take on a glacier. The town of Franz Josef is very quaint with quite expensive restaurants. We were very excited for our big day on the ice. Holly booked herself for the amazing, incredible, and stunning heli-hike where you go to a higher point on the glacier in a helicopter with spectacular views, hike around on the glacier for 2 hours and then take a helicopter back. The rest of us went for more of a "work-out" in the much cheaper option of a FULL-DAY "glacier adventure" in which we basically hiked for 8 hours (with about 5 being on the ice).

Really and truly, I'm speechless trying to describe this. It was absolutely phenominal. It took us upwards of an hour and a half to get to the point where we started climbing the actual glacier. We had to hike through rainforest and on some rocks that ran along a glacial stream. When we emerged from the rainforest we thought we were close to the glacier (we could see it plainly in our view)... we were quite shocked to find that the base of the glacier was still about 4 kilometers away! Not only that, but since the sun had been quite hot and the stream current had become quite strong, the rock we were meant to pass under was impassible, and we had to climb a path over it to get to the other side. This involved a number of trees, ropes, ladders and mutterings of "you're kidding, right?" It was quite entertaining. Michael, Amy, Marc (my UK friends) and I had chosen the faster of the two large groups which meant we had to keep up a good pace. Once at the base of the glacier we had to put big giant "teeth" (ICE TALONZ) on the bottoms of our boots so we would be able to climb the glacier. At this point, they further split the two groups into 4, and our faster group was split into those who had their "wheaties" for breakfast, and those who didn't. Amy did not want to go in the fast group, assuming it would just be too much. However, too many people stayed back and the fast group required some people to switch over. I decided I could handle it; as did Marc. However, Amy and Michael stayed back in the 2nd cohort. What Marc forgot in making this decision was that Amy and Michael were carrying his lunch! Thankfully, the two groups stayed in relative proximity to one another and Marc only had to wait 10 minutes for his sandwiches to arrive.

The glacier hike mostly involved climbing "stairways" that were carved out by our glacier guides. Our guide, Cliff, was quite good and I have some great photos of him carving out paths for us to take. When he told us his name, he said that if we forgot his name to just look around and there are plenty of reminders. All part of the everyday soundtrack, I am sure, but we're used to that with tour guides and I did think this one was quite witty! The beginning of the hike was pure vertical, trying to get beyond the rocky parts and up to the spots where the ice actually becomes quite blue.

The rest of the day was ABSOLUTELY phenominal. We climbed through all sorts of crevaces, lots of them where you couldn't imagine looking down because you knew that would be a BAD idea. We really had to depend on eachother's steps and our cramp-on ice talonz to get us through some of the holes in the ice. Cliff did a great job hacking out steps for us to take and forming paths we could navigate together. By midday, my hands were FREEZING because my woolly mittens were soaking wet and my little fingers were turning white and bright red! It was truly all worth it though. Just an amazing day.

That night we celebrated with a dinner together at the restaurant at our hostel. It was quite an incredible day. I CLIMBED A GLACIER!




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