Franz Josef Glacier

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February 21st 2008
Published: February 21st 2008
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Well it was a pretty long journey from Queenstown to Franz Josef on the West Coast but we stopped quite a bit to see various places which was good - Lake Wanaka was one of our stops - great photo opportunity!

Franz Josef itself was quiet to say the least! But it didn't really matter because we were there to see the glacier - like everyone else! The bus driver had made us panic that all the trips would be fully booked so as soon as we arrived we set about investigating the best way to see the glacier...

The following morning we were picked up from our hostel for our scenic flight... as you can imagine we were pretty excited! We found ourselves a good deal so it was a lot less commercial than most - ie we were at someone's house just waiting for the pilot to fly back home after 'a job' - apparently he takes hunters up to shoot deer and does a few scenic flights on the side! The helicopter was tiny - just space for the 2 of us to sit next to the pilot in the front and a slightly odd german guy sat in the back! It was pretty cloudy in the valley but the pilot's wife assured us we'd see everything we wanted to. So off we went! We flew along the valley towards the mountains, the pilot found a break in the cloud and up we went - above cloud level - the sun was so bright and the sky was blue, the tops of the mountains were covered in snow and in places you could see the cloud lying below us. We flew over the glacier itself and the pilot pointed out Mount Cook - we took so many photos! - it was, needless to say, a massive highlight in our trip so far! To top it all, the pilot found somewhere flat and landed the helicopter high up in the mountains, we jumped out onto the snow for a quick look around and more photos! Then we were back in - in the back this time so our german friend could go in the front. We flew over the glacier again and back down into the valley. $180 very well spent! An amazingly good deal considering the flight was 30 mins and we landed on the snow!

In the afternoon we embarked on our Glacier Hike! We were kitted out with massive boots, crampons and a waterproof jacket. The first part of the walk took us along the river side towards the end of the glacier - not as straight forward as you might think! We had to climb up and down ladders and hang onto ropes as we made our way along the rocks. Finally we reached the glacier - here we put on our crampons! They took a little getting used to but gripped the ice really well - it probably would've been impossible without them! Each day the guides cut out steps into the ice and fix ropes to hang on to. Our guide was carrying an ice pick so he could re-do any steps that had changed since they were carved. We went quite high up onto the glacier - which itself was quite mountainous as you'll see from the photos! There were huge gaps and holes in the glacier so we had to watch our footing! There was even an archway - obligatory photo taken!

A fantastic day! We felt it the next morning though - the muscles in our legs ached so much! Definitely worth it!

Hope you're all well and still enjoying our blogs,
Victoria and Sel xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

North..... to Nelson.....

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