Trekking on Franz Josef Glacier

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July 1st 2009
Published: July 3rd 2009
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We left the north east coast of New Zealand and travelled across the Lewis Pass to the west coast. Its approximately a six hour journey across and we did it in two stints, three hours each day. The second day it rained all the way so we didn’t get to appreciate the scenery we had been told that we would see on the way. We did make a small detour to an old abandoned gold mining village on the way. It was abandoned literally over night when a shaft collapsed and the mine became unusable. It had an eerie feel even though most of the town was gone or covered over by trees and bushes. When we got to Greymouth we did some shopping for the week. When we got back to the van we didn’t know what we were going to do for the next few days. We turned on the TV and the weather was on. Further down the coast was to be sunny with clear blue skies for about four or five days. As we planned a trek on the Franz Josef glacier we knew we should get there while the sun was shining.

When we got to Franz Josef village we went to information office to see what we should do. There was also another glacier 30 minutes down the road called Fox glacier and we wanted to know which was the best to trek on. Both had half day and full day treks and we originally had decided to do a half day trek. Then we thought its not everyday you trek on a glacier so we went with the full day trek which would give us up to 6 hours on the ice.

Our trek started at 8:30 on Monday morning. There were five others on our group and our guide was delighted as normally there could be more than fifty people divided into smaller groups all following slightly behind each other. This meant we practically had the glacier to ourselves other than another small group leaving an hour after us. We trekked first for about 40mins to the face of the glacier. Here we put on our crampons (spikes for walking on the glacier) and the guide explained what we would be doing. First with a pick axe he cut steps into the side of the glacier so that we could climb up on to it. The crampons took a few minutes to get used to and even a bit longer to trust. As we walked up the steps your brain is thinking that you are going to slip but the crampons once they are in the ice wont move until you lift your foot again. We trekked for a few minutes to the point where the half day tours stop at. We were glad then that we had booked the full day.

For the rest of the day we walked through crevasse’s, climbed ice hills and crawled through ice caves. We trekked 2 ½ km into the glacier and the views were amazing. There were times where we had to walk around deep water pools with only a ledge of ice about ¾ as thick as your boot. There were some hairy moments where you thought you weren’t going to be able to do something but we always made our way through if only by clinging on to the ice and hoping your crampons don’t give way. Many times we had to wait a few minutes while our guide cut out steps, cleared the way or tied ropes for us to climb up the ice. Our guide also told us that our group and the group the day before was the furthest he had trekked into the glacier in 2 ½ years. The trails on the glacier never stay the same as the ice is always changing. There are some trails but they only last for so long.

Altogether it was an amazing day and brilliant to be able to say we trekked on a glacier. The photos will best describe what it was like. We are getting nearer to Queenstown now. This is the adrenaline capital of NZ. It has enough hair raising activities to keep you entertain for a life time. One thing we intend doing the is a canyon swing. You jump of a cliff and drop 60m before swinging 200m away from the cliff at speeds of up to 150kms an hour. Can someone give us a push?!

In a bit. DH

Song of the blog: Bryan Adams - 18 ’Till I Die

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