Climbing the Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Travel Blog

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The glacier from a distance

We got up early and walked to the Glacier tour group to get kitted out with raincoat, waterproof overtrousers, hats, gloves, socks, boots and crampons. We then took a bus to the base of the glacier and walked beyond the protective wire and walked half an hour to the base of the glacier. Here we split into 2 groups based on ability, put on crampons and started tramping up the dirty, rocky edge of the glacier. The further we got up, the more men were out cutting steps into the slopes of the glacier. Paths are cut and re-cut every day following the day and night's weather, and new main paths are changed once a fortnight or so.

After only half an hour I already had blisters at the back of my heel from climbing and stepping up steep slopes, and had to stop for some first aid - apparently you shouldn't wear cotton socks under wool socks! Unfortunately, the damage was already done and the following 2 hours of climbing became more and more painful.

Tiny men carving new steps into the glacier for us to climb
It was also pretty hard going even without blisters, and we had very few 'breather' stops. I was close to pulling out and begging to return knowing that I still had 4 or so hours to walk, but I pushed on, as I could see how far we already were from the glacier face and I couldn't imagine how they would be able to soeperate me from the group.

Eventually we stopped for lunch and the tour guide was radioed by the less able group because one woman had had a panic attack and wanted to pull out so the whole group had to return. He left us to eat but when he returned he and my group were scathing about the stupidity of someone who aggreed to go on a glacier walk and then ruined the experience for everyone. I shut up and kept my head down, pleased I hadn&t said anything earlier! LIke I have said before 'Australasians are outdoorsy people'!

The second half of the day was a lot more fun, if a lot wetter as we were squeezing and sliding through tiny glacier cracks and climbing and more often descending steep slopes using the 'bananarama' steps (sideways steps up the cut ice steps) which was a lot more comfortable.

Our little Stray group on the glacier
The glacier cracks are caused by the top of the glacier tipping over the top of the under-side ice. Some of these cracks are 150m deep and more! Finally we started descending the glacier and returned, hot and sweaty to the bus to be driven home.

Our first stop was at the hostel bar for happy hour and then to the spa pool in the garden, which was deliciously hot and relaxing. We met a bloke who had also hiked the Tongariro volcano but he did the circular trek round the base and camped for 4 days but got caught in a 4 hour ice storm and got frostbite! After an hour or so we dressed and went down to a local bar for a bit and then to bed after some pizza and some drinks.

djc81 says:
Nice Review, this is now on my list of things to do when I go backpacking in Jan
Posted on: Aug 15, 2009
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The glacier from a distance
The glacier from a distance
Tiny men carving new steps into th…
Tiny men carving new steps into t…
Our little Stray group on the glac…
Our little Stray group on the gla…
Me in an ice cave
Me in an ice cave
Franz Josef
photo by: Vikram