Glacier Hiking

Franz Josef Travel Blog

 › entry 68 of 93 › view all entries
First glimpse of the glacier

The lure of Franz Josef and Fox, on the central west coast of the South Island, are the glaciers. It seems that the townships themslves are only really there to provide accomodation and tours. Which is fine, as that's exactly what we were there for.

We booked our glacier hikes - full day (8 hour) hike for me, and a half-day (4 hour) hike for Em, Mam, Al and Ad. The forecast wasn't great, but the next few days weren't supposed to be any better and we didn't have time to hang about for the weather to change so went with it.

When I left the motel first thing the next day, it was pouring down, and the mountains that held the glacier were obscured by low cloud cover.

Comedy pantaloons
It didn't get any better all day. I kitted-up and headed off with my group to the glacier. When you first see the glacier, it looks as though it's a 10 minute walk away, but in fact the glacier and the mountains are so big that it's almost an hour trek through streams and scrabbling over rocks in the first place.

We donned our crampons (later to be re-christened 'croutons' by Em) and, now split into groups of 10, climbed gingerly up the carved out steps. The steps themslves have to be freshly-carved out of the glacier each day due to the constant movement and melting of the glacier. The rain was showing no signs of letting up. We continued further onto the glacier, through some pretty awesome cravasses, under ice bridges and through some bright-blue ice tunnels. The weather really closed in and it became tough going, unable to see the valleys walls at one point, and soaked right through.

In a crevasse
The scenery was amazing though, and well-worth the effort. On the way back we passed a soggy looking Em, Mam, Al and Ads, and from the look on my Mam's face I was thinking she might have bitten off a little more than she could chew. Our group hiked back to the car-park, and the streams I'd managed to rock-hop over were now raging torrents of calf-deep muddy water. I was pleased I'd done it, but equally pleased to get showered, dried and warm.

I headed back down to the tour centre for a well-earned hot-choc and to meet the rest. I was chuffed to bits to see that Mam had made it there and back safely, and with the encouragement of an 'awesome' guide had battled on all the way despite the rubbish conditions. And quite rightly, she was pretty proud of herself. We rounded things off, in time-honoured tradition, with a few drinks, before heading home for some high-intensity scrabble action.

Franz-Josef, we later discovered, received around 7m of rain a year, and it rains there two out of three days. And as sod's law would, the following morning was lovely, with bright-blue skies.

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
First glimpse of the glacier
First glimpse of the glacier
Comedy pantaloons
Comedy pantaloons
In a crevasse
In a crevasse
Franz Josef
photo by: Vikram