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Mark's World Tour 2007-08

Day 253: The Franz Josef Glacier Hike

NEW ZEALAND | Tuesday, 15 July 2008 | Views [1762]

Me in the middle of the beautiful blue ice

Me in the middle of the beautiful blue ice

Tuesday 15th July

I was up at 07.00, got myself together and prepared my food for the lunch that day (you have to bring your own food on the glacier hikes) and headed over to the Franz Josef Glacier Guides office at 09.00 to get kitted out with our gear for the day. This comprised of a Gortex rain jacket, waterproof trousers, socks, boots, crampons (with which to grip the ice), gloves and a hat. It was all provided free of charge and meant that our own gear didn't get worn any more than it had to.

We piled onto the bus and arrived at the Franz Josef National Park car park, and from there we walked about ten minutes before we arrived in the glacier valley and got our first glimpse of the mass of ice in front of us. We split into groups, and I joined the first one which we were told would move at a quicker pace than all the others, and be a bit more strenuous as a result. I don't like too much hanging about and would prefer to combine a bit of exercise with my sightseeing so this group suited me fine.

Although the glacier seemed to be very near, we still had about half an hours walk before we arrived at the ice face, at which point we strapped the crampons over our boots and began the steep incline up the side of the glacier. We had been told that the glacier is currently advancing, after years of recession. However, it will have to go a long – and inconceivable – way before it can get back to the point where it's face rested hundreds of years ago.

We spent the first part of the day hiking amongst the dirty ice of the lower glacier, and this is the area that those taking the half-day hike reach and go no further. We climbed higher than this, towards the really blue ice further up that was what we had all come to see. The weather was perfect, quite sunny and completely dry, in contrast to some of the reports of how wet it can be on some of these glacier hikes.

We stopped at 12.00 for lunch and took a half hour break, and I ate from the moment we sat down to the time we had to get up again and carry on with our hike, something which made me very proud of myself. I enjoy the kind of appetite that comes from exercise, at least you get away with eating more anyway.

The day was an enjoyable one, and our guide for the day – a chap from Maine in the US – was a really good bloke, interesting and a good laugh as well. We got back to the bus at 17.00 and were back in the hostel by 17.30 at which stage I took a very nice hot shower and got even warmer with a few bowls of particularly peppery vegetable soup that was served up by the hostel.

I spent a bit more time in the internet place and returned to the hostel for a bit of a rest after a lot of physical exertion during the day. I got chatting to an American girl who was on some sort of conservation-based holiday with what seemed like a group of idiots, but I didn't stay up too late as I was finding in difficult to keep awake, I was completely shattered.


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