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Sloggs' Travel Blog A journal of my travels in 2008 & beyond...

Franz Joseph Glacier Hike

NEW ZEALAND | Thursday, 29 May 2008 | Views [1794]

Stood on Franz Joseph Glacier after hiking up it, complete with ice-spikes... 8-)

Stood on Franz Joseph Glacier after hiking up it, complete with ice-spikes... 8-)

With slightly stiff legs I walked up to the reservation office for the glacier walk this morning, in plenty of time for the meeting time. Once we were all there we were introduced to our guide and taken through to a room for fitting out with gear for the walk. Even though my new boots are pretty darn good, I still went with a pair of theirs as I thought they might get pretty wet and drying them fully in the cold campervan might be tricky! We were also given big thick socks, which I wore over my awesome "Airforce One" merino and silver hiking socks (seriously, they are amazing! I never thought a pair of socks could excite me so much, lol!). We had a little wrap around bag with a pair of cramp-ons in (ice spikes) which fit onto the boots once we get to the ice, hats, gloves and a gortex rain jacket to complete the ensemble. We all then shuffled onto the bus to take us to the glacier car park. Once there we split ourselves into three groups, two fast ones (which we went in) and one slower group. We then had a forty or so minute walk along the valley floor and over a rock formation using ropes and ladders (to avoid the river which was covering the usual path at this time) to reach the glacier face. It was not exactly as I'd expected, and I was a little disappointed! There was only a small amount of visible ice at this point, where the last fall had taken place, otherwise it was rocky and dusty from the mountains either side being broken as it moves. This is of course the reality of these glaciers... There was a team of employees already on the glacier, recutting the steps in for todays guided groups and generally making safe the walk. Chris and I went in the first group and we fitted our cramp-ons before the climb. As the first group of the day, some of the steps needed a bit of work on route, which our guide took care of with his ice axe. Walking on this stuff is good fun, in order to grip you need to stomp your spikes into the ice with each step, which woke the tired legs up pretty sharpish! Once we got up over the first steep ascent (the steepest guided glacier walk in the world by the way) the views were much more like I'd imagined, with the crystals and compacted ice shining brightly in the great sun light today. We walked up through a worn route, which included a couple of cave areas to go through, which is where you really get to see the wonderful blue of the most compact ice, as the only light wavelength that can get through is of course, blue. The cracks and crevasses on the ice were beautiful too, we were lucky with the weather for the second day in a row! We stopped at the top of our walk to take in the views and have a bite to eat, and Chris took the opportunity to get the cheesey tourist photo with the guides axe, lol! ;-)

Once we got back to town we had some lunch and then Chris headed off to Fox Glacier, about thirty minutes down the coast. I was going to catch him up tomorrow as I wanted the security of leaving all my stuff in the van on a camp site today whilst we were out for most of the day, rather than just leaving it parked on the street in town somewhere. I went back to my camp site and jumped into the hot spa bath, which is becoming a favourite treat of mine after a long walk or two, and then chilled the rest of the day, wrote up some blogs and relaxed.

All in all it was a good day, the guides were fun and very professional and the glacier was spectacular enough (just!). On tomorrow to Fox to take on some walks around the glaier there before moving on to Wanaka.

Pics from the Franz Joseph Glacier are over on facebook for you to check out. (If you don't have an account, sign up for free and add me as a friend to see all my pictures with descriptions)

Sloggs :-)

Tags: glaciers, mountains, the great outdoors, walking


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