Franz Josef Glacier Ice Walk

After my glorious walk to the face of Franz Josef Glacier I went back to town to pick up my tour for the day. Initially I was not going to do it because it was quite pricey (due to the helicopter) and I had done the glacier walk in Iceland not two months ago (what a life!). Since the face of the glacier has started to fall away or does so continually, you can't hike up with a guide from the face, you used to be able to but it has become so unstable they have closed it off well before the face. Now you have to take a helicopter up and they drop you off up the glacier in the bluest ice for  your hike around. Our guide Ryan said this was actually better because on the day hikes they usually don't even make it up that far, so it was a treat.

The company I went with was the Franz Josef Glacier Guides company. It was the company that my hostel, Glow Worms Hostel recommended. The hostel was awesome by the way, free veggies soup every night at 6pm, and it was great. Since they like a lot of meat here in the south island meals have been a bit limited. I have been cooking a bit but not much, so the veggie soup was very welcome. The hostel overall had a great feel, super warm and cozy, a nice sized kitchen and a super comfortable lounge and separate TV room. It doesn't look like much from the road but it was great. The bathrooms were ensuite which I am not a huge fan of for hostels but it worked out ok.

Our guide Ryan met up with us and gave us a solid briefing and some clothes, boots if you didn't have them and cramp ons. It turns out my boots were too low to support the cramp ons even though they were the same ones I had worn on the glacier in Iceland. I was happy they made me change later on because their boots were much more waterproof than the ones I had with me, oh wait on second thought I had different higher boots on in Iceland, scratch that previous statement. But anyways their boots were super waterproof which I found out when I walked through a running glacial river in an ice cave.

We helicoptered up after our briefing. To Ryan's surprise everyone in the group had been in a helicopter before, very rare. There were ten of us in all, two French, two Brits, me, a Brazilian guy and four from Shanghai. We took two separate choppers up. It was an ultra smooth, magnificient ride up. The pilot was so good, he just plopped us right down on the glacier like it was no big deal at all. We got out moved to the side and put on our cramp ons. He gave us a little lesson on walking and we were off.

It became immediately apparent that there were some very challenged people in our group. He had them come up front with him and pretty much everyone got stuck behind them as a result. This was fine most of the way and we all had a good laugh about it but when we were in the crevasses later it was a problem. Being wedged between two sheets of ice 15 feet tall and not much space across just waiting can really get your heart rate going.

The views from up there were phenomenal. The rainforest in the mountains all around and then sheer ice under your feet. They say there is no other place in the world like it. The glacier itself was very different from Fox Glacier the day before and the ones in Iceland. It was just more blue and cave filled. There was more water running everywhere and it is a fast moving glacier as far as glaciers go. The tour latested about four hours give or take and we went so many different places all around and up and down the glacier. Ryan was an excellent guide and was super patient with our slow team members. We climbed a rope into a cave, came down a cave, went in crevases, came down a cave with a river in it, it was just amazing.  I am so glad I did it. It is absolutely silent up there except for the sounds of the choppers coming and going. The ride back was just as beautiful as the way up.

There was also free entrance to the hot pool included in the price of our tour as like a bonus. I didn't use it but some of the other people at the hostel went and said there were three pools of three different temps outside and nice and peaceful. I just wasn't in the mood to put on a bathing suit, plus I wanted free delicious soup :)

Great day! 


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