Franz Joseph : Ice ice baby…

Franz Joseph itself reminded me of a ski-village, with lots of cute hotels, overpriced shops, and the view of snow-capped mountains all around. Despite being a magnet for tourists and backpackers, it managed to retain a peaceful air.

We made enquiries about hiking the glacier and were told that the glacier hikes had been cancelled for the last 5 days due to bad weather, so it was uncertain if the hikes would be running the following day either. We were gutted! We bought a ticket nonetheless and were told to turn up the following morning, and a decision would then be made as to whether the hikes would take place or not. We were nervous but all we could do was turn up and hope for the best.We arrived the following morning and were told that full-day hikes would not be running, but half day hikes would! We were overjoyed at our luck! However the guide explained that as the rain had flooded the river, we would only be able to access the glacier through “the bush”. He said only the fittest could go as this would be physically demanding. He stood watch while we all trooped in front of him to the kit room, to weed out anyone too old, too young, or too fat. I breathed in, and he let me through – phew!

Climbing through the bush turned out to be a killer! We hiked for around 2 hours, waded through rivers and scaled waterfalls. Some parts of the walk had ladders or chains to hold on to, and as it had rained heavily for the last few days most rock faces had water trickling down them. We were buoyed only by the sight of the glacier ahead. I have never seen a glacier before, so I was overawed by it! Several large rocks and large blocks of ice had been carried down the river, I believe due to the previous heavy rainfall, and these sat on the river bed ahead of the glacier – a bizarre sight!

I was knackered by the time we reached the Glacier itself. We sat down and ate lunch before putting on our crampons (spiky things you attach to the underside of your boots so you can grip on the ice). We then ….. CLIMBED ONTO THE GLACIER!! 🙂

The glacier was carrying lots of rock and gravel so the ice was dirty at the immediate face of the glacier. However, upon climbing further up the glacier the ice became cleaner and more stunning. Peering into a crevasse we could see that the ice inside the glacier was a beautiful blue colour.

While on the tour with all our kit – full waterproofs, crampon, and accompanied by a guide with a pick-axe to carve the ice, we saw two people just scrambling up the glacier with shorts and T-shorts on. Part of me was like “oh crap, we could have done that and saved loads of money!”. But then imagine if they slipped and fell – without a guide or any equipment it is kinda dangerous.

After the awesome glacier climb, we had another 2 hour hike back through the bush. The less said about this, the better! I loved the glacier, but I found the hike in the bush exhausting – this was not what I signed up for!! My boyfriend was in much better spirits and went as far as to say that it was one of the best days of his life! I was not amused. I saw this rather unique sign which I think sums it up for me 😉

Next blog: Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand

Previous blog: Greymouth, New Zealand

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