Franz Josef Glacier Hike, New Zealand

By: sachilefever on January 26, 2006 - 1:51pm


The weather has been on our side – knock on wood. As we ended our hike in Abel Tasman, it began to pour and continued to drench the tent campers all night. We hid in Squeak all warm and cozy till the morning – as we planned to even without the rain.

Now, in Franz Josef village, the sun chased any clouds away and we headed up the glacier that was named after the Austrian emperor whose white beard it imitated.

It’s a strange feeling hiking up a glacier. Ice stairs have been carved for your crampon wrapped boots. Climbing ropes act as make-shift and loose railings. You are part of a line of 7 folks venturing up these stairs together, some right behind the other, others leaving a few steps leeway. Four ladder bridges cross crevasses that seem too far down to look.

The sun is warm, so no one wears their jackets, but there is a light wind coming across the glacier that is ice cool and refreshing just enough that you forget the sunburn developing on your face.

Apparently, the glacier is advancing, unlike most in the world. We heard 2.5 months ago it was 30 meters shorter than it is now. The guides are constantly maintaining, with a large ice axe, the stairs and walkways and ropes. One guide mentioned that each stairway up the face lasts between 3 and 30 days, and then they carve out a new one. We could see the remnants of melting staircases across a crevasse on the left and then another on the right – a little spooky. When will the staircase we’re standing on now be deemed unusable?



 We went with Franz Josef Glacier Guides, which we found very professional and fun.

Post From: Hokitika, NZ
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By: Susan (not verified) on January 26, 2006 - 6:38pm
I've never seen anything like it.  It is just unbelievable and magnificent! 

By: Jay D (not verified) on January 26, 2006 - 7:00pm

And my envy grows.......

Thanks for the incredible pictures and the detail in your stories.

By: mOM (not verified) on January 27, 2006 - 7:15am
Great shots again.It looked a little scary. Did you have apprehensons?I can't beleive it is as warm as you say! Look like great fun. Mom
By: leelefever on January 27, 2006 - 7:27pm
Looking up at the glacier, it was a bit intimidating, but once it got rolling it was pretty easy going. Though, one wrong move and you could literally kill yourself and take others with you. They take it very slow to avoid that and the spots are few and far between where this could happen...
By: robincapper on January 28, 2006 - 6:34am
Have done the same on Fox Glacier, a few kms down the road. The thing I remember were the sometimes dramatic creaks & groans as the glacier moves under your feet. Regards, Robin Capper.
By: Jeanine on January 28, 2006 - 11:01am
Hey Sachi, were those motion sickness bands you were wearing in the photo on Flickr? Cripes, I got a mini hit of vertigo looking at that pic of one boot on the bridge over the crevasse. I think I'd have to concentrate on my breathing to get through some of those spots.