Tag Archives: hike

New Zealand: Franz Josef Glacier

7 Aug

Franz Josef was easily my favorite part of the trip. I have always wanted to see (preferably touch!) a glacier, both because I happen to think that they are awesome and because I believe that within my lifetime there won’t be many left.

The drive from Queenstown to the town of Franz Josef was… interesting, to say the least. We asked the receptionist at our motel if we would need tire chains and she said that there were two ways to get there: one that would definitely require chains, and one that would not. We opted for the no-chains route and set off.  Everything was fine for the first hour or so, and then it started raining right as we entered the mountains.  In about five minutes the rain had turned to snow and we came very, very close to getting stuck in our crappy two wheel drive sedan.  It was about that time that we started wishing we had brought some chains along after all.  In the end we only spun out once and it all ended up alright, thanks to some impressive driving by my mother while I had a minor panic attack in the passenger seat.  Soon we had reached the west coast where I was thrilled to see the ocean for the first time on this trip, and just after it got dark we arrived in the tiny town of Franz Josef.  Here are some shots I took along the way.

We came to Franz Josef for a half-day glacier hike with Franz Josef Glacier Guides.  They outfitted us with everything we would need- waterproof jacket, waterproof pants, boots, wool hat, wool socks, wool gloves, and crampons- which was nice because otherwise we probably would have died up there.  I know I keep saying things like this, but the weather was ATROCIOUS on the day we did our hike.  It was windy and raining cold, unrelenting rain that occasionally turned to hail.  It was so bad that they cut back all of the full day trips to half day trips and some people decided that even that was too much.  We had a few people drop out of our group before we left.  Their loss, really, because the glacier was truly awesome.  We had to walk about a mile or two to reach the base of it, then we spent a good three hours hiking around on the glacier itself.  I would have loved to bring my nice camera but the weather definitely prevented that, so here are the photos I managed to get with my waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof point-and-shoot (which can be found here in case anyone is interested.)

Before…

Inside of a glacial cave:

After…

Also, just in case you don’t believe me about the weather, here’s a short video I shot on the hike back to the bus from the glacier.  (Warning: it’s kinda loud.)

So that was Franz Josef.  So worth it, even if by the end we were wet and miserable and had multiple blisters.  One great thing about the tour we did is that it includes free entry to the glacial hot pools in the town of Franz Josef- the perfect way to recover from a glacier hike.  We hit the hot pools, ate an early dinner, drank some wine, and passed out.  The next day we headed north to Greymouth for the last leg of our journey, which I’ll talk about in one last NZ post, because I feel like this one is long enough as it is.  Check back soon for that!

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