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ice trekking across franz josef glacier
Watch our exciting Ice Trekking Experience!
Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park, are one of the highlights of New Zealand.The rain and snow accumulation compacts and turns into clear ice, producing the glaciers we climb on.
Following the scenic drive through Arthur’s Pass Highway we reached Franz Josef village where we planned to go ice trekking. The glacier only lies 5km from Franz Josef village. The glaciers were one of the main activities I wished to do in NZ and when we booked our Ice Explorer trip for the following day we were warned that chances of us being able to go were very low, with tours having been cancelled that day due to bad weather.
We booked a 9am Ice Explorer trip with Franz Josef Glacier Guides, the only business in town offering these trips, with the hope of a change in weather.
Included with the ticket was a free pass to the Glacier Hot Pools that we were able to use prior to the trip so we made use of them that day we arrived.
The Glacier Hot Pools had a few public pools, with private pools available at an extra cost. It was the perfect way to relax for hours on end, beginning at the 36 degrees pool, slowly making our way up to the 38 degrees and the 40 degrees. Each pool was noticeably warmer, with very little time spent in the 40 degrees pool before having to get out. There was a very calming ambience, created by the soft coloured pool lights, the sound of the rain falling on the canopy above and the whooshing of water flowing through the gutters. We spent just over three hours there ending up like a prune afterwards!
The next day, as expected after a rainy night, our trip was cancelled and so we decided to rebook for the next day and take our chances. I was adamant on leaving without my trip! For a change we had a cosy lazy day spent lying at the back of our campervan hearing the rain outside and then ended the afternoon at a cafe having a nice tea sat next to the fire.
Again, the following morning we returned to the tour office expecting a decline when to our great surprise we were told good news! We checked in after they were given the go ahead and we started preparing for our trip. They supplied boots, gloves, hats, socks, waterproof gear and crampons and before we knew it we were off on the helicopter to the glacier. It was Max’s first time on a helicopter and after the ride he stared “it’s my new favourite vehicle”, another dream vehicle to add to the list *rolling eyes* hehe. Our group of ten was split up into two groups for the helicopter transfer, a short but scenic ride where we were dropped off at the bottom of the glacier. Sam our guide met us there after dropping off his morning group.
We spent three hours trekking, just over an hour climbing up towards a waterfall, and another hour walking down, whilst the rest of the time was spent enjoying the pristine landscape and taking photos. As we descended Sam took us through a crevass, one of the highlights of the trip. Our view as we ascended was that of the icefall, blue ice rocks which could be heard now and again crashing down.
All in all it took just over four hours from when we first left and it was one of the best experiences I have had, Max can concur.
We chose Franz Josef over Fox Glacier due to FJ supposedly being superior in ice experience and visually more impressive. However, if looking to only do a hike to the glacier Franz Josef requires a longer walk, 45 minutes, until you reach the restriction signs prohibiting you to walk closer to the glacier. Tourist have died in the past after ignoring these signs. It is apparent that you can get closer to Fox Glacier also with it being a shorter walk away.