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.
The glacier only lies 5km from Franz Josef village. Being one of the main activities we wished to do in NZ we were devastated when our Ice Explorer trip was cancelled the following 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.
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!
We returned to the tour office the following day 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. 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 we have had. 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.