Franz Josef glacier!
28.01.2014 - 28.01.2014
Visiting the Franz Josef glacier had been one of the top things on our list of must dos in New Zealand. We had decided to do the Ice Explorer option where we would be helicoptered on the the glacier and hike on it for a couple of hours. Cool stuff!
Excited we made our way to the office and met by our guide Phil who advised us to get geared but we might not be able to go up as the clouds were really low and if they dropped further the helicopters wouldn't fly! You've got to be kidding me! The thought of missing out on something else due to the weather was almost too much but we laughed it off, signed in and got ourselves sorted with waterproof coats and trousers, hats and gloves and sized up for grampons as we had decided to wear our own boots.
Still uncertain what the clouds would do we headed towards the helicopter landing area for the rest of our briefing on how to not get your head chopped off by a propeller etc... The pilots and guides were all talking discreetly to each other and so we suspected the worse and so were pleasantly surprised when we were given the thumbs up and ushered to our helicopter. YES!
Dan and I managed to get the front seats and so had an awesome view as we took to the sky and headed to the glacier. From this perspective you could really see what they meant by the clouds... The horizontal line on these photos are not problems with the camera but the low cloud cover.
It was great fun landing on the the glacier in our own chopper it was like being in James Bond, the rest of the group came in on a second one and as we waved goodbye it dawned on us that if the cloud did drop we could be stuck up here!
Our guide told us that once he got stuck on the glacier for 6 hours due to bad weather but they are prepared for this with supplies including tents and food strategically placed incase this happens.
Now on the ice we had a quick lesson on attaching our grampons and how to walk confidently on the ice, stomping in the spikes to get a good grip. If you walked tentatively you would end up slipping all over the place. Gear ready we were off, after some Ice Explorer poses of course.
We thought we were a bit over dressed in all our kit given that the guides just wore shorts and a t shirt but it was soon clear why as Phil set to work carving out the ice steps for us to walk on with his pick axe! It looked like hard work but us girls were happy to watch and enjoy the view lol!
We needed to make sure we stuck to the path as there were holes in places that could drop down anywhere from 8 to 80 metres and so you don't want to fall down one of them. The glacier is always changing and moves 2ms everyday and so this means each time the guides come up there might be a new ice cave or tunnel to explore.
The water on the glacier is really pure and has hardly any minerals in it. The guides who work here need to make sure they add salts etc to their water because if you drink too much glacier water you'll get cramps. It was fine for us to have a taste though.
It was cool to see the chilly blue colour of the compacted ice. In deep parts of glaciers you even get purple ice!
Some of the crevices we walked through were really narrow and we were told how one woman had recently got stuck for two hours as her boots had got jammed next to each other as she tried to walk through so we had to shimmy along in some points.
We got to slide through some ice tunnels that had opened up which was really fun, although a bit wet!
Yep we fitted through these...just!
Some parts were quite steep and we had to make use of the ropes that had been staked into the ice. You definitely felt like an explorer going through this icy landscape.
We would here buzzing on the radios and the helicopters were on their way back to get us. We hoped all the groups from our bus had managed to get up on the ice as it sounded like they would soon be stopping the helicopters. We had been on the early group as we were going to skydive over the glacier that afternoon, I'm sure you've guessed though that got cancelled! We'll just have to come back one day to do it as its meant to be the second best skydive in the world!
Back in the chopper we were all on a high but also tired from all the excitement and stomping on the ice.
The added bonus of doing this trip was free access to the Hot Pools with your ticket. What a better way to spend the afternoon after a day on the ice than in 40 degree hot water pools!