I feel great! Today was one of the highlights of my entire trip. I have been planning to hike the Franz Josef Glacier since I first saw it on Youtube last year. I even prepaid for my trip when I landed in Auckland, because I was so sure I wanted to do it. Our group consisted of nine of us from the Kiwi bus and another couple that joined us with our guide, Felicity.
We had our free breakfast at the hostel and walked over to the Franz Josef Glacier Guides hub to check-in, fill out our health waivers and suit up into all our gear. We had a quick introduction on how to put our crampons on our hiking boots (spikes for walking on ice) and walked to the helipad.
Part of the reason why I booked the heli-hike was because I have never been in a helicopter before. Flying between mountains and overlooking a glacier seemed like a pretty good place for my first helicopter flight, and it certainly did not disappoint. We had another safety briefing and then loaded up into two separate helicopters.
Our actual flight to the glacier was short but very scenic. In the past, groups were able to climb directly onto the glacier but in 2012 part of the glacier collapsed so now the only way to access Franz Josef glacier is to fly onto it. This was probably my favorite part of the entire hike and at the end you get to fly back down and marvel at where you just were.
Once we landed on the ice, we applied our crampons and started to ascend to higher ground. The bottom of the glacier is mixed with dirt as it is quite active and moves approximately two meters per day. The ice at the top of the glacier is a magnificent blue color and there’s even a waterfall. The guides spend hours every day, chipping new trails into the ice and maintaining steps for their tours. Every day the glacier is changing and our guide, Felicity, was telling us that after a big rainfall the path can look completely different as new ice features emerge.
We spent about three hours traversing the glacier, squeezing through ice crevices and ascending and descending the manmade steps into the ice. We were lucky enough to have the best weather, as it was sunny and warm with clear skies for the entire hike. I had so much fun and the hike was not very strenuous at all. It was actually a lot of fun walking with crampons, which made walking way easier.
After the hike, I got the window seat on the flight down and then we walked back to the hub to return our gear. Half our group left to do other activities and the other half went to a café for lunch. After lunch we went back to the hub to take advantage of our free access to the glacier hot pools, which were basically three huge hot tubs with the hottest one being around 40° C.
I had a nice and relaxing time in the hot pools before winding back down at the hostel. Tonight should be a good night because our hostel pub hosts an all-you-can-eat pizza night for dinner. Also, since we have two nights in Franz Josef, we are meeting up with the bus behind us where we’ll be reunited with some familiar faces from our original Auckland bus group that spent an extra night in Rotorua.