A cool way to spend a day. Franz Josef, New Zealand

July 4, 2010 at 4:57 am 2 comments

With spiky metal crampons strapped onto our feet and ice picks gripped tightly in our fists we were ready for our big Kiwi adventure. A day of walking up walls of ice, sliding through blue tinged crevasses and penguin shuffling along steps cut out of a glacier was exactly the big bang we wanted to end the Australasian leg of our trip on and it didn’t disappoint.

From a distance it hadn’t looked like a big challenge – a short walk leading to a wall of ice, its ugly face coated in crumbling gravel. It was big but it wasn’t huge. Three kilometres later we were starting to get the idea. The steep valley walls made everything look a lot smaller but the mountain of gravel we were about to scramble up was a dirty reminder that there was nothing small about Franz Josef. Never mind, all the more for us to explore.

The first obstacle was learning to trust our crampons. Believing that those crude spikes would keep us firmly rooted when we hit a slippy spot of fresh compacted ice, while we edged down the steep, narrow steps that our guide had just cut with her massive axe and when we got up the courage to really test them towards the end of the day, running up walls like Arctic Spidermen. The next step was getting used to the 16 layers of clothes we were wearing, struggling to bend our joints out of their stiff starfish position. Of course we were glad of our layers, grateful to have something between our skin and the smooth wet surface of the crevasses we had wedged ourselves into, wiggling slowly along and kicking our feet in a desperate attempt to touch the ground.

Climbing the glacier was fantastic fun and a totally different experience to anything we had done before (well technically I had climbed Franz Josef before but it was a much shorter trip and it was Gary’s first time on the ice.) All that ice – an endless sea of hills and cracks, pools of delicious meltwater, bridges and tunnels cut out by endless movement. What a marvel.

Franz Josef town is nice too – a tiny little pocket between the mountains and the sea with a few restaurants, pubs and tour agencies. Accomodation was in the lovely Rainforest Resort where we powered up the heater and thawed out after a few too many nights spent on the side of the road in the van. Happily we had company in Sarah and her two friends Stephen and Scott the Scots, a cosy little group we added to after a power outage left us playing Who Wants to be a Millionaire with a handful of strangers in the dark. Red wine all round of course, having finally warmed up the last thing we wanted clinking around our glasses was ice.

The journey back to Christchurch was one of the nicest drives I have ever seen, stretching up the coast and over Arthur’s Pass where Kea flapped about in 10ft of snow. Progress was in bursts as Gary pulled over every few kilometres to hop out and take photographs of beautiful lake and mountain scapes, diving back in with numb fingers and toes only to repeat the process a few minutes later. New Zealand definitely pulled out all the stops for the last leg of our journey but still it wasn’t enough. Bored of western society, astronomical prices and 18 year old kids we were itching to get to South America and really start travelling again. Next stop Santiago, Chile!

There are more pictures from Franz Josef available in the gallery


Entry filed under: Travel. Tags: , , , , , , .

A vision in the mist. Milford Sound, New Zealand Chi-chi-chi, lay-lay-lay, viva Chi-lay! Santiago, Chile

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kerry  |  July 13, 2010 at 6:36 am

    Hi there, love your photos and review, would you be happy for me to link to it fromour blog and Facebook page?
    Kerry – From Franz Josef Glacier Guides

    • 2. yearlongbreakup  |  July 14, 2010 at 3:08 pm

      we would be delighted to be included on your site. Glad you enjoyed the write up. Gary


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