Sunday, 13 November 2011

NZ: Helihiking on the Franz Josef Glacier

For us, it was an adventure of a lifetime - a hike on the Franz Josef glacier.   We had reviewed our options - the full day hike from the valley floor to the top was out of the question for us, we'd never make it.  The only physically viable option was the heli-hike, where we would be flown to the glacier by helicopter and taken on a two hour guided hike.  This could only happen if it didn't rain.  This hike was the biggest challenge on our entire New Zealand trip and we looked forward to it with much anxious anticipation. 
Our lucky streak continued and the day of the hike was sunny and warm (for spring), a windless cloudless day.  We still had to wait for the confirmation that the flight was on.  Then it took an hour just for everyone to get their gear, put them on and line up for the helicopter.  When we landed on the glacier, it was slippery and I was nervous I couldn't catch up with my group - most in their twenties.  But we were given crampons and it was a lot easier once we've got them on.  We had never done so much walking and climbing on snow and ice before.  You can see from the photos that the glacier surface was full of mountains and valleys, tunnels and crevices - it could get dangerous.  

The glacier from the valley floor to the top

Approaching the top on the helicopter

First glimpse of the blue ice caves

It was like we were on a jungle gym made of ice, we crawled through tunnels and we climbed up slippery chutes.

Doesn't this remind you of whipped meringue browned in the oven?

Our guide had to periodically break up the ice to create a less slippery path for us

What's going on with the other group?

We got pretty high up off the glacier floor, the way down was harder than the way up

Time to go back

We did a short hike later in the day to the foot of the glacier and looked up to where we were earlier in the day.  The experience would have been very different if we had not done the helihike.  This was all we would have seen in the valley.

Still a magnificent view - but a totally different experience.  We were so glad we did the hike!

Next Post - From Greymouth to Christchurch

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