Good Morning Franz Josef
It’s 9.15 AM, and my alarm is going off… I smash the snooze button. Oh boy, I had such a good sleep! I’ll need my energy today for sure because we’re going onto the glacier! Franz Josef Glacier Guides is going to take us on an “Ice Experience tour.”
We’ve been watching the glacier for two days now, and that big white diamond is calling us! The original plan was to go yesterday, but due to bad weather, the tour got cancelled. Well, saves the fun for today! We are happy it cleared up today. Let’s see what that stunning Glacier has to offer us!
I’ve been on the glacier before. It was already 12 years ago with my parents. It’s a little different now, though. In the old days, we were able to walk all the way to the glacier. Unfortunately, Global Warming has caused the Glaciers to retreat so much over the past ten years that it’s no longer possible to reach the Glacier by foot. Luckily the mind of the human works in mysterious ways and they’ve come up with a brilliant solution: Helicopters! To reach the Glacier, the excursion includes a helicopter ride! I’m freaking excited. Today is going to be the first time I get to set foot in a giant Dragonfly :)!!!
Ready to rumble
We’re checking in at 12 and get a short briefing from Ellie, who’s going to be our guide today. All the gear we need is provided: Shoes, jacket, gloves, crampons and warm pants. On the horizon I see our little Dragonfly approaching the landing zone. It gets bigger and louder, the closer it gets. The pilot lands with ultimate precision and Ellie runs towards the helicopter to open the doors for us. We run towards our dragonfly as if we’re in a James Bond movie: Bend over, holding on to our hats and glasses to prevent it from blowing away. We shuffle in one by one and get ourselves ready for take-off.
We put on our headsets so we can hear our pilot talking. Before we know it, we get lifted up in the air as if we’re weightless. As the landing zone gets smaller and smaller, the glacier gets bigger and bigger. The view of Franz Josef village and it’s river running through is absolutely jaw-dropping. As we fly trough the valley, we’re passing cloud 1,2,3 on to 8 to eventually end up in Cloud 9: The glacier!
When we get up there, I have to blink a few times. My eyes need some time to adapt to the bright light. The glacier is like a shimmering diamond. The sunbeams are reflecting on the ice, brightening up what’s already bright.
Safety first, so let’s put on our crampons! Quite handy to be able to walk on the glacier right ;). With a bit of help from Ellie, we all get sorted in no time. It’s fairly easy to walk with crampons, so I don’t feel like little Bambi on Ice, but like Dora the Explorer, confident to go.
The spikes pinch through the ice like a knife trough butter. If we’re quiet, the only thing we hear is the perfect crunch underneath our feet with every step we take. It’s so cool to be on the glacier! This massive ice mass seems to reach as far as the eyes can see. The icy blue colours pop out, pinnacle after pinnacle. Its massiveness is hard to grasp, and it’s humbling to be a part of such a big natural phenomenon.
The tour on the glacier itself takes about 3 hours with plenty of opportunities to take pictures (which we gratefully make use of ;P). Ellie tells us about how the glacier changes every time she’s on it. The holes are never the same. The crevasses change over time, water flows different ways. This gives you a different experience, every time you visit Franz Josef! You’ll never get the same Ice Experience twice.
When we’re talking about our travels and so on, we all of a sudden hear this massive rumble in the background. Everyone stops talking instantly. Is it an Earthquake? We try to discover where it’s coming from. Ellie settles us: It’s perfectly normal for glaciers to melt in summer and this rumbling happens all the time. It’s changing the glacier inside-out. It makes me quite sad, though. I hate to see glaciers melting. Can you imagine it will be gone in 100 years? I hope not! I feel very grateful to be able to see the glacier before it’s disappeared.
Gliding and a little scramble
As we continue our tour, Ellie takes us through winding alleyways (or should I say Ellie-ways?). She axes out stairs for us to climb on, she ties knots in ropes so we can pull ourselves up and she leads us trough icy blue holes.
I want to get a good shot of going through a hole in the glacier, and about 3/4 trough Ellie has a surprise for us. We’re gonna slide down a little one! The Ice surrounding us is just blue blue blue. Clumsy as I am, I stumble at the end of the slide and land on my butt, which gave us a good laugh. Everyone made it safely through, and we continue with our hike.
5 min after the fun slide there’s another breathtaking ‘cave’ we have to scramble through. This cave is even bluer than the little hole, and you get a real sense of how the glacier looks from the inside. Here it is already the end of our way in and I feel sad we can’t stay longer. There’s so much to see! Especially the last part of our tour was just so beautiful! Steep parts were going down, ending in a glacier hole, climbing again to look into big canyons of ice, inspired by the flow of water shaping its glacier.
I think this is something you just have to see with your own eyes.
I could talk for hours about the colours on the glacier. They are amazing. The blue of the ice is just..blue! That’s why ice blue is called ice blue I guess. There’s no other way of explaining this kind of blue. It’s bright, deep, dark and light at the same time.
Imagine pinnacles of ice, canyons of ice; gully’s of ice, mountains of ice, dunes of ice, alleys of ice and all that for the next 12 kilometres. That’s what Franz Joseph glacier looks like. Thanks to Franz Joseph tour guides we were able to see all this beauty.
I thought the hike would be tougher, but this hike is accessible for everyone! So much respect for the guys that prepare these tracks for all the explorers axing their way through the ice.
After being on the glacier for a couple of hours, we’re starting to get cold. Back at the foot of the mountain, after being dropped off by my favourite dragonfly, a hot pool is welcoming us. I’m soaking up the warmth of the pool, and my skin is liking it. What a great day! Cheers to mountains, Cheers to ice, cheers to nature and cheers to Franz Joseph Glacier Guides!