Good Morning Franz Josef
9:15 am and I wake up because my alarm is going off… did I have a good sleep! I’ll need my energy today for sure because we’re going onto the glacier with Franz Josef Glacier Guides to do the “Ice Experience tour.”
So excited to go onto the Glacier. We were supposed to go yesterday, but it was cancelled due to bad weather. So happy the weather is good today! I’ve actually been on the glacier before, 12 years ago with my parents. It’s a little different now, though. 12 years ago, we could walk to the glacier. Now, we have to catch a helicopter, which is not a bad thing, haha! It’s gonna be my first time on a helicopter, so I’m super stoked.
Ready to rumble
We’re checking in at 12 and getting a short briefing from Ellie, who’s gonna be our guide today. All the gear we need is provided: Shoes, jacket, gloves, crampons and warm pants. By 1, our heli comes hoovering in. The pilot lands with ultimate precision and Ellie runs towards the heli to open the doors for us. As we walk towards the heli, we have to hold on to our hats and glasses. Wow is that wind powerful!
We jump in one by one and put on our headsets so we can hear our pilot talking. It’s only a short flight up for about 5 minutes, but what a great 5 minutes. A helicopter ride is so much different than a plane. There’s no runway needed, you just hop in the air in no time like a big dragonfly. The view of Franz Josef village and its river running through it is beautiful from up high. As we fly through the valley, the glacier comes closer and closer, and before we know it we’re already landed on the glacier ice, safe and sound.
When we get up there, we first put on our crampons, with a bit of help. Ellie makes sure our gear is all checked and everyone is comfy walking on ice. It’s actually really easy to walk with crampons. The spikes pinch through the ice like a knife through butter, and you don’t even notice any difference than just walking in hiking boots. Only the sound is nice and crunchy. It’s so cool to be on the glacier! As far as you can look, the glacier just goes up and up, and the blue icy colours pop out even more when the sun is shining through.
The tour on the glacier itself takes about 3 hours with plenty of opportunities to take pictures. 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, so the experience is always different for everyone! 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 big rumble in the background with pieces of ice falling off. It kinda makes me sad, cause it means the glacier is retreating. Can you imagine it will be gone in 100 years? I really hope not! But I mean… even in 12 years, it has retreated so much, you cannot even walk there anymore! Glad we get to do this now.
Gliding and a little scramble
I really want to get a good shot of going through a hole in the glacier, and about 3/4 through Ellie has a surprise for us. We’re gonna slide down a little hole! 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 went on with our hike.
5 minutes after the fun slide, there’s another really beautiful ‘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 out. This is already the end of our way in, and I feel sad we couldn’t stay on longer. There’s so much to see! Especially the last part of our tour was just so beautiful! You have to see it with your own eyes.
Blue, blue, blue
The colours on the glacier 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 so pretty!
I thought the hike would be tougher, but this is really accessible for everyone! So much respect for the guys that prepare these tracks for everyone, axing their way through the ice.
After our flight back, we can even go into the hot pools. It’s a sweet end of the day to just lay in the hot tub for a bit and float around. We’ve got a big drive ahead to Queenstown though, so en route it is!