Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Franz Josef Glacier

After Nelson we headed down south along the west coast, stopping at the Punakaki pancake rocks on the way to Greymouth. The rocks are an unusual rock formation as the rocks look like a stack of pancakes. We stopped in Greymouth overnight, however there isn't much to do there apart from a brewery tour and then arrived in Franz Josef at lunchtime the following day. Louisa and I hiked to the Franz Josef Glacier car park and took the Douglas walk passing Peter's Pool on the way which had a great reflective view of the glacier. The following day we did a full days Glacier experience. We were equipped with waterproof jacket and trousers, hiking boots and socks, beanie hat and mittens, and of course crampons, that fasten onto your boots for gripping the ice. It was an hours walk to the foot of the glacier and there we attached our crampons, and our guide led us onto the glacier. My first few steps on the ice were tentative but the crampons gave fantastic grip and soon we were hiking up the first slope with ease. It got colder the further up we climbed, we went through the bottom of a steep gorge, the ice walls on either side were so narrow, it was a squeeze to fit through. Ice steps had been cut into the steep slopes with a fixed rope to pull ourselves up. We stopped for lunch on a rocky part of the glacier but after only 10 mintues we were so cold and keen to keep moving. We climbed down to an ice cave, the water dripping onto our heads from above, and then pulled ourselves up a rope on the other side. Having climbed about halfway up the glacier, about 500m above sea level, we then slowly made our way back down. It was a really enjoyable experience, despite the cold, and we spent around 6 hours on the glacier altogther, a really fantastic and memorable day.

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