One word to describe that day: BIG. On that BIG April fool day, we planned to explore Franz Josef Glacier by having half day tour. Since planning the trip, i had not been aware about glacier, never had i seen it or dream about it. So we entered this web about the glacier tour, and looked fantastic. So we booked it online. I know myself well that i didn’t sign up for full-day Tour.
My imagination was just me on the ice. That’s it, i didn’t think about how would i get into and out from the ice. So all my thought was like walking in the ice for half day. But i was pretty prepared everything that the web told:
•2-4 warm upper body layers
•Quick drying trousers or shorts (no jeans)
•Hats and gloves
•Food and drink
•Sunglasses, sunscreen, camera
The other things included in your price, provided by the guides were:
•Hats and gloves
•Socks and sturdy leather boots (or have the option to wear your own hiking boots)
After i arrived at Franz Josef Glacier office, i had them all on my body, It was pretty stuffed though. I had 1 layer shirt + my thick jacket, and then i also wore the goretex rain jacket that was provided – 3 layers ( although by the time i wore them all i was like “ okay, it’s kinda hot – but it’s okay, probably it would be very cold out there). Then i had 2 layers trousers – plus my quick drying trousers (3 layers trousers). Double socks on my own plus 1 from the guide (3 layers socks) and their hiking shoe –that one was real heavy. I even bought this sunglasses, had it on my waist bag, along with snack bar, my lunch, hat, glove, water bottle and crampons). Fiuh! That was one BIG preparation and it was quite heavy to walk myself then. And that my friend (say it like Barney ), was my first time to walk on glacier.
So! we were on this shuttle bus with 23 others plus the driver and 2 guides, the lead guide named Ben (i’m amazed by his abs though 🙂 ). We headed to somewhere around 20 minutes from the glacier guide office to the entrance of the glacier reservation park.
When we hopped off the bus, we walked this long narrow trail across the forest, uphill and downhill path, quite a quick walk i almost hard to catch up. It was around 2 km before the forest ends and this massive wide open area with rocks and mountain, scree and river flows through it faced us, then we kept continuing walk, walk, and walk until we got in this barricaded area where they put sign not to enter and put barricade chain. Only guided walks are allowed to get in, they even put some article about recent accident where unguided hiker got an accident.
Ben stopped for a while and explain to us many things about safety, precautions and our plan to move forward, and a brief geographic story about how New Zealand was formed and about the Franz Josef glacier itself. From that place, we could almost see the uphill road and the glacier, far from we were stood there, and it was SO HIGH.
And that moment struck me hard, i was like “ oh my God, are we going to hike THAT icy hill?” though i certainly hoped we didn’t have to. I was only prepared for a walk, not for an uphill hike. But i was bit of tired and mesmerized by the surrounding that i would go just then without second thought. One of my friend decided not to continue, and went back to the enterance.
So! After having quite a fair uphill walk, we stopped for a while, then Ben explained to us that we’re about to have a heavy walk, and we need to put our crampons on, he also demonstrated how to do it. And YES, we were about to hike higher! Hahaha, and i was like “ What? I have fooled myself out in this April fool, GREAT”. I didn’t complain about hiking uphil, but hey, it’s better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know right? i would have myself exercised every single day before we went to New Zealand then (that would be a lie).
So! We started to hike… i just hoped my brain freezed, coz if not, i may think twice about going forward. Anyway, my gut told me to continue, and I really wanted to continue, though my legs started to scream. Minutes after i understood why the crampons should be put, the scree started to emerge and layer the glacier. It was kinda weird walk on the crampon. Chock! Chock! Chock! Guess i just not used to it. But it did a great help to pass the gravel-filled path. It was just an uphill path there, and when we reached this spot, i started to look around and amazed, the view from the top was so amazing. But we hadn’t arrived yet. The glacier hadn’t fully emerged.
So! As we moved up to the top, we started to pass this icy path, mixed with the gravel. The path was made by the guide using the axe earlier before the trip – so i told. And that was why Ben brought an axe with him. He also scratch and hoe the ice on several spots, because the temperature was unstable and the ice could melt and change its shape all the time. And that was why that kind of walk only be done by certified guides along with professional hiker.
Since the patch was kind of man-made it wasn’t smooth anyway, mostly narrow, steep, and one thing that i was scared of wasn’t the altitude, but the chance of i may slipped and fall. Talking about enjoying scenery, it wasn’t much an amusement, if it’s mixed with thrilling sensation, leg sore and sweat.
So! Finally we arrived in this curvy beautiful glacier. It’s icy everywhere. Stocks of mini ice mountain surround you, plus the view of from the top, was absolutely amazing, and that was the ultimate achievement. We then had a chance to walk through the ice, go inside it, amazing! We also made a short turn through the ice tunnel and went back through the same route, sweaty.
The way back home wasn’t even easy at all, heavier than the first time. As fun and happy as i was, i just wanted to relax and submerge myself on warm water and fell asleep – dreaming about Arthur’s pass.
I also felt the pain all over my leg when passing this 3 km walk towards the entrance, with my Soul-Meet from India, a newlywed, and two of us were the last from the group, we couldn’t even see the rest of our group ( they had waited for us on the bus already).
To sum up the glacier walk (from my perspective): was a BIG plan the first time, BIG preparation with all-3-layered-outfit, BIG walk, even BIG hike, BIG sore, BIG sweat, and i feel like a BIG fool on that April fool (not knowing what to face then, being the last person on the group to finish the walk), But ultimately, i’m blessed with such an opportunity to have such an experience with the BIG rock and glacier, and to finally touched the ice that’s not coming from refrigerator and enjoyed so much the BIG surprises during my trip.
And that my friend, was the ultimate experience on the trip, knowing some –but not ALL, let yourself surprised by what’s to come.
Best Line “ are we going to hike that uphill glacier?” (by Amelia) that was the scariest if not the best line of the day. Coz when that question arise, i was just disable my brain not to think further about it.
Best Soul-Meet I Met this indian girl on the glacier walk. She and I were the last on the group to walk off the glacier park, we had a nice heavy chat talking about massage and bed awaits for us afterwards (wishful thinking)
Best Redemption My friend who quit the walk got herself a petite Heli hikes around Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier, landed on the top of the mountain, build the snowman and hug them (of course not). She got the best snow experience on top of the Fox glacier. I’m happy for her (as well as envy her), haha!
Best Surprise Glacier Walk/Hike
Best Experience Glacier Walk/Hike
Best Sleep Nothing can beat a sleep after heavy physical exercise. That was my deepest sleep throughout the journey
Highlight and Tips
Would i sign myself in if i knew i was going to hike the glacier? YES
Would i sign myself in if i knew i was going to have my legs trembling and sore? YES
Glacier walk was one of the best experience i had in New Zealand. Even the walks and the hikes make it more real and profound. And it’s worth the great scenery you get from the top.
Some tips that you may use:
– Know your physical condition
There are kinds of walk, hikes, heli hike and other way to enjoy the glacier. It depends on the ice condition, weather, etc. If the half-day and full-day glacier walk become available, you may want to consider whether your physical condition suit for the walk. It’s a long trail, uphill and downhill walk around the scree and ice. If you choose to take it, whenever you are feel unwell in the middle of the trip, do not hesitate to stop and tell the guide. Nothing is more valuable than your life and safety.
Depends on your body resistance to cold, choosing an outfit maybe tricky. I live in a tropical country with daily temperature of 28-32 Deg C. I can’t take cold very well, and i assume the temperature would be so cold, so i tripled everything that i can wear (except my glasses and underwear 🙂 ). But the truth is, it was a noon walk, we almost constantly moved –walk and climb, and the sun was rise beautifully. Not only my outfit was troublesome, but i sweat a lot. I guess it would be great with 1 layer no-jean trouser, 2 layer socks (one of ourselves and one from the guide), 1 long-sleeve shirt or short-sleeve with jacket of yours or from the guide –either one. Handgloves and Hat. You need to see clear the path AND the scenery, so i guess you can get rid of the sunglasses, but if you can’t resist the sun light, just bring it with you.
I ordered sandwich and bring it along with me. And i had no chance to touch it. Well, if you’re the fastest on the group, there are 3 stoppage while you can enjoy your meal while waiting for the slow one to reach the spot. But when you’re likely the last, chocolate Bar is your best friend. Brings candy, candy bar, chocolate bar, stuff it in your waist bag. On the stoppage, you can have them quickly. Depend on your water consumption, bring some that you can think would sufficient for you during the trip.
– Photo Session
I had my webcam ON from the bus, until we’re about to hike. I just focus on the path, the hike, and when i’m up there with the steep glacier edge, i just thought about getting out there safely. I didn’t touch my cam at all until i was sure i was on a flat stable base. Thankfully my other friend still had his excitement to take a picture.
There is always the first time for everything. For the first time hiker, Listen carefully and asked when the guide teach you how to put it on and how to tie the knot properly. The strength of your tying the knot is essential for your safety. During gravy path, you may slip you walk. Just be carefull, step up for sure, and stomp it so it’s properly grip the gravels and the ice.