An early start today for my Franz Josef Full Day Glacier Hike. Conveniently, today was also my birthday, making it all the better of a day. Headed down to the glacier guide center around 8am to get all my glacier gear on and board a bus to the glacier.
The weather was perfect today, absolutely perfect, therefore continuing my unbelievable good luck on all my major day trips/activities. It was my birthday and I was hiking on a one of the most unique glaciers in the world, not too bad of a combination. As I stated before, the Franz Josef Glacier is one of three glaciers in the entire world to filter out to a rainforest. Sweet As.
Anyhow, it took around an hour and a half walk thru the glacier valley to finally be at the ice front. From there we put on our crampons on our boots, some extremely usefull hiking gear. No matter how steep or slick the ice was, with the crampons on, you weren't goin anywhere. I was put into a group of 10 other people and one glacier guide, Jon-o, or Jonathan. With my luck, I was put into a group with 4 couples and 2 much older women, extremely ideal conditions for the day after valentines day right? Ha. Anyhow, ended up being a great group regardless, most were pretty fast and adventurous, but our guide really made the trip. The guides are responsible for choosing the path on the glacier and carving steps with their ice picks in the dodgey steep areas. It was our guides last day on the job so he was feeling a bit adventurous and wanted to make it an adventurous last day on the job.
We ended going on quite the off the beaten path. Since the company runs multiple tours on the glacier every day, there are plenty of remnants of previous used paths and ice stairs. Well Jon-o took us on quite the impromptu path. During the duration of this 2 hour detour, he constantly was looking for safe ways back to the normal routes. Since we took a different direction than most the other groups, we ended up being the last group on the ice, a whole hour later than the time we were supposed to be done with the hike, felt pretty good to really get my moneys worth. The detour took us to some pretty huge crevices that we had to traverse over via steps carved on both side walls. Pretty tough to take pictures during this segment of the hike due to having to constanly be aware of my footing and balance.
We did however all recieve ice picks for the hike, they helped out a bit in carving out some hand holes for steep climbs. But more importantly, they were a great prop for some pictures, really gave me a manly feeling.
We had some pretty steep dropoffs and ice faces to conquer, luckily we had a rope in these parts or it would have been pretty intense. The ropes that were planted into the ice supposedly hold 2000 pounds, so I felt pretty confident depending on it on some of the vertical ice faces.
"Jon-o" Doin Some Work
Back on the more traveled route, we came across a ice cave where we got to walk thru a small section of it. Crazy being completely surrounded above head by a huge mass of ice..made me think of that movie vertical limit. The ice was so blue, it was beautiful.
We also came across a small ice hole. Instead of just going up and around it, we crawled right thru it. Such a small space but was cool to crawl through.
We had about 7 hours on the glacier. Never got too cold, but did half to put on the beanie and gloves a few times. But considering the rain the day before, I felt pretty lucky to have the sunny weather we had.
To end the day on the hike, our guide gave us a bit of a suprise. Already running late due to the path he chose throughout the day, we held back for a bit longer to enjoy some beers he had stashed earlier in the hike. SInce it was his last day on the job, he couldn't think of a better way to end the day. We all had an ICE cold beer on the glacier, and best part was the 1 extra beer was given to me since it was my birthday. It was low quality beer, but in the moment, those were some of the best damn beers I ever tasted. The picture belows shows me in all my glory.
By the time we got into town I was pretty exhausted. It truly was a full day hike. My hostel had a sauna and I took full advantage of it after one heck of a day on the ice. I was feeling pretty relaxed but being my birthday, some celebrations were in order.
My new German friend Konrad and I went to the nearby local pub/restraunt, The Blue Ice Cafe. There we had the pizza and beer combo meal. They make one tasty pizza.
Once 9 oclock hit, it was time to take advantage of the 3 dollar beer happy hour deal again. Side Note: Favorite New Zealand Beers so far are Tui Blond, Steinlager, and Speights. The beer never tasted so good after an exhausitng long day. We were joined by more people from the bus and made a pretty good night out of it, plus got some free drinks out of the deal. Later in the night, my glacier guide from the day Jonathan came into the bar. I bought a drink for him for giving me a great day out on the glacier and was also returning the favor from the ice cold beer I got from him on the glacier just a few hours earlier.
A bit more lively of a scene from the night before. Made way to the Rainforest bar later on in the night with my bus friends. Blue Ice was more of a local joing, the rainforest catered more to backpackers, so a bit more of a rage and dance party there. Good place to end the night and to celebrate my final hours of the birthday.