My initial meeting with Franz was as a little human looking up at the awesomeness of the glacier from a viewpoint in the glacier valley. That same day I had a booked a glacier explorer, so in the afternoon I hauled my ass into a suit and then a helicopter. The ride, although only four minutes, was truly amazing. The anticipation in the small group could be felt as we were waiting to go into the air. Then we took off and flew close to the valley walls. Our pilot was even doing some neat tricks, tricking us into thinking we were in a roller coaster. And then we landed…
Loaded with crampons we hit the ice. The weather was stunning so the minute we started walking, it was like a little sauna in the thick clothes we were wearing. No need for those gloves and hats. It was amazing how steady and secure you are in crampons and how easily you adjust to them. You can tackle the creepiest of slopes! And we had to! The icemass was huge, with crevasses and holes, puddles and waterfalls. It’s strange to think we were walking on a moving piece of ice that looks different every day. Twice we heard the loud crashing of ice, like a storm was rolling in. If you’d do this tour in two months, it would look completely different.
Our guide had a pick with him and carved out steps as he went, creating and maintaining a path. In the top was an amazing waterfall of meltwater. It came crashing down with a constant roaring. Since the glacier melts as well, the ice is not exactly pristine white, but rather coated in little pieces of rock and dirt. Luckily there was also plenty of blue, where the ice was like gigantic ice lollies. From afar the are looked like a big cushion with needles sticking into the air. When you get closer, you see the details and you explore the pathways inside the cushion. I felt like I was in a different version of ‘A bugs life’. I felt incredibly small.
At the end of the walk we made it a bit more adventurous even. They’d found some ice tunnels and little caves. With the help of ropes you could lower yourself into a hole and pull you through to the other side. Being claustrophobic this was a scary although must-do experience. It’s of course also the best photo moment! Walking on Franz Joseph isn’t the cheapest of activities, but if you’ve never seen a glacier before, it’s one that cannot be missed. This was one of my highlights of New Zealand!