We try to avoid tours as a general rule, I hate being lead around a place that I reckon I could just do myself. I’m not sure why, its a bugbear of mine, plus these days I’m tighter than duck’s arse so shelling out any money is a real struggle, just ask Ruth. Heading up the Franz Josef glacier gave use no other choice – sadly I’d left my crampons and ice-axe in my other shorts – so around mid-morning we were all geared up and on the bus to the bottom of the gigantic mass of ice and rock.
The tour turned out to be great, I’d wanted to use crampons for as long as I can remember so I was excited to say the least. I managed to reign in the need to do the heli-hike (taking a chopper up to the top of the glacier and having a wander) thanks to the price tag so we just stuck to the bottom section of the glacier, with sadly not so much “blue ice”, for a half-day trek. Our guide, Tori, was lovely and gave us heaps of info about the area, none of which I can remember now. Sorry about that.
It’s staggering, once you get out onto the ice, the real scale of it. The Franz Josef is one of the fastest moving glaciers, motoring along at something like 1000 metres per year (see, I do remember something), dragging great sections of the mountain with it making us (yet again) feel tiny in the grand scheme. The bods in the know reckon that the glacier will recede 5km by 2100 which is a scary fact and makes me all the more glad we got to see it now. We tramped through narrow fissures in the ice and up steps carved out by the guides, snapping away on the camera whenever the chance arose, then back into town for steak, chips and some local beer. Can’t complain.
We’d totally recommend heading onto the glacier, it’s really worth the money. I can’t vouch for the full day hikes but I imagine they’d be great – you’re taken much further up the glacier where the ice is much clearer. Also, if you’re feeling adventurous then give ice-climbing a go – I talked with some climbers afterwards and they absolutely loved it.
Click on the images to enlarge – they look better that way!