One minute, you're in the center of the town of Franz Josef, a cafe on one side of you, a pizzeria on the other. Then, within minutes, you are transported to another world. Your helicopter pops up into the air, through jagged mountain crags, just before dropping you into the heart of a glacier, an otherworldly ice field of turquoise blues and glowing whites.
This was Franz Josef Glacier.
During our visit, weather conditions were not the best. We were pelted by windswept drizzle. It didn't much matter, though. Our earlier trip had been canceled thanks to changing weather, and we were thrilled just to be where we were. We made it. We were on the glacier, Franz Josef Glacier. And this in itself was a victory.
With crampons strapped to the soles of my shoes, I felt like superwoman on that ice. I climbed uphill and downhill, through tunnels and over ice fields — gripping myself into all that the ice had to offer.
Once I got my footing, I rarely looked down into the path left by the metal spikes of my shoes. My head spun, I continually looked up, looked around. There was simply far too much to take in while trying to come to terms with the fact that I was standing on a dazzling ice field in the middle of the mountains of New Zealand.
I'll never forget the turquoise light that seemed to emanate from that ice. It seemed a way, nature's way, of delivering at once beauty and mystery and an adventure I'll never forget.
Practical Details for Hiking Franz Josef Glacier
We took the Ice Explorer trip through Franz Josef Glacier Guides NZ. This trip includes a short helicopter ride (5 minutes) up to the glacier and around 3 hours of hiking on the ice (weather permitting). We chose this tour because it gave us the most time on the glacier. You can also choose scenic helicopter tours or a heli-hike that has more time in the air and less time on the ice.
Tours get canceled at the first sign of the weather turning bad for safety reasons (you really don't want to be in a helicopter in bad weather!). The earlier in the morning that you have your tour slot, the more likely the weather will be good. Our suggestion is to book early morning slots online in advance to try and decrease the weather cancellation factor. Our glacier guide also suggested that winter (June-July) is the best time to see the glacier as the weather is usually clear and the turquoise of the ice takes on crazy bright colors.
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