Friday, January 29, 2010

Hiking on the Franz Josef Glacier

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Hiking the Franz Josef Glacier was one of the highlights of the trip for me. Its hard to pick a favorite activity considering so many of them were new experiences... both scary and exhilirating.

But really, how many times do you get to hike on a glacier...in shorts....with a backdrop of waterfalls?

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We booked the the hike with Franz Josef Glacier Guides. They have several options and supply you with shoes, pants (if its needed) and coats as well as crampons. B was very excited and proud that we already had what we needed so we used all of our own stuff, with the exception being crampons. Crampons is a weird word.

All of these pictures are SOOC, straight out of camera.

Here you see the glacier ahead of us. Thats 1.8 miles before we hit the glacier base.

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We waited in line as we all crossed the stream on these rocks. Did I mention B hates walking? He really isn't fond of hiking either. This is why I booked the half day excursion and not the full day. This will become apparent later in the post.

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There are basically piles of these rocks from here to the glacier. This is what we are walking on majority of the time. I thought they were quite pretty. Many of them had a metallic sheen that I had to continually photograph.

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This is where we stopped before pressing forward. You cannot go past this without a guide.

I should mention that before this the large group broke into 5 smaller groups according to physical fitness. Our guide said those who consider themselves very fit and would like to go at a faster pace as well as do some trail maintenance should be in group 1.

B looked over and said "So we'll go in group 1?" and I do remember saying sure and sort of shrugging.

Then I contemplated the repercussions of my thoughtless actions.

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How adorable is the girl in front of me. Not a single love handle or roll of back fat to be seen.

I started to get a little weary. I had to focus. Thats the trick to things that make you nervous. This ladder was odd because you are sort of crawling up it. It was worse going down with crampons on.

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These are crampons! They basically attach to your shoes so you don't slip and fall and slide off the glacier and take out your fellow hikers.

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Apparently being in group 1 and doing trail maintenance means that our guide checks the trail and screws in the anchors so we don't plummet to our death.

I don't really want to plummet to my death.

I'm such a wimp.

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Then he checks the first set of stairs. He told us that anyone who was nervous should come up front so he could help them up. Of course, we were in the very back so I told B that he had better make sure I don't do something stupid and hurt myself.

Thats a much harder job than you might think.

We weren't allowed to take pictures while going up these stairs. Thats fine because I was far too busy focusing on just the stair in front of me. I was careful not to look back down.

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Occasionally we would stop and the guide would tell us a bit about the glacier and its history.

He also told us that the trail we were walking on was man made. Basically, its a huge crevasse and they chip ice into it until it stops up and then freezes over night. Then they test to make sure its stable to walk on.

This whole time I thought that they were saying crevice with an accent, pronouncing it crevasse. But really crevice and crevasse are two different words.

Vocabulary fail.

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The problem is that once you are on the glacier you feel like things are fairly stable and you get comfortable.

Until your guide points to this and repeats several times that we should not step on it. We must step OVER it because if we step ON it he's "not sure how far you'll fall".

At this point I temporarily forgot how to take large steps. I bought myself some time by taking a picture.

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B is loving this hike and is thinking that I am the bestest wife evah for having planned out such a totally superb honeymoon.

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Stunning. Ice, trees, blue skies.

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This is what they use to poke thru the snow/ice and see if we'll fall thru when we step on it.

We found out here that the glacier doesn't go all the way down to the ground. Under the glacier is a river of water that flows down the valley.

I wonder if they tell this to groups 2-5?

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More stairs. Don't fall off the side.

Actually the problem with these stairs is that they are high. I'm 4'11" and my legs are approximately 5 inches long. The gentleman in front of us is looking back at me because he just took a really big step to get up there.

I'm giggling.

He reached back, grabbed my hand and hoisted me up. Good man.

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I call this piece:
Death on a Glacier

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This is our final destination (I really could have kept on going). See me with my pick? I could totally use that thing. ~snort~

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B is drinking some fresh glacial water.

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Oh B, why must you stand so close to the edge?

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This is what keeps us from falling down the stairs.

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Its amazing how tempting it is to go up and look inside the crevasse. The blue ice is a result of the ice being compacted until all the air bubbles are squeezed out. Then light hits the ice and the light is absorbed at the red end of the spectrum resulting in us seeing the blue (less absorbed) color only.

I think.

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I would do this again in a heart beat.

Even if we could occasionally hear and or see rocks and ice falling near the glaciers edge.

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Its like another world. I can hardly believe that the day before we were at the beach and the day before that we were kayaking in a lake.
Did you know the guides train for 6-8 months to be able to cut these stairs?

We reluctantly headed back.

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As we were climbing back down the ladder we heard a loud boom.

See that chunk of ice in the water? If you look closely you can see the splashing from debris hitting the river.

That piece of ice weighs several tons.

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Chunks of ice were bobbing in the water. The river is grey because the water is picking up "rock flour". Its dust from the rock valley wall washing away.

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At this point B is over it. That glacial high has faded. We left on this excursion 4 hours ago and he wants to be back on the shuttle.

Did I mention he hates walking? 1.8 miles back.

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We passed gorgeous waterfalls again.

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I stopped to take pictures of rock and metallic sand but B was too far ahead.

The man was on a mission. Visions of dinner danced in his head.

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I'm serious. He didn't even wait to cross the stream nicely. The man just stomped right through it.

He was totally over it. Probably how you feel if you made it this far into the post.

We ended this incredible day with dinner at The Canopy Restaurant and a soak in the outdoor hot pools surrounded by lush rainforest.

If you didn't get enough and you feel like more you can check out our album here:
(the first couple are repeats of the post but there are quite a bit more of the glacier itself)


22 comments:

  1. Oh, I must do this with Chris... someday. We were comparing lists of countries we've visited and NZ is one of the few places on my list that he's never been to. This hike AND your hobbit shire from a couple of posts back would be more than enough to convince him. :)

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  2. I'm sitting here short of breath just from viewing those photos and reading the story! Scary!! But those pics say it all - beyond breathtaking. And I love the one of you with the pick. You look so victorious :) Thank you for letting us tag along!! -Tammy

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  3. Oh I wanna go now. Right now. But I can't. Too much laundry. Some cool stuff - love that blue ice and your picts are fabulous. Mine would've been all blurry from nerves.

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  4. What a great experience! Very, very cool!

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  5. GREAT !!
    i'm not into this subject but i like the way u discribe it ... i'm now googleing some stuff about it :P
    thanks for sharing :)

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  6. Remarkable experience!!! I think that is what a honeymoon should be...totally unique and memorable and spectacular!!!

    Yours looks amazing!

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  7. I have been waiting for this post. It looks like a lot of work and walking. But I would be willing to do it. I have enjoyed all your pictures!!

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  8. I am so jealous! I think that out of all the glaciers I've seen.. I would want to hike that one. The surroundings are magnificent! and it's a glacier! I love me some glaciers!

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  9. This is amazingness! Poor butterfly... oh well!

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  10. ok, honestly...a combination of: unreal, you've got to be kidding me, i'd never do that but now i want to, you're awesome, that's nuts, totally wild!, beautiful creation, insane adventure....you get the idea. FAWE-SOME!!!

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  11. Wow girl you are adventurous!! holy moly, I think you are the bestest wife eva for doing that!! great photos by the way!

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  12. Girl I don't get tired of reading this stuff. Fantastic adventure!!! I would be completely freaked out about the "Falling" part and would be taking baby steps too. My husband and yours should hang out sometime...they sound very similar:)

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  13. Dandy, my girl ... you have THE most charming sense of humor! As I read about your glacial adventures I found myself chuckling out loud.
    What a memorable experieince! Aren't you glad you were in group 1! Me? I'd be in Subgroup 50 Z!!! (Do they have a tram?!)

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  14. That's "experience", if you were thrown off by my imaginative spelling ...
    I forgot to tell you that I LOVE your pics! Extraordinary!

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  15. I have just come across your blog from a comment you left on marriageconfessions. I have loved reading! You have a great writing style and your photos are amazing!

    This adventure sounds so amazing! When I was an university I used to get freaked out too when we would be climbing mountains etc and all the men would be striding off showing how fit they were and I would just feel like I was about to fall off the edge of a cliff! Was always worth it in the end though!

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  16. What a gorgeous tour! I would have freaked out about falling over the edge stuff, I'm terrified and that kind of adventure. :P I have to say, you seem like a smart woman for at least wearing capris. What's up with hiking in the ice in shorts...I know, I know, it's SUMMER there, but still.
    That pic of B stomping through what was surely ice cold water make my bones ache. Brrrrr...

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  17. I was just going to ask the same thing, the shorts, wasn't it cold with the glaciers? I don't know but then maybe its a dumb question. I would have been terrified walking up those steps, one thing I am surely getting an education on NZ and I love it!!

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  18. It wasn't cold at all! The only reason I even had a jacket on was because my shirt wasn't wicking material (the stuff that dries fast) and I didn't want to get wet. It would get a little chilly at the bottom of a crevasse but I'd say it was in the mid-70s that day.

    Isn't that weird?

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  19. That's pretty bizarre, but awesome! I guess the only thing I have to compare it with is Colorado, we went up a bunch of mountain passes in June and it was quite frigid. New Zealand is just a shpeshal place, all around. I think they filmed The Three Amigos there...

    HA, just testing you! :P

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  20. Very cool and thanks to your delightful tour, I can now cross this off my list of things to do, I've been there done that! Thank you very much! ; )

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  21. Crazy, crazy! I think I was holding my breath in the middle there. And just before you said "Crampons is a weird word," I thought to myself,"It's like cramps and tampons all in one! Efficient." When you said your legs were approx. 5", I laughed out loud. You are a very funny woman. What an amazing trip.

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