Day 21: Franz Josef

Today was the day I was not sure how it would turn out. We tentatively had a glacier walk tour scheduled. But conditions had to be good for the helicopter pilots to fly and also they needed to asses Rachel to see if she could do the climb. We brought her into the glacier center and they determined she was ok to go up.
The next question was whether our tour would happen as the weather forecast was questionable. Our original tour was scheduled for 11 AM but they bumped it back an hour because of the weather. At noon they made the determination that it was safe to go.
Thus, we all proceeded to get our glacier gear. They provided everything you needed for the glacier. Everyone carried with them a bag that had our crampons in it and anything else you needed.
We left the glacier center and walked to the helicopter landing area. It is quite an operation. They have helicopters landing and taking off every five minutes. Because of my side, I had to ride in the front seat and the kids were in the back.
We took off. It was a beautiful flight. From the air the glacier did not look that big, but once you land you realize how gigantic the glacier really is. It is also amazing how small a space is needed to land a helicopter.
YouTube video of our flight
We got off the helicopter and they had us crouch down low as the helicopter does not turn off when you get off. Then once we were all off the helicopter took off. The helicopter generated a lot of wind. Thankfully a guide stood behind Rachel as the copter took off.

We proceeded up some stairs made out of ice. At the top we put our crampons on our shoes. We then waited for our guide assignment. We were very excited when we learned we would have our own guide. This was very generous of Franz Josef Glacier guides. Rachel would have slowed other groups down.

As we got started Rachel was really afraid to proceed. I think part of it was due to all the precautions they state at the beginning. She worries about worst case scenarios. Our guide realized she was struggling and he had her go to the front of our group. Once she was in front things seemed to go much better.

The guide took us through an amazing glacier. There are many trails on the glacier that the guides are constantly creating. They are doing this because the ice is constantly shifting. The Franz Josef Glacier is unlike other glaciers. Most glaciers are relatively flat. But due to the constant ice shifting it creates all sorts of crevices and fissures and huge blocks of ice. He said if we were ever to go on another glacier hike that we would be disappointed.

This glacier was just amazing. It was awesome and scary to be on such a huge glacier. At times we could hear the glacier breaking at the top and hear pieces of ice falling down but you wouldn't know where those pieces were going. They did not get us too close to the area where ice breaks off though. We saw many beautiful things including blue ice. We were able to drink directly from the glacier. There are not enough words to describe what we saw at the glacier.

We finally got back to town around 4:30 pm and then we needed to head up the coast to Greymouth for our lodging. One thing about New Zealand is their towns are tiny. You see a town on a map and it ends up being one house. We eventually stopped for dinner at Hotiki as I found a place with gluten free options. We ate dinner, then proceeded onwards to our lodging. We stayed at the Coleraine Motel and it was perfect. We had a two bedroom unit which could have theoretically slept 8 (2 kings and 2 twins). There was one bathroom and a large size living area. But the space was absolutely perfect for us after a long day of activities and traveling.

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Categories: Franz Josef, Greymouth | Leave a comment

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