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Last updated 10/2/2012
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Hiking the Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef GlacierToday we went hiking on the Franz Josef glacier. Due to the dangers of hiking on the glacier (among others, rockfalls, avalanches, and hidden crevices) it must be done with an experienced guide. We did a half-day tour with Franz Josef Glacier Guides, a very good company that provides very knowledgeable guides and all the equipment necessary.

We started off hiking through the valley leading up to the glacier. Apparently it’s been retreating at a very quick pace the past decade. The glacier is very much alive, and can move up to 70cm per day. When we finally reached the terminal end, we crossed over ropes with very scary warning signs and began our hike up a tall field of loose rock which actually contained the glacier underneath. Once we reached the ice, we got a quick lesson in how to attach and use our crampons, and took to the ice.

There were patches of very deep blue ice, but according to Nikki not enough. This was partially due to it being the dry season, and partially because earlier in the year there was a big rockfall that covered the ice in dust and debris. Our guides had to cut steps into the ice in some places. We also walked through a crevice that was so narrow we had to keep one foot in front of the other and shuffle forward.

The guide was very knowledgeable and showed us numerous features of the constantly moving ice, such as waves that are caused by the wind and sun, and pockets of air that form right under our feet from the immense pressure of the ice flowing down from above. We also stood on a valley that will soon break and expose the river flowing underneath. It’s interesting to think of how powerful the glaciers that covered North America must have been, if even this (relatively) small glacier is so powerful.

Our tour also included a free pass to a glacial hot pool (just a large hot tub) so we took advantage of that and relaxed for a while. Then we got drinks at a bar with an incredible view of the Southern Alps. All in all, a fun and interesting day on our first glacier.

6 comments to Hiking the Franz Josef Glacier

  • Lisa

    I find it incredible you guys are walking on a beautful beach one day, and the next day it looks like your on the North Pole! What an amazing adventure. I am so very glad you are doing these pics and blogs. You guys are doing an exccellent job. It makes me feel as if I am experiencing this with you! I have to admit, the only part of the glacial tour I would have done is summed up in your last picture! (Well, and the hot tub part)!!!

  • Lisa

    By the way, the pancake rock pics. are very cool! I have never seen anything like that!!!
    Love and miss you guys!!!!!

  • Joel

    Looks and sounds amazing! Hope you guys are having a great time!

  • Char

    Hi again,
    Loved the pictures of the pancake rocks and the glaciers. Those rocks must be very old and weather worn to get like that. The glaciers reminded me of the ones I saw in Alaska but I never got that close to one. They are a beautiful blue though when they aren’t covered with dirt and rocks. Keep us posted.

    • The rocks were not so much the weather, but the rough ocean crashing against them. I was amazed by how powerful those waves were, and also amazed that there’s still any rock left at all!

  • Betsy

    It was so good to talk to you this evening Brad…(well tomorrow morning for you!) Love the pics and all the posts. You two are so special to me:)

    Love you!


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