Whilst traveling around New Zealand I found myself in Franz Joseph, on the beautiful South Island with the chance to actually climb a glacier!! When I came to New Zealand this is what I was most interested in doing and I was not disappointed, we arrive at the meeting point at 7am and sort out all of our gear, and then we trek through the forest to get to the base of the glacier, we then trek a further 5k, to the actual glacier, before we start our trek up the glacier (this day involves a hell of a lot of trekking).
Just before we start to climb we are sorted into groups based on fitness level; 1 for very fit, 5 for just awful. I believed that I belonged in group 5 since the last time I tried to climb something I was beaten by a 70 year old, but when I looked at the group and realised that it consisted of the elderly, infirm and morbidly obese, I felt that just didn’t quite belong… I ended up in group 4, the group consisting of the able bodied and lazy (it suited me perfectly).
We spend around four hours slowly climbing the glacier, seeing amazing ice formations, caves and crevices, it was incredible. We spent so long messing around inside one of the caves that group 5 overtook us and we were the last to reach the top.
After a quick break for food we had some photo ops with the pickaxe and a poor Japanese boy named Tiger had a wooppsey! I don’t know how on earth he done it… but he broke the pickaxe, he actually snapped it in half!! Our new task was getting the hell off this glacier. With no pickaxe our guide cannot carve out steps for us to walk on… which for a bunch of people who managed to get beat to the top by group 5 is probably very, very dangerous. We had to use the previous team’s steps before they melted… only problem was, they are all so far away that they look like ants.
In a rather panicky mood our guide tells us to follow him and hurry the hell up. We race down in good time until we are taken off track and BAM!! I fell into the ice! There was a week spot and my left leg just went straight through the ground into the ice cold water, luckily I grabbed the solid ground before my torso went under, and was lifted out ok. Slightly shaken, and wet and cold… we gather ourselves and continue, all watching our step a little more closely. We make it down ok, although slightly behind schedule, with the guides all giving poor Tiger a slightly scathing look for his accident.
All in all, although the journey back down was a little worrying (thanks to Tiger) the experience was immense, this was hands down my absolute favourite day in NZ, the scenery was just stunning…
- Science on sleds: Researchers measure shrinking of Beartooth glaciers (billingsgazette.com)