New Zealand February 1999  
At the other end of the world
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 Franz Josef Glacier 28th February - 01st March

After a short drive we arrived in Franz Josef Township. It was difficult to find accommodation - but finally we got the last room in the YHA. Again, we walked a track to a glacier terminal face but it was a bit different. There is more bush around Franz Josef Glacier and you get much closer to the ice. The beginning of the track is very green and decorated nicely with plants. The glacier itself is also in a green surrounding. The ropes and signs, which mark the end of the track are just a couple of meters away from the ice. It was really impressive because we were able to realize how big these glaciers are. We watched some guided half-day walks coming down the ice, then it started to rain and we went back to the car park. The rest of the day went by while we explored the town. We looked at the various tours as we walked through the city, then decided on the helihike and booked it for the following day. In the morning we did the things we missed out on the day before - we climbed Sentinel Rock, a short climb towards a lookout point from where you can see the Franz Josef Glacier. We went to Peters Pool, a small kettle lake - known for the reflections of the glacier and the mountains. Eventually there was a bit of a reflection :)

I also did the Canavans Knob Track, which provides three lookout points - two with inland / glacier views and one with coastal views. It's a steady and steep climb but not too long (15 - 20 minutes one way) and the views were fine.

At half-past one we went to the helihike operator but the trip was canceled due to strong wind :(
Therefore, the afternoon was free ..

Because the view to the glacier was fine we decided to go back to Fox Glacier for the peak view of Mt. Cook / Mt. Tasman etc. and Lake Matheson, but when we reached Fox Township we realised that the clouds in front of these mountains were still there. We had a hot chocolate in a nice cafe and headed back to Franz Josef and the YHA for dinner.

In the morning the weather seemed to be fine and we went to the helihike departure again - AAAND - it was going! Yippe.

First we had to get into some Iceboots and we also got a raincoat and socks. I didn't wear the socks myself because the boots were a bit small and without the socks it was ok (I just wore my own pair of socks). Some people were already standing at the helicopter pad - waiting for their scenic flight. The helihike was fully booked - eleven people is the max on one trip. The first five people and our guide - Dave boarded the helicopter and disappeared out of our view soon. We had to wait a bit more than 10 Minutes before the helicopter returned. Meanwhile another helicopter picked up the people for the scenic flight. I was excited when I boarded the helicopter because I have never flown in a helicopter before. It was great. I was so surprised by the takeoff - because it is so different from a plane takeoff - I was amazed. And I wanted to do it again!

We had some breathtaking views over the glacier and did a bit of a scenic flight before we returned to the lower part of the glacier where we landed on the ice. I enjoyed the landing also - it's great fun to fly with a helicopter ;-)

Walking on the ice was amazingly easy with the iceboots - not slippery. What a scenery - awesome and soo beautiful. While we walked over the glacier Dave kept on looking for interesting stuff, like holes, cracks, caves etc.

First we found some cracks - they are everywhere, some of them are small, some are big enough to fall into it - and they are all very very deep - that reminded me of how dangerous it is to walk around on a glacier. But it was too amazing to spend much time thinking about things like that. :)

We saw two holes - diameter about 1 to 1.5 meters and Dave threw some snow into it to figure out the depth. They were very deep we heared the ice falling for a couple of seconds. I took care to not step too close to these holes.
Dave found a small ice cave and everybody wanted to go into the cave and have a look. Of course we also did it - I took a picture of the inner part of the cave and one of Birgit coming out of the cave.

Another highlight of the helihike was a tunnel - some of our group were keen on squeezing through - including myself :). While I was trying to hold onto the ground with my hands I realized how slippery the ice is - these iceboots are really good! It was a great experience to climb/ crawl through the ice and I felt very excited afterwards *whew*.

We climbed an area with hills of ice and views towards the coast, down the glacier. What a stunning view - spectacular. :)
After two hours we returned to the helipad to be picked up by the helicopter. Again the takeoff was great, it is so amazing. I was also excited about the flight - we were flying so close to the mountains - scary ..

Too soon the helihike was over and we were sitting in the car driving back to the south.  


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