We had big plans for day 10, a full day glacier hike.  We had discussed booking a glacier hike before we left for New Zealand, but we wanted to see how things were going on the trip as well as see what the weather was going to be like.  The two most popular glaciers in smack dab in the middle of a rain forest so more often than not it is very rainy there.  We somehow managed to get extremely lucky and we had several days in a row of bright sunshine on the west coast of the south island.  As we were checking into our hotel the night before, we asked about a glacier hike and the woman at the front desk called over to the only licensed tour guides for Franz Josef Glacier to see if they had availability.  They only had two spots left for the full day hike, so we had to make up our mind quickly if we wanted to do it.  We had read that the half day hike doesn't spend very much time on the glacier, so we really wanted to do the full day hike.  The weather was looking fantastic, but we were still a little hesitant about the cost.  The full day hike is $180NZ per person and doesn't include lunch.  We spent a little bit of time talking about it and finally decided that we might as well spend the money since we didn't know if we'd ever get the chance to do it again in our lives.  This really was a once in a lifetime activity when you consider that in addition to being in the right spot in New Zealand with perfect weather, we also actually had baby sitters along with us.  So we headed down the street and booked the last two full day spots. 

We got up fairly early to make sure we were ready to get to the shop in time to get our rental gear and fill out the necessary forms.  They actually had some pretty nice gear including full gore-tex rain coats and pants, boots, and crampons.  We got all geared up, got a brief safety lesson, and then climbed into a bus for the short ride over to the glacier.   We got out of the buses and started hiking towards the base of the glacier.  We soon split up into groups based on expected speed/difficulty and approached the base.  It was really weird to basically be walking through a rain forest and then all of a sudden you pop out of the rain forest and you can see this massive glacier in front of you.

Franz Josef glacier appears

We continued on to the base of the glacier passing by several awesome waterfalls.

Waterfalls on the way to the glacier

After about 45 minutes we made it to the base of the glacier. It was a steep hike up to terminal moraine to the glacier proper.
First views from on the glacier moraine

We then stopped to put on our crampons and hit the ice. The hike became spectacular with views in every direction and towering walls of blue ice.

Magnificent views in every direction

We continued up the glacier and had lots of time to take pictures because the guides had to keep stopping to chip steps into ice.  I'm glad that wasn't my jobs as it looked like a lot of work.

Our guide cutting in some steps

We went by many crevasses and holes in the ice.  I was glad to have a guide because there were lots of places that you really needed to avoid to stay safe on the ice.  We were the first group of the day, so all of the other groups were following our trail.

Lots of different ice formations on the hike

We got to hike through several deep crevasses and even a small ice cave.  We rapidly realized even though it was bright sunshine out, we needed the waterproof jackets from all of the melting ice in the crevasses.

Lots of variation in the ice surface

Around 1:30 we made it to a large flat section where we stopped to have lunch.  We had managed to find some things at the small grocery store in town so we had something of reasonable substance to eat during our lunch break.  It was a good thing as we had expended a ton of energy to get up that high on the glacier.  It was definitely one of the coolest places we've ever eaten lunch.

The high point on our hike

After lunch, we started back down to head back to the bus.  It was already after 2:00 and I was getting worried that we would be very late to get back into town, but it turns out that the route down is much faster.  On the way up they weaved us through lots of crevasses and terrain changes.  On the way down they took us down the side of the glacier which was much less steep and pretty easy to hike down.

A large rock balanced on the ice near the terminal moraine

As we were leaving the glacier, we heard a huge boom behind us.  Our guide was looking back at the time and she said she saw a small car sized chunk of ice that just fell down not far from the path we took up that morning.  Boy was I glad that we were almost off the ice when that happened, it would have made for a very stressful hike if that had happened in the morning.  I would have been worrying the whole time instead of enjoying the spectacular hike.  We got back to the guide shop around 5:00.  When they say full day, they really mean full day.  We were hoping we would get back a little sooner as we still had to drive to our hotel in Wanaka that night which was about a three and a half hours from Franz Josef.

We drove down the road a little and stopped at a place to get dinner.  We ordered some drinks and then got some food from the take away menu.  The place was almost completely empty so we sat down at some tables near the exit and waited for our food.  When our food came we started eating it and then about 5 minutes later the manager came over and told us we had to leave because we ordered from the take away menu and we couldn't eat that food inside or on their porch.  She was probably the only rude person I met in New Zealand.  I couldn't believe she was kicking us out when the place was almost empty.  So we laughed it off and walked down about 50 feet and found a place to sit and eat our food.

We then got back in the car and continued on with our drive.  There are several cool areas to stop at between Franz Josef and Wanaka, but since it was already getting late we bypassed most of them.  There was a falls around Haast that I really wanted to see that was close to the side of the road called Thunder Creek Falls.  By the time we got there it was almost dark and the sand flies were out in full force.  As we pulled into the parking lot, we surprised a couple of young women that had just finished swimming at the base of the falls.  They looked quite surprised to see the whole family emptying out of the van as they were finishing changing.  We then made a dash to the falls, but we couldn't see too much as it was getting pretty dark.  Luckily the camera was able to compensate and we ended up with a pretty decent snapshot of the scenic falls.

Thunder Creek Falls at Dusk

We got back into the van and finished the drive into Wanaka.  It was pitch black so we missed a lot of scenery.  I know I drove by several very large lakes, but it was very dark with no lights to speak of and I was exhausted from the day's hiking and was just trying to get into town as quick as I could.  We had booked a 3 bedroom hotel room at the Wanaka View Motel for $170NZ for the five of us for the night.  We pulled into the hotel around 10:00 and went right to bed.

Continue to Day 11

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