Cultural Experience | New Zealand

Travelling in New Zealand: Heli-Hike on Franz Josef Glacier

So I can officially say that I’ve ridden a helicopter and hiked a glacier.

Author: Emm Was Here.

So I can officially say that I’ve ridden a helicopter and hiked a glacier… what else more do you need to do in life?! Well a bit more I suppose, but those two are pretty impressive and I’ve had to let it sink in that I had the opportunity to experience it.

My family and I did a heli-hike up to Franz Josef glacier, and it was honestly such a remarkable and unforgettable experience. Being my first ride in a helicopter, I was a little bit nervous to be in something so small in the sky. The ground disappeared from beneath us immediately as the helicopter took off, and soon enough we were only a small shadow on the ground. While you can feel every movement of the helicopter because it is so small, its size allowed us to see the landscape from a higher and closer perspective, making it absolutely breathtaking. The helicopter flew through the valley and to the Franz Josef glacier where we landed.

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View from the helicopter

At the helipad is where we met our guide, Scott, and began our three hour hike through the glacier. The track changes every few weeks or so, so every experience and hike is different! We were supplied with everything we could possibly need for the hike: spray jackets, over trousers, boots with cramp ons, a beanie and mittens, and a hiking pole. These made sure for a warm and secure hike through the crevasses and over the ice of Franz Josef.

We worked our way upwards of the glacier, climbing on steps carved out of the ice and inching our way between ice walls. In the beginning, the track got as narrow as shoulder width which was a bit of a struggle, but little did we know what was coming up later on. In some parts we found ourselves giving up our hiking poles to crawl our way through holes and caves in the ice. This hike is definitely not for those who don’t fancy small spaces. The more we walked the more incredible the glacier became, though we did have to be careful of some of the deep puddles that were forming in the ice.

Glacial ice

Longitudinal crevasse at Franz Josef Glacier

While we did have our poles for stability, sometimes they weren’t necessary, the walk ways were that narrow! The smallest would have gotten to around 20 cm wide and the ice walls held us up as we wiggled through them. Wearing at lest three layers of clothing didn’t make the temperature an issue though, actually I was sweating more than I was freezing! I eventually ended up taking off my gloves and beanie.

Man between blue, glacial ice at Franz Josef Glacier

Crawling through the ice of Franz Josef Glacier

Our hike ended and so we had to say goodbye to the glacier for another time. Scientists predict that if weather conditions stay the same, Franz Josef glacier would be gone within eighty years, but due to climate change and increasing temperatures, it could disappear long before that. So make your way to Franz Josef to make sure you don’t miss out on this experience!

Our heli-hike also included free entrance to the Glacier Hot Pools after our hike, letting us chill for a while to relax our muscles. As night came closer, the temperature outside of the pool began to drop, the steam from the pool increasing and creating a different atmosphere from before. The thirty eight degree pool was definitely the best and most comfortable, feeling like a never ending, cozy hug. But don’t stay in for too long because it can get a bit hot!

If you would like to know how to have your own experience like this, check out Franz Josef Glacier Guides! (A local tells me they’re the only company actually allowed to hike through the glacier, while others let you stand on the glacier for only a little while. So if that’s what you’re after definitely book with them!

Franz Josef Glacier, white ice, mountain background, blue sky

Heli - Hike on Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

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