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My Experience Ice Climbing The Franz Josef Glacier

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

I’d always found glaciers interesting, ever since I learnt about them at school. So when I found out that there was an opportunity for me to ice climb and explore the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand, I said YES without any hesitation. This was my opportunity to see a glacier with my own eyes rather than learning about it in my textbook. It really was my geography lessons coming to life! It was touch and go whether we’d actually be able to make it up to the glacier as it is very much weather dependent. The weather hadn’t been great for a few days and so I had my fingers crossed that we’d be able to make it up there. Our mode of transport to get us up to the glacier was a helicopter which excited me even more. I’d been in a helicopter once before over the Grand Canyon in America so I knew what to expect but taking a helicopter and landing on a glacier is a whole different ball game! The ride to the glacier was breath-taking, jaw-dropping and full of adrenaline. From the moment we landed at the glacier and stepped out of the helicopter, I knew an adventure was about to start.

Prior to the helicopter ride we were given all the clothing and equipment we would need for our time not only ice climbing the glacier but also walking around the glacier too. I was familiar with most of the clothing we were given but it was the equipment that was very new to me, in particular the crampons! From the moment we started to explore the glacier to the moment we stepped back on the helicopter to fly back I felt like Bear Grylls! Ice climbing the glacier was like an adventure I’d never experienced before. Although at first I found the ice climbing rather tricky, our climb leader was very patient with me and explained in detail the easiest way to get used to the process of it all in order to get to the top. We ice climbed up different parts of the glacier, each time it became more fun as I got used to the process and movements needed to reach the top.

After we finished the ice climb part of the experience, we spent the next two to three hours walking around the glacier. Our climb leader was extremely knowledgeable about the glacier and its history. We crawled through blue ice tunnels, witnessed the glacier calving and drank some of the glaciers ice cold water. Despite the quick nature of the day, I did manage to find time to slow down and take it all in. It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to ice climb on the Franz Josef Glacier! It was certainly a once in a lifetime opportunity and very good value for money. If you find yourself in Franz Josef, I’d highly recommend booking onto the ‘Glacier Heli Hike’ experience – you won’t regret it!

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