Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand, July 19, 2010

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Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand, July 19, 2010

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Aug 11, 2010 7:01 pm

One of the virtues of New Zealand as a ski destination is that there are many things to do if the ski report is not favorable. I took the 4th and 5th days of my trip off from skiing to visit the West Coast, which I had not seen before. I reached Hokitika in the evening after skiing Porters and drove 2 hours south to Franz Josef Glacier early the next morning. The drive is mostly through temperate rain forest like the Olympic Peninsula or Vancouver Island.
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I expected it to be very quiet, but there were 2 bus tours of Canadians and Texans there, so I was lucky to get on an afternoon glacier walk tour. They provide wool socks, boots and crampons.
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They will also provide jackets, hats and gloves if needed.

It's a 3km walk from the parking lot to the foot of the glacier.
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The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are unusual for descending to such low elevation ~700 feet in a temperate zone. The top of these glaciers is a large area west of Mt. Cook at ~10,000 feet which gets a massive amount of snow (up to 300 inches water content) to sustain the 2 glaciers that descend narrow valleys to the west. As at the fiords there are some ribbon waterfalls on the glacier cut walls.
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We first climb up a moraine to the foot of the glacier.
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The guides have cut stairways into the ice for us to ascend.

They also offer ice climbing with ropes for the more adventurous.
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Here we go through a tunnel in the ice.
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And then more cut stairs.
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This as high as the half day walk goes.
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With a sunny break we could see higher up the glacier. There's a small group of hikers on the all day tour at lower right.
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They also offer half day hikes high on the glacier with helicopter transport, weather permitting, which it was not this day.

Part of our descent is in a crevasse.
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The guides on each tour spend some time creating and maintaining the walking paths.
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More descent of the glacier and then the moraine.
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At distance the green mound just past where the stream is last visible is where the Franz Josef Glacier extended in 1905. It retreated steadily until 1976 to about the the highest point our group climbed. From 1976-1999 (the period of global temperature rise) the Franz Josef Glacier advanced 2.2km. It has retreated slightly since then. The more shaded Fox Glacier is still advancing.

Skiing is not offered on the West Coast glaciers. You can ski on the Tasman Glacier from Mt. Cook, which I did on my first NZ trip in 1982.

There was slight drizzle for maybe 20 minutes of the 4+ hour walk. But that's fairly lucky considering how much it rains here. The next day driving back north and then over Arthur's Pass it poured rain nearly the whole time. Scenic viewpoint with one of New Zealand's famous Kea mountain parrots.
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Re: Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand, July 19, 2010

Postby EMSC » Thu Aug 12, 2010 9:57 am

Given how much glaciers move, collapse, etc... I have to say I'm quite surprised at what they not only allowed but obviously encouraged folks to do. I realize it's not the US where we have ultimate liability for even stupid people, but still I'm rather surprised.
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Re: Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand, July 19, 2010

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Aug 12, 2010 1:45 pm

There is a rope barrier at the foot of the moraine stating that hiking any further is only allowed with guides. The guides spent a fair amount of time with their axes maintaining the paths and cut stairways. They are out there every day to assess changing conditions. Not sure what weather would cause the tour I did to be cancelled, they still operate in hard rain like the day I headed back.

But this is NZ, many of the major tourist areas offer bungy jumping and/or skydiving. A couple of the Texas group had been skydiving in the early morning before the clouds got too thick.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Tony Crocker
 
Posts: 9799
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California


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