Franz Josef Glacier - Heli-hiking and Birthdays
14 Dec 2005
|B: We drove up from Wanaka on the spectacular Haast pass over the Southern Alps. We stopped briefly at Fox Glacier and walked up to the face of the glacier.
In Franz Josef we checked into the YHA and booked up the heli-hike for my birthday the following day. We went for dinner - my choice as it was my birthday: burgers and beer.
The next morning we awoke to cloudy weather and were concerned that the helicopter wouldn't be able to fly. Fortunately, the cloud lifted by the time we set off. The company provided all of our equipment we needed - coats, socks, shoes and crampons for walking on the ice.
We boarded the helicopter and took off for the glacier. The pilot took us on a tour around the glacier valley before dropping us off on the ice. As it was K's first time in a helicopter, I let her go in the front for the best view.
It was a real experience being on a moving wall of ice clambering over lumps and skirting around crevasses. The guide had a pickaxe which he used to cut steps into the steeper parts. This combined with the crampons meant the walk was not too difficult and neither of us slipped over.
We saw all the different ice formations and learnt more about glaciers than we did in our geography lessons at school. After being on the ice for over 2 hours, we caught the helicopter back to the town and this time I sat in the front.
When we arrived back, the weather was roasting hot so we changed into shorts and T-shirts. After some internetting we had a lovely dinner in the best restaurant in town. When we emerged from the restaurant the ocean was falling from the sky (quite common on the West Coast). In our short run back to the hostel we got absolutely soaked.
We sat in the hostel lounge and drank some expensive dessert wine which we had been saving and I shared around my cake with the other guests.
K: I thought the heli-hike was fantastic and have been recomending it ever since. I had never been on a helicopter before so that was exciting enough but getting to walk on the glacier was great too - once we got used to used to the crampons and didn't get over confident and slip!
Ben declined to jump into a pool of melted water on the glacier to celebrate his birthday but this mad woman did as she worked with the company and it was a tradition! Nutters.
We went for a pretty decent diner that night and then celebrated with cake back at the YHA. Ben had asked for a cake with candles for his birthday, this was a bit tricky considering that Franz Josef is tiny. Still, I made do with what I could find for him. It was certainly a good way for Ben and I to meet new people when Ben very kindly offered his cake around the YHA living room! Even though he was away from home and only had a lightweight to drink with I hope that Ben had a good birthday and its certainly one that I'll remember.