Marc & Nora ROUND THE WORLD 2005/2006 - Join us!

New Zealand-Travelogue  |  Travel time: September 2005 - July 2006  |  by marc and nora L.

The South Island: Franz Josef Glacier

Marc writes>

Whilst in Queenstown we booked a day trek on the Franz Josef Glacier which is situated about half way up the west coast of NZ on the western slopes of the Alps. Again, the drive from Queenstown via Lake Wanaka and on to Haast was spectacular and must be one of the most beautiful drives in New Zealand. We made this trip late in the afternoon so the setting sun made our journey even more beautiful. However, the west coast greeted us with grey skies and rain. Our luck with the weather was over! We had spent the night at the roadside about 30km south of the Fox Glacier so we stopped there to take a look on the way to Franz Josef. I can confirm that it`s big and it`s icy!

Fox glacier lake with its flurescent something in the water

Fox glacier lake with its flurescent something in the water

During the drive to Franz Josef the weather worsened and so did Nora`s interest in making the trek. The skies were full of clouds and the rain was forecast to be around for the full day. The company who guide the treks don`t cancel these outings regardless of weather conditions and I was determined not to let rain ruin my day and slowly but extremely reluctantly Nora decided that she would make the trek too! We checked in at trek HQ and got kitted out with our boots, crampons, waterproof jackets and trousers, hats, gloves and rucksacks. On arrival at the Glacier National Park there is a 3km walk even before you reach the Glacier Terminal Face (Oooh look at me with Geological Terminology).

the terminal

the terminal

The 11km long glacier, named after the Ausrian Habsburg Emporer Franz Josef by the Austrian explorer who discovered it, is considered to be a `wet glacier`. This means that its actually melting!! This is due to its relatively low altitude and relatively high temperatures at this altitude. However, the special thing about Franz Josef is that at present it is actually growing or `advancing` down the valley at a rate of a few metres every day! This is caused by heavy snowfall over recent years and relatively cool Summer. Lesson over.

The trek itself is well established and there are maintained routes up to a certain point after which the guide can take you anywhere he wants to go. He just starts cutting steps into the ice with his monster of a pick axe to make different areas accessible. To be on, or in fact at certain points actually IN, the glacier is pretty amazing as the colours change from whites through all shades of green and blue. I must admit though that conditions were far from perfect for fully appreciating these colours as the rain was pouring down and the sky was grey.

our guide

our guide

marc in tunnel

marc in tunnel

our gear - crampons, hiking boots, overtrousers, jacket, hat, mittens

our gear - crampons, hiking boots, overtrousers, jacket, hat, mittens

marc in relaxed pose

marc in relaxed pose

marc again...

marc again...

nora in tunnel - happy despite the rain and wet mittens

nora in tunnel - happy despite the rain and wet mittens

marc almost losing balance

marc almost losing balance

ice formations

ice formations

more ice

more ice

some more (dirty) ice

some more (dirty) ice

another ice berg

another ice berg

the ice is melting...

the ice is melting...

it is frrrreeezing cold and i am soaken wet!

it is frrrreeezing cold and i am soaken wet!

out of a narrow tunnel

out of a narrow tunnel

the valley

the valley

how the hell are we getting over these icebergs?!

how the hell are we getting over these icebergs?!

After about 3.5hrs on the glacier we started to head back down towards the terminal face. About an hour later we started to hear the guides radio come to life with conversation regarding the state of the water flow at the foot of the terminal face. At the start of the trek, before we even reached the glacier itself we hopped across what can only be described as a stream. We didn`t even get our feet wet doing so! But as the hours had passed it came to light that this trickle of water had developed into a raging torrent of fast flowing white water over which the the guys at the bottom were unable to bridge. We continued to trek back to the face and met more groups along the way and we joked about being stuck on the glacier for the night or of having to be evacuated one by one by helicopter......oh if only we knew how close we were to the truth! It wasn`t long before they told us that yes, an helicopter had been called and were were in fact to be evacuated from the Glacier!.....Out of all of our strokes of pure bad luck this one has to be classed as the coolest!!

the descent

the descent

When we reached the base of the glacier the sight of the water was incredible....it was real white water rafting stuff! The evacuation itself wasn´t quite as exciting as being strapped to a harness and being winched up into the air but it was nevertheless Exciting! In groups of 6 we were packed into the helicopter to make the short hop across the river and combination of the deafening noise of the rushing water, the thunder of the helicopter blades, the high wind, the shouting of the evacuation team did add a certain element of danger to the whole thing!

the flooded river

the flooded river

the helicopter evacuation

the helicopter evacuation

We were told that his kind of event happens at most once a year but you could gaurantee that even if Marc and Nora were to turn up in a record month of drought in the coldest winter on record it would happen again for sure. We have slowly come to accept that we are human equivalents of a black cat across your path or the ladder under which you should not walk.

© marc and nora L., 2005
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The trip
 
Description:
Hello - 5 more days!!! On the 12th of September we are setting off! Our plan is to travel round the world for a period of 10 months. 1st stop: Thailand (1 month) and cambodia 2nd stop: Via Singapore (overland) to Australia where we plan to stay for approximately 4-5 months. 3rd stop: New Zealand (2 months) (north and south island) 4th stop: South America (approx. 3 months) (Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and if time and money allows we might visit costa rica)
Details:
Start of journey: Sep 12, 2005
Duration: 11 months
End of journey: Jul 31, 2006
Travelled countries: world-wide
United Kingdom
Thailand
Malaysia
Cambodia
Singapore
Australia
Australia & Pacific
New Zealand
South America
Chile
Argentina
Bolivia
Peru
Ecuador
Canada
The Author
 
marc and nora L. is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 15 years.
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