Glacial Exploring

Trip Start Jan 20, 2007
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29
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Trip End May 06, 2007


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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Thursday, April 5, 2007

We passed numerous kettle lakes on our journey to Franz Josef. These are created as glaciers retreated and left huge chunks of ice behind which melted and formed deep lakes that provide excellent reflections. Then we arrive at Franz Josef Glacier Village and go to the lookout for great views of the huge glacier, which is pretty unique as one of only 2 places in the world where glacier descends into rainforest.

The glacier is simply the remaining snow that summer melt has been unable to remove from the cooler heights up the mountains. The snow collects in the 30sqkm neve on the Franz Josef. Each season another layer of surplus snow is added, then time and sheer weight fuse the snow crystals into clear ice. At a depth of about 45m the weight forces the ice to 'flow' down the valley and the ice then melts in the warmer temperatures in the lower altitudes.

So the next morning we set off on a Glacier Hike! Got kitted out and walked to the base of the glacier. Here we strapped on our crampons and headed up with our guide! At the beginning the ice was quite slushy and brown from dirt and being trampled a lot, but as we kept rising higher and travelling deeper across the glacier it transformed into brilliant white and sparkling blue, so clean and natural and every day the guides go up there they have to pick a new route as its always changing so much. In some sections we had hand ropes to hold onto and in other parts, our guide had to chip away to make some steps for the steepest parts! It was very exciting and adventurous. We climbed through ice caves and squeezed through crevaces. Some parts were very tricky and hard-core as in many dangerous bits we could have slipped down huge crevaces or fallen through the ice (before we started we had to sign a disclaimer waiving all responsibility from the company for any deaths- always a little unnerving!) We saw stunning formations though and were lucky with a really sunny day to make the ice glisten and sparkle. Filled our water bottles up with water running straight off the glacier and it was the freshest, tastiest water I have ever drunk!
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