Franz Josef, Emperor of Austria

Happy Valentines Day! I think I did find a bit of greenstone at Barrytown yesterday! And then we stopped at Hokitika for some groceries. Such an exciting day.

This time, we are staying at the Rainforest Backpackers in Franz Josef. They have a hot tub and I got into it as soon as I got back from my full day glacier hike. Yes, Jenna Hill has done 8 hours of hiking on a glacier. And it was pretty cool.

As we got to the base of Franz Josef Glacier, our giant Glacier Guides group broke up into 6 smaller groups. Erin, Emma and I chose group 6. This is the slow-slow group, NOT the easy group. We followed the other 5 groups up onto the glacier. As we climbed around, we didn’t have to wait as long because the guides before us had already carved out paths and steps. While the first groups got the thrill of ‘going off the beaten path’ (there was no path until they made it), we had the steady climb through the ice.

Turtle, our group guide, led us through crevices and around the edges of the glacier. As the day wore on, pools and waterfalls continuously appeared out of nowhere as the fifteen-meter-thick ice under our feet slowly melted to air temperature. Sliding into a crack in the ice felt stifling, but as the water ran down the sides, getting stuck was never a problem. Reaching up and down the steps chiseled by the guides was a bit harder for some of our vertically challenged group-mates. Everyone was happy to lend a hand down or a push up.

By mid-day we had basically reached our target height on the glacier, we had the afternoon to explore. Luckily another group found an ice tunnel, and after a quick lunch break we trekked over. One by one our group slid into the tunnel and slithered to the rope only three or four meters away to climb up the other side. I watched Erin and Emma both disappear and was a bit nervous climbing in myself. I immediately bumped my head on a stalactite of ice worn down by the day’s heat. It was incredible to be surrounded by ice with a blue light glowing out from the compacted snow.

It was no easy feat, 8 straight hours of climbing, and my hips were aching by mid-day. But we took lots of action photos to commemorate the hike and I had a bottle of ‘Cheeky Little Red’ wine from Hawke’s Bay waiting in my room and the hot tub to relax.

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