Hiking to Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef GlacierIf I had a pound for every adrenaline-crazed traveller who told me that they were saving their sky dive for Franz Josef…well, you get the point. It’s kind of a big deal. Honestly I don’t mean to sound sarcastic, Glacier’s are astonishing. Particularly if you have never seen one before! And whilst glaciers around the world are retreating thanks to global warming, a glimpse at Franz Josef Glacier is only a short hike away. 

We arrived late afternoon in Franz Josef, and had a little wonder around town to get our bearings. Conclusion? Pretty as a picture, though other than the glacier there aren’t many activities to partake in. We did have a little nosy around the hot pools, but they seemed a little too leisure centre-esque for my taste, so we decided against it. Plus I had seen photos of the Onsen Hot Pools and thus all other pools paled in comparison.

Franz Josef
The view whilst wondering around town

We were stayed in the YHA Hostel for just two nights, which was definitely enough time given that the town is super small. So on our first and only full day, we hit up the glacier. As per, we decided to do things a little unconventionally and impractically, but that’s all part of the adventure, right?

Despite there being a shuttle service to the base of Franz Josef, we naturally just missed one (they were hourly), and were advised by the very chilled out hostel host that the walk was around 40-45 minutes so we would arrive much sooner than if we waited for another shuttle. At this point, we were only planning on the short walk to the glacier viewing point, so we figured that the little extra walk wouldn’t hurt us. Ah, to be so young and naive.

Franz Josef 1The walk was actually really pretty, but seemed a lot longer than we had anticipated. This was possibly down to the fact that it involved walking along the main road, which is never that interesting, but at least the scenery was.

Franz Josef 2

Franz Josef 3

Franz Josef 4Once we finally arrived at the base of the glacier (the car park where all of the tourist trails begin), the weather suddenly cooled off and we felt refreshed and ready to go. There were multiple options to choose (easy/medium/hard), and if our little trek around the Blue Mountains taught us anything, it’s that we are clearly drawn to a challenge. So, the hardest path we chose. Bring it on Roberts Point Track. Unlike the Blue Mountains, we at least brought water and a few nibbles…

At the very start of the trail, there is this stunning little lake, pictured below. If I was pleased to see it at the start, you can only imagine the irrational joy it brought to me after 6 hours of walking.

Franz Josef 5The sign says 5 hours, but I think this is only true if you are some sort of ninja, or Bear Grylls, or not a 5 ft 3 blonde gal trying to scale some pretty intense heights in denim shorts. This hike is TOUGH. 

Franz Josef 6I took so many photos along the way, just to give you an idea of just how harsh the terrain really is and to give myself as many breaks as possible. The rope bridges, for example, are not for the faint hearted and have strict instructions of ‘only one person at any given time’, which doesn’t really fill you with confidence.

 

 

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There are parts of this hike which again would not fly with the health and safety regulations we have become accustomed to in the UK. You will find yourself scaling rocks, clinging to branches, and jumping across mini waterfalls with nothing but your own sense of balance to keep you steady.

Roberts Point Track New ZealandBy the time that the viewpoint actually appeared, I started to question whether I was hallucinating. The point is actually a tiny wooden man-made structure facing the very start of the glacier. I slightly felt like we should be awarded a medal or something, but alas, not the case. We were greeted by a glorious bird which was reward enough, until some other insensitive hikers scared it away. Heyho.

Franz Josef Glacier Viewpoint

Bird New ZealandSeeing the glacier properly was astonishing, though did make us wish that we had the budget to sneak onto one of the helicopters and land on it, even for a second.

Franz Josef Glacier New ZealandThen the time came to walk back. You know when you reach that limit and you can’t actually comprehend that you have to do something all over again? Yep, that was us. Well maybe just me, Mike was still quite up for it. Even though I wasn’t, there was literally zero choice, so off we went.

Franz Josef Glacier Viewpoint
Mike waiting for me to get a move on…

I’m not being funny, but I think the descent was actually harder. At least when we were climbing there was things that you could grab on to, but going down? There were many leaps of faith. It took a bloody long time. Joints were hurting that I didn’t know I had. Then the pond reappeared. The glorious glorious pond.

Pond Franz Josef HikePond Hiking New ZealandA quick photo op and we were off on the last leg of the journey. Needless to say, we missed the last shuttle bus back to the hostel and of course had to make our own way back, but what’s another 45 minutes after 6 hours of hiking?

Hiking in Franz JosefThe walk back was actually more pleasant. The sun was setting and the feeling of self-accomplishment was among us. Though treacherous, Robert’s Point Track is not something you will do every day, and is definitely worth the energy and the views really are out of this world.

Sunset in Franz Josef

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