After the heavy night of drinking at the Poo Party, Poncey had decided to get us all to Franz Josef as quickly as possible with only one quick stop for a bacon sandwich at the bizarre Bushman Centre. This was a museum that was full of dead stuffed animals that ended up as a pretty eerie stop off on a hang over. Once at Franz Josef, we checked into the amazing Rainforest Retreat Lodge which was beautifully hidden away at the mouth of the surrounding mountain ranges. Pauric, Lydia, Andy and me decided to head off for some Kayaking in the afternoon on Lake Mapouria which was the first time I’d done any proper kayaking for years. The scenery for it was breath-taking, with us taking a trip down some beautiful gorges and canals in the surrounding area.
The following day was, however, the main highlight of Franz Josef with the chance for us to go Ice Climbing on the famous glacier. I went against all photographer’s rules by leaving my SLR camera at home, fearing the worst of smashing the kit up into smithereens half way up, so all my moments were captured on my trusty old Canon Ixus 50.
The early morning start greeted us with some amazing cloud capped mountains withe the early morning sunshine peeking through.After kitting up at the Ice Climbing centre, we took the minibus up to the base of the glaciers to start walking up through the lower rocky terrain. The views were remarkable as expected, with the huge glacier carving its way through the middle of the mountains. It was completely surreal seeing it – this huge glacier thousands of years old melting away right in front of us. What was strange is that it was relatively mild – we were kitted up for climbing the ice, but in reality, temperatures weren’t too low.
As we began climbing the glacier, the fun really began as the group leaders started hacking away at the ice, building stairs and pathways through the encapsulating blue scenery. We faced huge dominating ice walls, dozens of water pools, loads of gushing ice cold water rivers and some ice tunnels carved out in beautiful glassy blue formations.
In the distance, we also got to witness a huge avalanche as the side of one of the glaciers came apart before our eyes, crashing down below. After around an hour or so, we then stopped at one of the three main ice climbing glaciers that we were to take on today. This was great fun, with the first climb a chance for us to get our techniques right and get to grips with the task at hand. Equipped with a couple of ice picks and some climbing shoes, we then strapped ourselves onto some abseiling ropes before pounding our way up the glacier face. It was an exhausting affair, especially if you didn’t get the technique right or got your ice picks jammed in the glacier face. You also needed to get the toe kick right to ensure you put most of your weight on your lower body, without exerting pressure on your upper body by holding on for dear life with the ice picks. This took me a while to master, especially as my lower body strength is quite weak, so I exhausted my upper body quite quickly!
The tallest of the glaciers was around 18 metres high and there were two walls to climb – one with an “Invisible Barrier” three quarters of the way up. This barrier basically meant that the glacier face started to curve convexly outwards making it very difficult for the climber to get over it. After I completed the easier one in just less than 5 minutes which was quite a quick time, the team then set a challenge for me to try and beat Or to the top, with me climbing the harder glacier face. So with the adrenaline pumped, off we set on the walls to large cheers and jeering from the guys. I got off to the quicker of the starts but as we reached the top we both really started struggling for pace. Having reached the Invisible Barrier, I thought I’d lost the game, but with a little bit of help from my guide who yanked on my abseiling rope, I managed to get over, but Or had pipped me at the post at the death! At the top, we had a moment were we celebrated the climb which was around 4 minutes, completely bemused by what we had just completed!
To complete the day, we then headed back to the Franz Josef Spa Resort which was a great way to relax our bodies after an action fuelled day.
Franz Josef Glacier Guides
Franz Josef Heli Hike
More Photography :
“The Photography Collection” by Antematters