Thursday, December 9, 2004

Franz Josef Glacier, NZ

2004 December: Half-day trip - Climb Franz Josef Glacier - New Zealand

After this walk, I decided I would like to climb Aconcagua. More about this later.

First, the blog:

Arrived at Franz Josef township just in time to join the afternoon climbing tour to the Franz Josef Glacier. The tour duration was supposed to be 4 hours. But half an hour each way was taken by a shuttle bus from the town to the Glacier carpark. Another hour each way was taken up by walking from the carpark to the mouth of the Glacier, leaving only an hour for the actual climb.

This was the first time I used a crampon and walked on a glacier. The experience was fantastic; and I cursed myself for not taken the whole-day tour which would allow us to climb higher up the Glacier.

However, at the end of the 4-hour trip, my leg muscles were very tired and sore. Just as well I didn't take the whole day tour ... I wouldn't be able to last that long. And suddenly I felt old, really really old. Looking around the shuttle bus that took us back to the town, I noticed the other people in the tour were all much younger.

Only 4 hours ago I felt young and energetic and so eager to join the tour. Now 4 hours later, so much had changed. I had suddenly become an old man.

This realization caused me to re-think about life's priorities. Prior to the NZ trip, my hobby was chess. Now I wanted to see more of the world before I became too old to travel. In particular, I would like to see the part of the world where an old man couldn't get to, like mountain tops. Cities like Paris and Rome can wait. Whereas summits can't wait as I wouldn't know when my body would pack up and can't climb anymore.

A Google search soon revealed that Argentina's Aconcagua is probably the highest non-technical peak one can climb. So now the die is cast ... Aconcagua watch out. I'm coming!!!


1)  This is the shuttle bus that will take us to the starting point of the walk. The woman in red will be our guide for the afternoon.

2)  The Franz Josef Glacier is in the distance. Near its mouth, it is a bit dirty looking. But the further up you are, the cleaner the glacier becomes.

3)  Closer to the glacier

4)  Climbing up

5)  Typical path up the glacier

6)  At times, it can be like a maze.

7)  Me on the glacier

8)  A New Zealand Kea, the world's only alpine parrot ~~~
The kea has a notorious urge to explore and to manipulate which make this bird a pest for residents and an attraction for tourists. Called "the clown of the mountains", it will investigate backpacks, boots, skis, snowboards, and even cars, often causing damage or flying off with smaller items.

9)  Our guide

10)  This is the highlight of the trip - walking through a crevasse in the glacier. This glacier is supposed to move quite fast - can be up to 70 cm a day. I didn't ask what would happen if the crevasse suddenly closed up while we were walking through it. The less I know the more peaceful the mind!

11)  Climbing down now

12)  Climbing down

After the glacier climb, the night is spent in a motel in the Franz Josef township. The next day is to drive back to Christchurch via Hokitika and Arthur's Pass.

13)  Passing through Arthur's Pass ~~~ beautiful scenery !

14)  Passing through Arthur's Pass ~~~ beautiful scenery !!!


  1. Hi Paul, I walked on this glacier in 1976. Here's a photo of me on the glacier at the top of Mt Cook taken January 1992. You can see in the background how I got there ;-)


  2. Err; that photo didn't come out. Does your site allow image posting by guests?


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