Thursday, July 1, 1999

Franz Josef Glacier hike

The glacier was amazing, and walking on it was very cool indeed. The sun beat down and warmed us - except our hands, which got cold with every loss of balance. The hobnail boots kept us feeling our way carefully and treading in the steps of those gone immediately before and years ago.


Approaching the glacier's terminal face, the ice just melts away and sometimes breaks off in large icefalls. Climbing up the glacier just above the terminal face, it's evident that the ice is truly flowing.

Atop the glacier, above the face, we could look out towards the Tasman Sea, just 15-20 kilometers away!

Crevasses lead to the edge of the ice, where the mountains start. We could also see the bottom of an icefall farther up the glacier. The ice follows the same contours as the land below it, so at steep sections of land far below, the ice falls and separates, creating many crevasses.

Cracks in the ice eventually widen and deepen, creating amazing under-ice spaces, sometimes like the cavern described by Joe Simpson in his book, Touching the Void.

We got to crawl through a crevasse, which involved taking off all our backpacks and squeezing through a tight space, getting soaked in the process. (Thanks to the guiding company for the waterproof jacket!)

There were deep holes in the ice, through which I felt I could drop a stone to the very bottom of the glacier valley, at least a kilometer below me. And then there were holes barely beginning to form, with just a little water seeping into it, eroding the ice...