15.03.2010 - 15.03.2010
Franz Josef is a really small place with just a couple of streets but it had literally everything anyone needs. One street with a gas station, a super market, the franz josef glacier guides and a couple of restaurants. The other street had a few motels and our backpacking hostel - The rain forest retreat.
You've gotta love the Kiwi sense of humor when it comes to funny ad lines.
"When it rains, we pour"
The first night, I met a few locals who had come over to play pool at the pub. We ended up playing for nearly 4 hours and it was great fun. There was a french couple - Nicole and Francois who kept challenging us and losing literally every time.
The next day, we were up early and reached the glacier guides stop by 8 AM. We were given all the required gear - rain coats, water proof trousers, huge boots with crampons and woolen socks and a woolen cap. All of us dressed up and got into the bus, and after a 15 minute drive, we reached the base of the glacier.
After a 15 minute walk, we could see the huge glacier in the distance. We were then separated into various groups based on fitness. Arun n me decided to stick to the fastest group. Our group leader was a huge guy named 'Dan'.
From where where we were standing, the glacier seemed to be just a few hundred meters away. But it was apparently an optical illusion and it was actually more than a couple of kilometers away. It took us nearly 45 minutes to get to the actual base of the glacier. There were quite a few waterfalls along the way.
At the base, Dan showed us how to put on our crampons and basic techniques for walking on the ice. And then we were off. It was initially difficult to walk with crampons on the rocks but once we got on the ice, they gave me amazing grip.
Our group was the fastest and we stuck to a good pace and soon we were far away from the others. The first real adventure was going through a really narrow crevice. There were blue walls of ice on both sides and it was really beautiful.
After a while, the crevice got narrower and narrower and our guide got stuck. He had to use his pick axe to make the opening a bit larger. While he was doing that, we were all huddled in the narrow crevice with nowhere to go. There was freezing cold water dripping down. After a while, it got really really cold and I was so glad I was wearing the waterproof trousers and jacket.
I had to hold my bag in one hand because I couldn't slide through when I was wearing it. We started wondering what if the glacier shifted even by a few inches, all of us could have been squashed like bugs. Thank goodness, we were with a guide who knew the glaciers better than anybody else. Soon, we were able to slide through the crevice and climb out on the other side.
After that we started climbing higher and higher. We had a stop for lunch on the ice and we ate our packed sandwiches. And the climbing resumed. The view got better and better and soon we could see the entire valley all the way to the sea on the west coast. And soon it was time to turn back.
At the highest point, we all did a victory shout of "Sweet As" and we started climbing down. Climbing down as a lot harder and we had to make sure we found a good grip before stepping down.
We found this really beautiful ice cave on the way where we stopped for taking some photographs.
And then, we had to slide down a narrow crevice.
Once we got to the bottom, we took off our crampons and walked down to the huge ice cave at the base of the glacier. Different parts of the glacier are moving at different speeds so the glacier keeps changing everyday. New crevices and caves are formed and the guides have to select a different path everyday. The general public is not allowed onto the glaciers without a guide because it is way too dangerous.