Today we got up ready to walk to the Franz Josef Glacier Guide's office at 9am for our full day glacier hike. We got given all the gear to wear like jackets, trousers, hats, gloves, socks and boots. We also got given crampons which we have to wear on the glacier. Once we had all the gear on we got on the bus and were taken to the car park of the Westland National Park. The Franz Josef is a 12 kilometre long glacier located in Westland National Park. It's unique because it descends from the Southern Alps to less than 300 metres above sea level amidst the temperate rainforest. One of only three in the world to do so. The glacier terminates 19 kilometres from the Tasman Sea. It's fed by a 20 square metre bowl of snow high in the Southern Alps. It frequently advances and retreats due to climate and melt water at the foot of the glacier. Strong snowfall where the glacier descends from makes the glacier one of the few in the country that continues to grow, at times as much as 70 centimetres per day. However, it is believed that the glacier reached all the way to the sea some 10,000 years ago meaning that overall the glacier has strunk. From the car park we had to walk 45 minutes to the start of the glacier. Once we were near we had to attach the crampons to our boots. They help to provide grip on the ice but feel really strange to walk on. We were put into 4 groups of 10 people depending on how confident we felt on the ice. I went in the slow group with Nicole and Gina and Jo went in a faster group. We hiked to the very top of the glacier with our guide step cutting our path in the ice. It was very steep and hard work but a great feeling when we got to the top. We then hiked all the way down again. This was the hardest part of the day trying not to fall over as it was very steep downhill. We started the hike at 10am and finished at 6pm only stopping 20 minutes for lunch. It was a long day. My feet were killing me and I got really bad blisters on both of the backs of my feet. Even though we were shattered and aching, it was the most spectacular and challenging glacial terrain imaginable. We even got taken into the most spectacular ice falls and through a wonderland of towering pinnacles and brilliantly blue ice. It was an amazing experience. When we got back to the hostel we had dinner in the bar with Jo and Nicole and then chilled out in the evening using the internet for a bit.