Franz Joseph is a 12km long glacier located on the West coast of the South Island. Named after an Austrian Emporer by the German explorer, Julius von Haast in 1865. Myself and four others from the Kiwi experience bus forked out a small fortune to hike it in style and fly to a third of the way up the glacier by helicopter, hike for two hours then get picked up again by the helicopter. While others from the bus hiked for 8 hours and didn't even reach the parts we were exploring.
I was slightly apprehensive because I didn't know what to expect from the glacier and had never flown in a helicopter before, so it was all new to me. Once we were kitted out in all the hiking gear we were led to the helicopter and myself and Anastassja climbed into the front seats and were told to place on some headphones. Through the headphones the pilot could tell us a little bit about the glacier and it's surrounding but I could hardly hear him through the noise of the helicopter. We flew over the glacier and it looked magnificent. The shapes that the ice had formed were so unusual and it looked completely out of this world. It was so hard to grasp the size of these ice formations from the helicopter as they all looked tiny but when we were hiking through it, most of them were larger than us.
The helicopter flight felt so light and a little bit unsafe! But it was amazing and definately worth the money. When I went to get out I forgot to take the headphones off, great start to the day, and nearly ripped them out of the socket! We were given crampons to attatch to our boots, these were metal spikes to help us walk on the ice. A bit difficult to get used to at first but after a while I relied on them to feel safe as some of the crevasses in the ice were thousands of metres deep. It terrified me that a slip of the foot could get you wedged in a crevass with only one guide to help! The guide was cool, not only because he was just in shorts and t-shirt and we were all in about 4 layers, but he seemed to really love his job. He led the way with a pick axe to mould the ice so it was easier for us to walk on. There were small holes in the ice, called moulins, where water escapes to form the river at the bottom of Franz Joseph. In some places the ice had formed incredible shapes and after Tex (the guide) had checked them out we were allowed to climb through the holes and tiny spaces to get some awesome pictures.
We had brilliant sunshine while we hiked but as we headed back to the heli-pad the clouds came over and only then did it dawn on me how high we were. The clouds couldn't have been more than twenty metres above our heads, it was really bizarre.