June 6, 2014

Franz Josef, New Zealand

Jun 2008

It is far easy to get to Franz Josef by a flight from Queenstown.

This Alpine town in South Island of New Zealand has three slightly long streets and the awesome Franz Josef Glacier in the hills at the distant horizon. 

Franz Josef Village

You guessed it right.  The glacier was named after the Austrian Emperor by German explorer Julius von Haast in XIX century.   The locals have a more appropriate name: Tears of Hinehukatere.   The glacier, seemingly, is the flow of tears from a young climber who lost her lover in the course of a climb.  One can see the glacier in the horizon from anywhere in the town.  One can walk on a long trek to the glacier.

Franz Josef Village:  Glacier in the horizon

We did it differently.  We were comfortably hauled up to the glacier in a helicopter.  The heli-hike started with a gentle rise through lush rain forests, gaining height to get the first glimpse of a static river of snow.  As the copter got nearer and nearer, the glacier grew in size all around us and eventually surrounded us in all directions as a sea of tall, silent and impressive white rocks. 

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier:  Ice rocks

When you are atop a glacier, you are a tiny creature surrounded on all sides by rocky ice.  You soon lose your sense of space and direction.  You do not hear any sound; not even the faint rustle of a leaf in the distance or the distant bark of a dog.

Atop Franz Josef Glacier

We had to trek for for the next ninety minutes on rocky ice terrrain, climbing up, climbing down, choosing a path of least discomfiture and avoiding thin surfaces that can break into a puddle of slushy water.  Our guide repeatedly asked us to trust our equipment (the spikes in our shoes and the two pick axes each of us had) and asked us to confidently stride in the terrain.  It became easier after we understood how to get a “fix” on the terrain with the two pick axes and use them to arrest a fall and take cautious baby steps forward.  

AFter the trek

Ever imagined one sweating profusely in sub zero temperatures?  After an hour’s hike, I did.  As with all new and adventurous undertakings, we were engulfed with delight (that it was over) and sadness (that it was over); but the sight of our return ride coming to pick us up was a relief.

After the real stuff, our second daughter decided to learn climbing up in snow in the Glacier Center in the town.  

Glacier Center

Brian, the New Zealander, who had many climbs to his credit, taught her the ropes in a more controlled environment.

Training in climbing

Closer to the top

With the help of an elevator, we were there at the indoor summit when she reached the top the hard way; and we all enjoyed our well deserved cups of hot chocolate!


  1. The photographs are breathtaking! The experience must have been one unforgettable journey! Loved reading the history of the place. Looking forward to a great reading pleasure on this site TRS!

  2. ...we were engulfed with delight (that it was over) and sadness (that it was over) and the joy is ours now. Thank you.


Please leave your comments here.