9. West Coast Glaciers

One of my main objectives in going back to the west coast on this trip was to go for a climb on one of the glaciers. There are two glaciers in this region. To the south there is Fox Glacier, and around 15km or so to the north is Franz Josef. Each has its own company that offers a range of guided hikes around and onto the glaciers. I chose Franz Josef glacier rather arbitrarily, and only later discovered the various advertising to entice people to go to either one or the other.

On the way in I turned off at Fox Glacier township to take a look at the area around Lake Matheson. Lake Matheson is a well known postcard spot for views of the mountains across flat reflective water. It was my intention to go there for a sunset and/or a sunrise, and I took a bit of time just to case out where it was and the walking times needed to get to the vantage points.

Lake Matheson Area

Franz Josef Glacier

I took a half day glacier walk, and after being all kitted out with equipment, we were shipped off in a bus to the carpark near the glacier. From then there was close on an hour of walking to get to the base of the glacier. Some of this was just in open tracks, and some was climbing over rocks and up the hillside. The guide company had installed ladders in the difficult sections though, so overall it was fairly routine.

Franz Josef Glacier

Along the walk there are some streams to cross, and passed this quite substantial waterfall. It's an area where there's lots of water around.

Waterfall, Franz Josef

On Ice

Once getting up close, the scale of the ice of the glacier became magnified. This huge ice cave at the glacier face is a massive structure. It's eventually going to break off though, so I wasn't about to get too close to it....

Franz Josef Glacier Edge

The glacier guiding business is a big one, and there are a lot of people out on the ice at any given time. Starting later in the afternoon, I was in quite a small group of about a dozen, but we passed some much larger groups returning back from their walks. Here we see one such group climbing back down the steps that have been cut into the ice.

Climbers, Franz Josef

A Foreign World

The beauty in the glacier is in the formations of the ice, and the way that the natural forces have carved out a sculpture. Though in some cases, I do wonder if the glacier tour companies help nature out a bit with a chainsaw to get the interesting formations happening at the lower reaches of the glacier. In any case, the totally foreign landscape, together with the sound an feel made it a unique experience.

Glacier Ice Formation

Next Page... Lake Matheson