The weather just wasn’t improving so we knew that our much anticipated Franz Josef heli-hike was on dangerous ground. We had been warned that they often have to cancel if the weather is bad, so we sort of expected it as we walked into the office at 7.30 for our potential adventure. They had a slot for us the next day in the hope it would clear and we would be able to give it a go.
We enjoyed some free wifi for a bit before mooching around in Franz Josef and heading for the small town of Fox, about 30 kms away from Franz Josef. Fox is also a glacier town but we headed to the area to see the famous Lake Matheson, known for its mirror like reflections of Mount Cook. Obviously the low cloud that had prevented the heli hike also prevented the iconic reflection but we did get a few moments of still to enjoy the glass-like lake.
Matt keeps saying I look like ‘outdoors Barbie’ in my hiking shoes and wind coat- I don’t appreciate it much but I do love the comfort of sports wear, maybe I will take this love for Lycra home with me. We had intermittent showers on our hike around the lake, but we enjoyed being outside and doing a bit of exercise nonetheless. The gift shop was pretty lovely and we got some lovely post cards of local artwork to frame at home.
The next day the weather was a little brighter but still too much cloud to safely heli hike. It was cancelled yet again. We took straight off for the Franz Josef car park in the hope we could get a spot to do the 2 hour hike through the glacially-formed mountains to an area close-ish to the glacier. The car park was already rammed but we were fortunate to find a spot quickly and head off for an adventure.
The walk was easy mainly, the only problem was that the heavy rains had taken out the bridge crossing the stream. My extremely in-nimble feet traversed rocks across the stream nervously, and eventually one of the park keepers in wellies took pity on me and gave me a hand to the other side. It was worth the effort- careering waterfalls littered the mountain sides and lush greenery covered large expanses. There was loads of cool stuff to spot including some sections of exposed ice and obvious rock scratching showing glacial movement. My GCSE geography skills were on point.
The bit I found really awesome was the wind chill off the ice. The weather was fairly warm so I hiked most of the way in just a singlet, but as soon as we reached the more open section below the glacier the temperature plummeted. I was shocked to read about recent deaths on this walking track as tourists wanting that perfect photo strayed off the designated route and were crushed by tonnes of falling ice and rocks- absolutely not worth the risk. Park rangers scope the tracks every day for loose areas of rock and have to change the path markings daily to keep visitors safe- such a reminder of power in the activity of the terrain in this area.
We got some cool snaps before heading back to the car and hitting the road for another stunning scenic drive. We must have stopped ten times for photo stops!