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Helihike on Franz Josef Glacier PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 13 December 2006
Today we are going on a exciting helihike on the glacier with the Guiding Company.

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This unique helihiking tour includes an impressive 20-minute scenic helicopter flight above the town and the glacier of Franz Josef, followed by a 2-hour guided trek on the glacier.

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The Franz Josef Glacier was discovered in 1865 by German explorer Julius von Haast and was named after the Austrian emperor at that time.

Interestingly enough, whereas most glaciers are currently retreating i.e. the ice melts faster than it advances, the Franz Josef Glacier has actually entered into an advancing phase back in 1984 and has been advancing ever since. On a larger scale though, the glacier has been retreating since the last ice age. It is the most dynamic glacier in the world.

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The weather today is a bit cloudy and warm and promises some stunning views up in the air as well as on the glacier. Before hopping onto the helicopter, our professional glacier guide for the morning, Petr, provides us with some professional equipment i.e. wool socks, footwear, rain jacket & ice crampons to ensure a safe and comfortable experience on the glacier. He also gives us some basic safety tips with regards to helicopters.

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Our helicopter pilot Jamie welcomes us on board. Once our headsets on and seat belts fastened, we are set to take off and reach the skies high above the town and the glacier. What an incredible feeling! On top of the unforgettable helicopter experience, the flight gives us a unique chance to observe the glacier valley, rain forest and Tasman sea from an original point of view. Jamie treats us to a couple of heart stopping moments which makes the flight a real attraction, besides the amazing scenery that lies in front of us.

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While gently scaring us, Jamie also gives us a bit of information about the glacier. Most of us find it hard to both concentrate on the marvellous landscapes and on Jamie's explanations while fearing a possible heart attack! ;-)

After a soft landing on the glacier, Petr helps us strap on our ice crampons to our boots. As the Franz Joseph Glacier is constantly on the move, the place is changing one day after another, creating new dramatic and gorgeous formations for us to enjoy. This also means that each hike is a new adventure consisting in the search and exploration of phenomenal pinnacles, ice walls and caves. As we make our way through the ice, Petr sometimes comes to a halt to dig out some steps in the ground using the emblematic ice axe. The group is small -a maximum of 10 people for one guide- and makes the hike a pleasant one.

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Petr has been working as a guide on the Franz Josef Glacier for the past couple of years and knows the place like the back of his hand. Despite the changing environment, we quickly find ourselves standing in front of some unreal ice formations.

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Petr also takes a bit of time to give us a better understanding of the science and Maori beliefs behind the glacier. Before it was discovered in 1865, the glacier was known to Maoris as "Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere", which translates to "Tears of the tears of the Avalanche Girl". "Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere" refers to some Maori legend according to which the glacier was formed from the frozen tears of a girl that has lost her beloved one in a tragic accident while climbing one of the local peaks.

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The hike goes for roughly 2 hours and gets quite fun along the way. While adventuring through the glacier, we successively climb through crevices and amazing blue ice caves and over glacial pools. We feel very lucky to have this opportunity and get a real sense of the scale of the glacier. Frustratingly for us, we feel like the photos do not seem to do it justice!

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The Guiding Company offers a variety of trek packages, depending on how long you attend to stay in Franz Josef. Do not hesitate to check their website for some more information about their deals and treks. Its 3-hour helihike activity definitely appeared to us as a lifetime and priceless experience. Don't pass up the opportunity to go experience it yourselves!

The Guiding Company
Alpine Adventure Centre
State Highway 6
Franz Josef Township
New Zealand
Booking freephone: 0800 800 102 (from NZ only)
Phone: +64 3 752 0047
Fax: +64 3 752 0049
e-mail: bookings@nzguides.co.nz
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Last Updated ( Sunday, 31 December 2006 )
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