Friday, November 3, 2006

Glacier Adventure

So everyone who's been to New Zealand says to go visit Fransz Josef Glacier. Climb it, they say. Of course Chi and I wanting to do that and more, decided to do the big full day glacier hike, spending some 6+ hours on the Ice. It should be good, yeah?

It started pretty well. We both had our own gear, and used it except for the boots and crampons (metal spikes that strap onto your shoes to get extra grip on ice). Got on the bus and headed over. It was slightly cloudy and a bit on the chilly side, but a nice day. The sun even came out for our walk to the glacier face.

Thigns started going south soon as we got onto the ice tho. As we were strapping on our spikes a slow drizzle started. The air got colder (ok so we were surrounded by 100 million tons of ice, but still!) and low, grey cloud drifted in.

We slowly made our way up the ice. It was getting colder and colder, and wetter and wetter. There was very little pretty blue ice like I'd seen in the pictures, mainly coz there was no sun to speak of, and secondly because there was a lot of mud and rocks around. Every now and then there was a very pretty ice crevasse or cave or something, but it was rare indeed.

After about the 3 hour mark the rain got heavier. Very heavy drops... like melted snowflakes... I asked the guide if it ever snowed in November around here.. "never" he said. But sure enough, about five minutes later, big fat snowflakes started drifting down. Pretty soon it was snowing quite heavily.

By this stage I was wet and miserable, and my hands were getting numb. So numb infact that I couldn't even adjust my crampons when they got loose. When we finally reached the top and stopped for "lunch" it was grey, wet and we really couldn't see very far. My lunch had also frozen solid, so I was even less happy! :(

After some stuffing around up top (I think the paths were getting slippery coz of the extra snow) we decided to turn back. We painfully truged back down over the next few hours, with me losing feeling in both hands halfway to my elbows! yay! So much fun!

Eventually got back to the hostel and stuck my arms in warm water for 20 mins before any feeling came back. Wow what an adventure.

To make things worse, the next day it was perfectly clear, blue sky and much warmer. Not happy.

So, lessons learned? Don't book Franz Josef treks beforehand. Go there and check the weather and book only if the conditions are good. It's brilliant when the conditions are good, and miserable when they aren't.

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