"Explore Franz Josef Glacier" West Coast Things to Do Tip by Kakapo2
West Coast Things to Do: 30 reviews and 93 photos
Update April 2012
As Franz Josef glacier is receding, it is currently not possible to hike up to the glacier via the terminal face. This means that the "normal" walks are not on offer. Instead Glacier Guides have decided to avoid the unstable terminal face altogether and access the glacier by helicopter. This does not only raise tourists to the ice but also prices through the roof. The 4 hour Ice Explorer trip costs NZ$ 265 per person now (255 for children from 8 to 16 years) - which is unaffordable for many people.
All other options (heli hike etc.) are far more expensive than that. The only affordable option is the valley walk at NZ$ 66.50 - but this is still expensive given that you do not get onto the ice. The price includes a DVD... ;-))
Prices are valid until 30 September 2013.
In the past I surely have preferred Franz Josef as my glacier hike option but as Fox Glacier is still accessible from the side after a riverside and rainforest walk I would surely recommend it for people who do not want to break the bank. The half day Foxtrot walk costs NZ$ 109 (as April 2012). And you do not have to bear the excessive helicopter noise that has degraded Franz Josef already before the addition of the helicopter shuttle walk.
If you are no expert you should only walk to the terminal face of the glacier on your own. Actually the Department of Conservation (DOC) even discourage tourists from doing this. To walk on the glacier itself you need talons, and as the tracks can change and new crevasses appear it is also good to have a guide who leads the way and cares about safety measures.
You can choose between just walking up the glacier (which, of course, is a lot cheaper) on half or full-day tours or heli-hiking - which means that you are flown onto the glacier and walk two hours in higher areas. Although it looks much closer it takes about one and half hours to walk to the terminal face.
You get all the special equipment, leather boots, woollen socks, overtrousers and raincoats from the company at no extra cost. A bus transports you to the carpark where the 90 mins walk to the terminal face starts. If you are on your own do not miss the Sentinel Rock Walk at the start. It is just a little detour up a hill (20 mins return perhaps) and offers nice views over the valley.
If you go for the guided glacier walk, the guides try to find out the fitness levels of the big group and split it up, so the fittest people get up to quite a high level of the glacier. There are some guys who do nothing but quarry stairs into the snow and ice with their axes and shovels, so even steep climbing sections are not too difficult to manage, and there are also ropes attached to the ice walls where you get hold. Be prepared to crawl through ice-tubes... Gloves are recommended because the walls can be rough, and you will note that you can get quite wet when it is warm because the ice is melting faster.
It is great to do the glacier walks in winter because normally it rains less on the Coast in this season. The walks also take place when it rains, not too many are cancelled. You do not need too many layers of clothes because you get warm when walking ;-) The guides do wear shorts even in winter.
Photo 2: Start of the walk at the terminal face.
Photo 3: A hiking group on the glacier. Guide in shorts... ;-)
Photo 4: Inside a narrow crevasse in the old blue ice.
Photo 5: Further up on the glacier.
Address: Franz Josef
Directions: Glacier Guides is right on the main road, next to the petrol station.
Carpark for unguided walks to the terminal face: coming from the township turn left after the bridge.
othercontact: Helicopter Line (0800) 807 767
Phone: (0800) 484 337, (03) 752 0763
More Things to Do in West Coast (19)
More Reviews (48)
- See All A totally unfunny Comedy
- See All The WET Coast and Rain Readings
- See All Step into a Fairy-Tale on Minnehaha Walk...
- See All The Most Beautiful Maori Carvings and...
Kakapo2's Related Pages
Have you been to West Coast?Share Your Travels
Top West Coast hotels
- Hokitika Hotels
- 75 Reviews - 195 Photos
- Greymouth Hotels
- 37 Reviews - 89 Photos
- Fox Glacier Hotels
- 82 Reviews - 354 Photos
- Franz Josef Glacier Hotels
- 127 Reviews - 397 Photos
- Reefton Hotels
- 3 Reviews - 10 Photos
- Punakaiki Hotels
- 24 Reviews - 94 Photos
- Okarito Hotels
- See nearby hotels
- Haast Hotels
- 26 Reviews - 70 Photos
- Charleston Hotels
- 3 Reviews - 1 Photo
- Westport Hotels
- 30 Reviews - 50 Photos