Glacier hiking can be a soggy business, especially if it is raining the day of your hike. Armed with a jacket, hat and waterproof trousers, you’ll probably survive the day.
For the less geographically inclined, a glacier is a slowly moving mass or river of ice formed by the accumulation and compaction of snow on mountains or near the poles. As you can imagine, the worlds glaciers have been slowly retreating since the last ice age, and in many places there are only remnants of the once great ice features.
I conquered Franz Josef as my first glacier trek. The Franz Josef (Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere in Maori) is a 12km long glacier located on the West Coast of New Zealand’s out Island. Together with the 20km Fox Glacier to the south, it is unique in descending from the Southern Alps to less than 300 metres (980 ft) above sea level, amidst the greenery and lushness of a temperate rainforest. In other words, it is pretty easy to get to, and awesome to visit.
The story of the glaciers maori name is explained by the website glacier country;
The Maori name for the glacier is Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere (‘The tears of Hinehukatere‘). The legend of the Makawhio people (a sub tribe of the Nga Tahu) says that Hinehukatere was an extremely fit and fearless young woman who loved climbing in the mountains. She persuaded her lover, Wawe to climb with her. Wawe was less experienced but enjoyed accompanying his beloved.
Disaster struck when an avalanche swept Wawe from the peaks to his death. Hinehukatere was broken hearted and her many, many tears flowed down the mountain. The gods froze these tears in a river of ice and the glacier formed as a reminder of her grief.
If you are up for some fairly relaxed walking, the great outdoors and some fascinating landscapes, then exploring a glacier is probably for you. You can take guided and non guided tours up Franz Josef, though other glaciers may have tighter restrictions in place. I particularly enjoyed exploring arches and caves sculpted naturally into the formation, and exploring the steep valleys hewn into the ice sheets.
See you tomorrow,