A helicopter ride and a glacier hike!

Trip Start Oct 01, 2012
Trip End Oct 01, 2015

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Flag of New Zealand  , West Coast,
Friday, March 22, 2013

We left greymouth early again and began our journey towards franz Joseph.
Thankfully the bus journey was short and we arrived around lunch time.
We didn't have any time to check in to our hostel as we were booked onto a trip called ice explorer, a helicopter flight over a glacier, landing on the glacier, a hike through and then a helicopter flight back to the town again.
We were extremely excited- a helicopter flight is something I have wanted to do forever.
As we drove towards franz Joseph the clear blue sky we'd woken up to this morning was getting more and more cloudy so we weren't holding out much hope.
We went to the office and were told to get our equipment on and then head to the helipad where we'd be told whether or not we could go up there. The franz Joseph glacier is now only accessible by helicopter as a few years ago part of the front section collapsed. We got our equipment, crampons, boots, waterproof trousers, jacket, hats and gloves and made our way to the helipad. We had a brief safety briefing of how to get in and out of helicopters and then had to wait for our helicopter. We were shocked and so happy when a helicopter landed on the helipad in front of us and we were told to get on, I got the front seat next to the driver and had an amazing view of the surrounding mountains as we took off and headed towards the glacier. It was a strange experience being in the helicopter, the take off was so smooth we weren't exactly sure when we had left the ground. As we flew alongside the mountains you could feel the wind move the helicopter from side to side, after 2 or 3 minutes we rounded a corner and caught our first sight of the franz Joseph glacier, the closest glacier to sea level in the world. It was spectacular as it filled the valley between the two mountain sides, both of which were covered with green trees, it was quite a surreal sight.
Before we knew our first flight was over and we were landing onto the ice, the landing was just as soft as the take off and felt more like we were landing onto a pillow.
We walked nervously onto the ice and made our way to the safe area a little away from the helicopter where we put on our crampons. Then it was time to head off. Our guide - Sam - a tiny Indian guy with the worlds biggest thigh muscles practically ran across the glacier as we all struggled to keep up. After a little while we were faced with huge crevasses and began to weave our way through the bright blue ice walls which towered above us. We went down into caves and squeezed through gaps big enough only to shimmy through sideways. The hike took around 3 hours and at every turn we were left awe struck. Our guide told us that the glacier is advancing around 1.5m every day and that because of global warming it wouldn't exist in 90 years time. The mountains that surround the glacier would also be the highest mountain range in the world if it didn't erode so fast growing in height by around 20mm a year but eroding the same amount.
Before we knew it we were back at the heli pad waiting for our lift back down, this time I sat in the back with tai and enjoyed the flight from a totally different perspective, about half way during the flight the door on ours and the drivers side suddenly clicked open- through our headsets we were told not to worry as it wouldnt open any further until we came in to land, as we did it opened fully but thankfully we weren't sucked out or anything.
It had been an incredible experience not only had we flown in a helicopter we'd also walked amongst a glacier, it was yet another thing we could tick off the bucket list!
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