Glacier Country is one of the most beautiful places in New Zealands south island. If you’re coming to Franz Josef on the West Coast, you’re probably planning to visit the glacier. And what better way to enjoy this fascinating ice world than to step foot right on the glacier itself via a heli hike.
Well we did it and it was pretty damn cool! Booked with the Franz Josef Glacier Guides, these guys are experienced, safety trained and most importantly, pretty crazy. It’s a unique opportunity to get yourself up close and personal with a glacier without going on an epic mountain trek.
Here we share:
- All the essentials
- The schedule
- What to wear
- What to bring
- Our experience
We’ll get to the necessary stuff first:
(info as of 2017)
You’ve got 2 options. First is the heli hike which is what we did. This’ll cost you $459pp. Second is the ice climb. This option is a bit more challenging and will cost you $575pp.
For more information about the ice climb head over here, where they’ll provide you with loads of details.
Our tour lasted roughly 4 hours. We met at the center at 8:45am and returned around 1:15pm. Once you get there, it takes an hour to check you in, get you briefed and in the helicopter. Most of this time is spent getting all your gear on.
Once your all dressed it’s about a 5/10 minute walk through the bush to where the helipads are.
What to wear
They provide you with:
- A small bag
- Gloves if needed
- A free hat.
They recommend 2-3 warm layers under the coat they provide. I easily get hot and sweaty and found a t shirt and hoodie was way too many layers for me. On a clear sunny day, a long sleeve t shirt should be plenty.
You can take the coat off and, as long as you haven’t got way too many things in your bag, it will just about fit inside.
Our main piece of advice is, do not wear jeans! Some comfy trousers like leggings or shorts are great. I’m pretty sure they won’t let you wear jeans anyway.
What to bring
You will need:
- Sun cream
- A small snack
You can take a big camera if you want to but it’s best not to take the bag. Use the strap and hang it around your neck. You’ll be wanting to take photos all the time anyway.
There is a cafe in the lobby where you can get water and a snack. Just don’t buy something too big because it’ll need to fit into your bag!
As well as all the gear, you also get free access to the hot pools after your hike. You don’t have to use them straight away though if you don’t want to. We went back later in the evening after dinner.
Once you arrive you’ll need to sign the h&s form and get yourself weighed. They’ll give you some information and make sure what you’re wearing is suitable. It’s all pretty standard, just try and pay attention to the crampon demo. Trust me, when you’re on the ice it’ll be loads easier to get them on.
The helicopter ride was pretty much a highlight for me. I’d never been in one before and you get such an awesome view of the glacier from up there. I was lucky and managed to get a seat in the front with another tiny person. It just depends on the weight distribution for safety reasons.
Somehow the pilot manages to land the thing in some invisible, camouflaged pad, right on the ice… pretty impressive!
The walk itself gets pretty mundane after a while, probably 2 hours would have been enough for me. There’s plenty of photo opportunities and some great views. The rest is walking, or more like awkward shuffling, in single file with little much else going on. By the third hour, I was a little bored. Perhaps this had something to do with being on a trip with a bunch of honeymooners… or maybe it’s just a bit crap.
On the plus side, I’m not sure where else you can experience something like this. While the walk may get tedious towards the end, the views are epic and the fact that your on a glacier? That chance probably wont ever come around again.
Thanks for reading, share if you like!