Today we arrived in Franz Josef, a sleepy little town at the base of an enormous glacier. I booked a full day hike on the Franz Josef glacier, so after grabbing a bite to eat and doing a bit of prep-work for the day ahead, it was off to bed. The next morning started bright and early, and to my surprise (and extreme gratitude) the sun was shining! The forecast had called for rain, and after weeks in the cold and wet weather, the idea of spending the entire day hiking in rain was not exactly one that I met with enthusiasm. After eating a solid breakfast, I met up with the rest of the crew, and headed down to the guide company to prep for our hike. After a brief overview of the day ahead, we were outfitted with crampons, boots, rain pants, and jackets, then hopped on the bus and took off toward the glacier!
The first 45 minutes were spent walking along the valley floor, surrounded by the towering mountains and the numerous waterfalls running off their faces. The view was spectacular, and would only continue to get better as the day progressed. Once we reached the base of the glacier, we stopped to strap on our crampons and test our skill at walking on ice. Led by our guide (carrying a pick axe and shaping the trail as we walked) we made our way out onto the glacier. The next several hours were spent hiking, crawling, and generally exploring the ice and all of its’ varying features. The deep blue ice was breath taking, and truly an experience that I won’t forget.
If you do ever make it to Franz Josef, make sure you book the full day hike. A lot of people fear that this will be too much work, or that they simply aren’t in shape for a full day of hiking, but trust me when I tell you that you can do it. If you do opt for the half day tour, you will spend most of the morning walking in the valley, then will find yourself sorely disappointed after realizing that the tour has to turn around shortly after you finally step foot on the glacier.