Outside polar regions, New Zealand has the highest percentage of glaciers in the world. You don’t need to be a mountain climber to enjoy simply travelling and exploring the Fox and Franz Glaciers. There are few places in the world that offer comparable views, you are surrounded by enormous glaciers while watching the sun set into the Tasman Sea. Trekking from hut to hut or simply doing day trips, you will be amazed.
The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers of Westland National Park
Would I recommend this trip ? Absolutely! A great adventure, with fantastic guides & something that I'm sure we'll be doing again.
Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are famous for the day walks that happen on the glacier terminus at the tourist township of Fox & Franz Josef. However, these glaciers are enormous rivers of ice and it is at the glacier’s higher elevations where the real action begins. Up against the largest peaks in New Zealand, Mt Cook & Mt Tasman, the snow accumulates hundreds of meters thick, turning to ice under pressure before it flows slowly to sea level. These vast oceans of snow & ice offer climbers and trekkers unparalleled opportunities to explore one of the worlds biggest glaciers. There are four huts in the area and many different options depending on ability, weather and snow conditions.
TRAVELLER'S TIP: It is a 3.5 hour drive from Wanaka to Fox Glacier. The drive takes you over the beautiful Haast Pass into the famous west coast of the South Island. If your New Zealand itinerary already includes a visit to the West Coast, why not incorporate the Fox to Franz Josef Trek into your plans?
If you are interested in learning some new skills this is a great trip to cover some basics of glacier travel such as:
Contact us for other dates.
You will be required to carry your personal clothing and sleeping bag as well as technical gear including ice axe, harness and crampons. No need to carry tents or cooking supplies. The glaciers can change radically depending on the time of year or weather conditions. Travel can vary from easy walking on smooth firm snow to soft breakable snow where going is much harder. Good balance is necessary with some crevasses travel requiring steady footing. Days can be varied to suit the group with plenty of room to push even the fittest of travelers.
Your guide will brief you on the necessary skills required. Cramponing and using your ice axe for self arrest will be practiced. There is no technical roped climbing required but sometimes a short rope or handline will be used to give you confidence. Abseiling or rappelling is sometimes needed depending on the time of year. The ice in this area is hundreds of feet thick and party members will be roped up for glacier travel whenever leaving the hut.
We usually meet at our office in Wanaka at 8:30 in the morning when we do a final check of your equipment and answer any last minute questions. We drive 3 hours to the small village of Fox where we load the helicopter and relocate to Pioneer Hut (2400m) at the head of the Fox Glacier. Your guide will instruct you on the safety aspects of glacier travel. The journey from the rain forest of the west coast to the world of massive glaciers is one that you will never forget.
We walk to Grey Peak, which takes us high up onto the very spine of the Southern Alps. Views of Mt Tasman and the eastern glaciers and lakes are a treat while we have lunch. Spectacular is an understatement for this area, with the views over the Tasman Sea, Mount Tasman (second highest peak in New Zealand) and the Tasman Glacier (largest glacier in New Zealand) you will remember this day forever.
We travel across the glacier to Centennial Hut. Navigating the crevassed ice fields is an experience you will never forget. There is one pass to get over with some tricky glacier travel involved. This is the country’s premier glacier walk, taking two of the country’s finest glaciers.
We will spend another night here at Centennial, so we either have a rest today, or take a day trip up to Graham Saddle for views of the Tasman Valley. Graham Saddle is the watershed for the Franz Joseph and Tasman glaciers providing views from one side of the South Island to the other.
Travel to Aylmer Hut brings us down to the top of the Franz icefall. The lower we get the more broken the ice becomes until it finally it turns into a broken cascade of tumbling ice. A helicopter rendezvous takes us back to Fox Township.
This video provides practical demonstration of the common equipment and clothing required for glacier hiking in New Zealand
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