Glacier hikes

Jan 3rd, 2005, 02:29 AM
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Glacier hikes

I'm undecided between Fox and Franz Josef glaciers for the glacier hike.

Thinking of doing the Fox full day or Franz Josef half day ('cos Franz Josef hikes is more expensive than Fox hikes). Anyone can advise on the details and experiences, and recommend which option to take?

Besides, which glacier offers better opportunity and ease for unguided walks near the glacier or to the terminal face?
Chenoa is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2005, 07:33 AM
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Both glaciers offer easy hikes to the terminal face (probably 20-30 minutes each way). I did not take a guided hike, but it looks like they take the same route, they just take you actually onto the terminal face ice.
The face of the glacier does change (I am not really sure how fast), but having walked to both in late November, Fox was much more interested (having a cave and river running through it), but I would think that Franz Josef would have been much easier to walk on.
jonesie is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2005, 10:54 AM
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I went to Franz Josef and took a helicopter up to the top and then went ice climbing for a few hours. This was in July 2003 so it was chilly but not too bad. I had a fabulous time. I thought the town of Franz Josef was very quaint and for a night or two you will not be bored. I only drove through Fox Josef and it also looked nice but I didn't stay there so I couldn't really say. I really enjoyed FJ!
Abby43 is offline  
Jan 4th, 2005, 03:28 AM
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Hi Jonesie and Abby,
The 1/2 or full day guided hike will let you walk on the ice. I enquired with the guiding companies and they mentioned that the terrain for both glaciers are very different. Since Franz Josef is advancing, it's also steeper and more interesting than Fox which is retreating. However, I have heard that the Franz Josef hike is physically more demanding (perhaps due to its terrain). I'm quite worried how well I fit into the hike requirements. I also wonder if a 1/2day at Franz Josef will be more rewarding than a full day in Fox in terms of seeing more different forms of ice as that's how it's being advertised.
Chenoa is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2005, 05:16 AM
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I don't mean to put a damper on glacier hikes, but people should be alerted to its possible dangers.

Around March 15, a 52 yr old Englishman was killed when he fell down a deep crevice on a Franz Josef hike. I don't know any more details.

I guess the lesson is to take appropriate care in any hazardous situation.
Jed is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2005, 12:03 PM
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I did a full day hike in Franz Josef. I will never do that again. The walk and views were all that and more, but you better be in prime physical shape. 1/2 a day hike would still given me the same views and picture ops and I would not have to deal with my body aches for 3-4 days after.

Our huge group was split up into 3 smaller groups once we climbed the side mountain to the top of the terminal face.

Our guide was great. He went out of the way to find tunnels and if needed he opened some up. He also carved stairs when needed. That young man earned his living that day. The difference between the 1/2 day and a full day? You get to the same elevation but with a full day you go exploring around and around and around and up and down, etc. There were some scary moments, at least for me. You do walk along edges of deep crevices.and if you have any fear of heights, this will definitely give you the willies.

As Jed said above. It does seem dangerous at times and they did have the accident just recently. BUT he wasn't part of any tour. He was a very experienced ice climber doing some climbing on his own. As the guide explained it to me he actually was trying to avoid a tour or something like that and that's when he lost control. There were many other ice climbers and guides nearby, so they did get him out fairly quick and he was still alive but died on the helicopter on the way to the hospital. His helmet was cracked open. He sustained very heavy head injuries. It was a freak accident. The tours had not lost anybody for about 10 years now, although broken bones and pulled muscles, cuts- some major, some minor(I had couple) do happen

Can't tell you anything about Fox Glacier.

AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2005, 08:59 PM
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I've done the Fox Glacier 1/2-day guided hike, with my 6-yr-old daughter and 9-yr-old son. We all did just fine, although the approach climb was hard, working our way along a longish traverse of the valley wall before emerging onto the glacier surface. The guided hike includes hobnailed boots, instep crampons, and alpenstocks. On the glacier, these were all essential, but on the rocky approach hike, the hobnail boots were a bit of a liability, as they skittered and slid on rocky surfaces.

Overall, a worthwhile experience, and one I would do again, but... I too felt that there was not enough attention paid to safety. They let my little (although admittedly feisty) daughter jump across crevasses without any protection (i.e. ropes). She and I also made the foolish mistake of wearing shorts, and both of us slid on the rough ice surface, scraping up our legs. If we had been wearing long pants, these minor slips would have been inconsequential.

Bottom Line: Its worth doing, but be careful. Don't assume that just because it is a guided tour, there are no worries.
ALF is offline  
Apr 24th, 2005, 05:33 AM
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Do the helihikes have as much exposure to the large crevices and dangers as the walk-up hikes? We're hoping to take the helihike. Thanks.
Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Apr 24th, 2005, 09:52 AM
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i can't answer about the other hikes but we did do a helihike on FJ in 2001. i think it's very doable and didn't think it was dangerous. about all that could have happened was slipping on the ice. i don't remember seeing large crevices, tho we were there when a piece of glacier calved. whoo!

hope you have a couple of days in FJ or Fox. the helihikes are very weather/wind dependent and even if you have reservations, they will ground flights if it's too windy/rainy/cloudy.
quimbymoy is offline  
Apr 24th, 2005, 05:00 PM
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I was able to find few pics that I took during the "death walk"
on Franz Josef Glacier.
These are not the best pics, but I'm lucky to even have these as I was not in the mood to take many pics. At about noon, I realized I should have done the 1/2 day walk which would get us back on the bus around 1pm. We on the other hand still had almost 5 hours of climbing, sliding, crawling, etc... ahead of us.

Anyway, here they are: qF4LOZiK1K9Z7e6owXWoaAQQxV3pWGd%2bBXiXp6w%3d%3d&

log in as a guest.
AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
Apr 24th, 2005, 07:03 PM
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AA- Thanks for sharing your photos! So everything depicted in those photos could be seen on the 1/2-day hike? (If our helihike is cancelled due to inclement weather I would like to take the 1/2-day or full-day hike instead.)
Thanks again.
Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Apr 24th, 2005, 08:45 PM
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Tim & Liz -

I'm in Franz Josef at this very minute. Today we had the best weather we've had in the five times we've visted. We're not doing the guided glacier hikes or helihike this trip, but we're finding plenty of nice hikes in the area. We took the helihike on Fox Glacier about 1.5 years ago and we found it pretty tame. There was very little hiking involved, just some walking around on the glacier, and alot of interesting commentary from our guide. It was the highlight of that particular trip as we'd tried to take the helihike on all previous trips, but the weather never cooperated.
Melnq8 is offline  
Apr 26th, 2005, 03:53 AM
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Hi Melnq8!
Enjoying your hols yeh?

Guess I should come back and answe my own question. I finally decided to do the Fox Glacier 1/2 day hike for the following reasons:
a) cheaper than FJ Glacier
b) less streneous than full day (but I think it's still a rather streneous hike up and down. Very exhausting as the group keeps moving without rest until we are on the ice and are allowed to move around within the area decided by the guide and then it's non-stop back to the Terminal Face.

The guide did well but I do feel that she should have asked the slower / less fit people to be in front so that the pace will be catered to the slowest among us. I confess that I'm only moderately fit and have never done so much upslope climbing before while the others are all with good fitness. I'm among the last in line and I do feel forced to keep up with the front.

As for the experience, I believe it's similar in FJ Glacier but the approach is steeper there and therefore more tedious to hike up.

Summary: the 1/2 day offers a good hike for the moderate-good fitness. Just the right amount of exercise to burn the calories and no muscle aches. Do make sure you have the right size boots. My boots are a bit tight (but the next size is too loose)and I suffer a terrible blister at my heel with a sore 2nd toe in my right foot.
Chenoa is offline  
May 3rd, 2005, 12:49 PM
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I am interested in the responses since we will be going this June and I also have not made up my mind between the two glaciers. Can Chenoa and AAFrequent Flyer give me some idea of how fit they are. I think I would like the full day. After all, once you are there it seems a shame to leave. But I am hesitant because of the cold condiations in June, especially if it is windy.
Also, can this be done with you own hiking boots? I have a small narrow foot and can't imagine wearing a pair of rental shoes all day.
kmjmmm is offline  
May 3rd, 2005, 09:12 PM
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The only way you can use your own hiking boots is if the soles have a similar width to the rental boots. Otherwise, the instep crampons won't strap on well. They may still discourage you using your own boots, because they won't be hobnailed, which further eases ice walking.

While the approach is a bit strenuous, you don't have to be super-fit to do these walks. Here is a photo of us on Fox Glacier ( - you will see that I am no lightweight, and my daughter had awfully short legs. We huffed and puffed, but did just fine.
ALF is offline  
May 3rd, 2005, 09:42 PM
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For the full day walk you should be in fairly good shape. I'm in my mid 40s, active, not a regular excersiser (bike riding and walking is about it). Also, be ready to crawl, jump, negiotiate many stairs, up and down, and just because it's down it doesn't mean it's easy as the stairs are usually steep. You should not have ANY problems with your knees, ankles.

As I stated before, the difference between the 1/2 day and the full day is that after both tours meet at about the same elevation, the full day tour starts to "explore" the glacier as the 1/2 day tour starts to head down. So for about 4 or 5 more hours you walk around and around, up, down, crawl, jump and walk some more and jump and etc... before you finally start to head down. For me it went down the hill once we started to go down. My body was being pushed to it's limit at that time. The walk down the side of the mountain became very painful and difficult. Even the 2 mile or so walk in the valley to get back to the bus was very difficult. Ny inner thighs were on fire, my knees were shaking from exhaustion and dehydration.

Bottom line is that you should be in at least above average or better physical shape without any physical problems to do the full day walk. Bring twice as much water as you may think is necessary.

Decisions, decisions....

Have a great trip!
AAFrequentFlyer is offline  

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