Franz Joseph Glacier

Franz Joseph Glacier with walkers


The township of Franz Joseph Glacier nestles near the foot of the mountains and a short, hopefully not too short, distance from the glacier and the river which flows from it. The average annual rain fall is about 6 metres, better than the 16 metres at the head of the glacier, but enough to ensure that our weather magician could not work his magic today. It poured overnight and it poured most of the day. The cloud sat low over the mountains and we could see little of what was around us.

We had planned to take a helicopter ride up to the higher reaches of the glacier but that was clearly out of the question. So we walked instead to the nearest viewing point where we could get as good a view as possible. Given how wet it was I decided not to risk my DSLR and took a compact which I could keep (reasonably) dry.

As with the previous glaciers we had seen the main challenge is getting a sense of scale. Fortunately on this occasion there were guided parties walking up to and on the glacier itself which give you a sense of scale. You need guides to do this as the glacier is moving about 1 metre a day and regularly throwing large lumps of ice (think of a large car) from the front face.

The rain though had its compensations. The waterfalls in this area stop and start with the rain as the water is thrown off the mountains almost immediately. With the rainfall, the waterfalls were all in full flow and looked great.