Wondering why we now use helicopters to access Franz Josef Glacier for glacier hikes? Check out these two photos taken just four years apart – what a contrast. This pretty much sums up the dramatic changes that have taken place on Franz Josef Glacier since 2010. So when we say no glacier trip is ever the same – we mean it! Glaciers are constantly changing as they move down the mountainside, and transition through periods of retreat and advance. Franz Josef Glacier is currently retreating but as well as this it recently experienced ice loss following the development of a hole that caused the collapse of the front of the glacier. This comparison photo shows just how much of an impact these changes have had on Franz Josef Glacier.
A glacier hike trip with Franz Josef Glacier Guides used to begin on the valley floor and carry on by foot up onto the ice. For safety, we no longer hike on the bottom portion of the glacier and instead transfer guests by helicopter directly onto the higher portion of the glacier. This ensures hikers get to see what we think are the most impressive sights on the glacier. We want to make sure our guests get to see the amazing icy landscape of the glacier, like the famed blue ice as well as crevasses and other ice formations.
Meanwhile, we continue to monitor the changing face of Franz Josef Glacier. Glaciologists and scientists are very interested in what is going on, not just with Franz Josef Glacier but the whole of the Southern Alps and there are a number of studies and research projects being carried out to monitor the situation. We’ll keep you updated on how things are going for our treasured glacier. One thing we know for sure is that Franz Josef Glacier will continue to change; this is because it always has, and it always will. We reckon you should make sure you see this West Coast icon as soon as you can. Who knows how this picture will look in another four years?
ps. That little black dot hanging from the ice in the 2010 photo is an ice-climber getting amongst it – yeeaahhh!!
PHOTO: CRAIG BUCKLAND