9 September 2015

Am I fit enough to hike Franz Josef Glacier?

by Tom at Franz Josef Glacier Guides

Glaciers are often described as a river of ice, constantly moving downhill (just very, very slowly). 

Because of this movement, no glacier tour is ever the same from one day to the next.  So, what does that mean for glacier hiking?  Will you be hopping your way through tumbling icefalls and jumping over bottomless crevasses?

Err… no.

No, you won’t.

The average speed of Franz Josef Glacier’s ice flow is around 1.5m per day (but speeds of up to 12 meters per day have been recorded in the steeper sections of the glacier).  The movement is imperceptible, hikers walk safely on the surface of the glacier guided by a skilled glacier guide.

Glacier hiking is not an extreme sport but does require a moderate level of fitness and an ability to walk with crampons.

Tours are helicoptered onto the top of the main ice fall where the hike begins amongst a spectacular icy landscape.  Read why we access Franz Josef Glacier by helicopter here.

Franz Josef Glacier Guides hiking tour

So, what level of fitness do you need to do a Franz Josef Glacier Guides’ hike?  Here’s your easy step-by-step guide to choosing the best glacier hike for you.

Franz Josef Glacier Guides - Glacier Heli Hike

Difficulty Level:  Moderate
Suitable for: 8 years and over
Pace:  Relaxed
Hiking Altitude: 1200m
Helicopter: Short Heli Transfer
Duration: Up to 4 hours in total, up to 2.5 hours on the ice

Franz Josef Glacier Guides - Glacier Ice Climb

Difficulty Level:  Moderate
Suitable for: 8 years and over
Pace: Tailored to suit clients ability
Hiking Altitude: 1200m
Helicopter: Short Heli Transfer
Duration: Up to 8 hours in total, 6 hours on the ice


Franz Josef Glacier Guides provides a pair of high quality 10-point crampons for all hikers on the glacier with the exception for ice climbers where we provide high quality boots and 12 point climbing crampons.

Don’t worry, you don’t need mountaineering experience to wear crampons.  We show you how to fit the crampons over your boots and how to walk in them.   It won’t take long to get used to walking with crampons.  They allow you to walk confidently in the ice steps cut by your guide. 


A big part of enjoying your glacier tour will be keeping warm.  After all, you’ll be on a frozen river of ice for a period of two to three hours. Hiking will keep you warm, but don’t forget the weather can change quickly when you’re in an alpine environment.  We recommend wearing 2 – 4 layers of clothing and taking off a few layers if you get hot (better than getting cold).