Franz Josef glacier

We walked to the face of the Franz Josef glacier.

Early on this winter’s morning we took a hike to a glacier.  The Franz Josef glacier (named by an Austrian explorer for the then emperor of Austria) is one of the most accessible and indeed very impressive glaciers on the west slope of the southern alps. [location] Read on!

A steep icefall just above the main face of the glacier. South Island, New Zealand.

The west slopes of the southern alps receive a tremendous amount of precipitation – about 7 meters per year – and much of it in the form of snow.  The alps have dozens of glaciers, large and small, and the Franz Josef (and the Fox) descend quickly enough to remain as ice well into the temperate rainforest near the coastline.

Andy shows me some waterfalls near the Franz Josef glacier, New Zealand.

Our hike took us through the rainforest and then across the vast debris field below the glacier, arriving at a rope fence about 100m from the glacier’s face.  (The rope and numerous danger signs mean business; a few years ago some foolhardy tourists were crushed by ice falling at the face of the glacier.)

Danger signs warn us of icefall and rockfall… South Island, New Zealand.

The rocky debris was itself so interesting as to require frequent stops for investigation, and the sheer mountain walls were adorned with waterfalls.  A fun and ever-changing place! Check out the photo gallery.

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2021, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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