Franz Joseph Glacier.
Let’s not look from afar, let’s climb this icy bitch, shall we!?
The Glacier Climb ($123 pp). Way high up on yonder mountain. Where the ocean winds meet the cumulus clouds, and this precipitation collision causes the glacier to grow mass. Where you are so high up, that even when it is 80 degrees out, the glacier stands rock hard.
In 2009 they used to let tourists climb the bottom sections. Two people died in a wild collapse of a very large ice wall. Now, you can only get up on the ice with a private tour. So strap on your boots, check your safety straps and head up with me! Thru the rainforest, across the silver river rock beds and up the gravel debris that reminds you of climbing at construction sites when you were a kid. Only much, much higher.
Finally, to the ice edge. Here we were instructed to put our crampons. At which Nikki would snicker every time the word crampon was mentioned. And she would whisper in my ear…”tampons” or “cramp is on for tampons.” You get her humor.
If you put crampons on your feet, it means you’re going someplace slippery. And a huge block of ice that is over 7 miles long and over 1000 feet deep would suffice.
Our tour guide mentioned this was the best weather of the year. The sun shined bright, but being on the ice was like being surrounded by cool air conditioned air. Amazing. Huge blocks of ice fall off cliffs. Carefully stutter step over racing rivers of turquoise blue water. All this while the tour guide screamed “don’t step there, you will fall in and slide away forever”…this will keep your average land walker on their crampon’d toes.
When the glacier “retreats” or melts, it spreads like fingers down the mountain side. This glacier moves about 10 feet every single night. What it leaves behind is dangerous, but mesmerizing. Crevasses. Huge, deep, dangerous.
Here are some pics of Nikki and I testing ice fate.
Pearl was our 2nd guide at the Glacier. She was very, very cautious. She carried this huge ice pick or ice axe. It was about as big as her. And she would swing at ice, carve out steps and tap on crevasses with her massive axe.
Pickin’ Pearl was also slightly ahead of schedule. So, to kill time at the end of our 2 hour glacier tour, she called in the reinforcements. She needed an extra support rope for this tramp down a particular part of the glacier tour. While we waited, she chopped and swung and picked ice with her axe. Making the path all the much safer for the moronic tourists behind her.
I am not a patient man. So, I started climbing a wall with my new crampon toys. She screamed “get off of the glacieeeeeeeeer wall”…everything with Pearl was drawn out, like she was French and trying to impress me with extra syllables in words that quite frankly, are not there.
“I saw something up there, Pearl…I am going to go climb it!” I yelled back. “No you’re not, you will fall into a crevaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasse…get down from that now!” Being stubborn I responded, “you are picking at the ice Pearl, pick pick pick… which doesn’t even need any more ice work, and we are doing nothing, I wanna climb this wall!” She responded, “what I am picking at is very important to your safety, now down off the wall!” I climbed down, and like a defeated child, I put on my best stubborn face. I had grown a beard for this damn ice hike and I wanted to climb that wall.
The extra rope was installed and we all climbed down the path. I was 2nd to last with an old man from Denmark behind me. About halfway down, where the new rope was installed, he fell into the back of me and we both skirted across the ice with our crampons in the air. I looked up and saw Pickin’ Pearl with the greatest look of “I told you so” on her face.