I'm so glad I spent the money to do the Ice Explorer glacier hike in Franz Josef! The hike included three hours on the glacier, a helicopter ride to and from, AND a free pass to the hot pools for the day.
The helicopter ride was my first. It was only about 3 minutes each way but was really, really cool. There is a tiny spot set up on the ice for the helicopters to land... and somehow they do it. If it is too cloudy, however, the helicopters can't do the flight and the hikes are canceled. Our guide told us that in October they only were able to send up 12 groups. There were at least quadruple that number of groups yesterday alone.
I learned from Mel and Ben that saying I "lucked out" is actually a negative... and I must say that I "lucked IN" to refer to something good... Which does make more sense I suppose.
SO... I really lucked IN with the weather I had in Franz Josef the past two days! Mostly sunshine and warm. Unusual for the area!
I just wore one layer of long sleeves under the jacket they provided... but I was happy to have their thick wool socks, mittens, and hat too! We also wore crampons on our boots to help on the ice.
Our group's guide, Chris, was great. He was friendly, chill, and very manly... carrying an ax as he led us along and helping to clear a pathway and cutting steps to climb. It looked like hard work but I think he was really just playing around like a kid in a sandbox... well, frozen icebox.
We saw blue ice... which I learned all ice really is but once the sunlight reaches it, the ice loses the blue color. I loved the blue ice... it seemed to glow from within.
There were spots where a black hole formed... usually water was dripping down... kick some ice pieces down and they sound as if they just fall and fall. NOT something you want to fall down!!
We literally had to climb under and through a tunnel at one point. And another spot, we had to scoot forward with the same for forward, leaning against a wall of ice on one side because it was a super narrow opening only big enough for one foot on the ground and surrounded by really tall ice walls on both sides.
Overall... I loved it. Very cool. Definitely something new for me. We didn't do any strenuous hiking really, and I wish we could have hiked more... further into the glacier, but it was awesome.
After getting something to eat after the hike, I put my swimsuit on and enjoyed relaxing in the hot pools!