Tuesday, May 1, 2007

South Island Picture Time- Part III (Franz Joseph Glacier)

Corresponding to the second part of this post... by the way, I admit this post has the ulterior motive whereby I'm trying to convince my family to go to Franz Joseph while they're here, so I'm hoping the pictures will help persuade them of this. If you look at these pictures and agree with me on this, go bug them.
The view of the glacier from the beginning of the glacier hike. It's a 45 minute walk out to the glacier, but it's nice and flat so it's no big deal...

By the way, the "lighting of the torches" scene in LOTR was filmed here so it should look familiar. I really don't remember where that is in the trilogy, though, and actually don't remember a lot of the trilogy at all, so I might need to rewatch them when I get back home.
What the glacier looked like from the bottom. You get a whole new respect for ice once you're encountered with a huge wall of it several stories high that's impossible to scale except for the conveniently carved steps on the side. That gaping hole right there, by the way, is where the river starts and is the most unstable part of the glacier for obvious reasons- no one even dreams of hiking there.
Me and Amy chilling on the glacier with an impressively huge pickaxe. All the guides on the glacier carry these and maintain a slow pace because they have to continually hack away at the steps to keep them well-defined, since the ice is melting and flowing constantly. It's really best to just think of ice in a glacier as a slow-moving liquid than an actual solid... the upshot of this, though, is the glacier tour changes a little each day as old places become unusable and new paths are carved. This makes the guides very happy people, as they say the trail is completely different within a month.
Off-glacier now, heading back down the valley. This rift becomes very obvious very easily because it is huge, and happens to be a nice reminder of the fault line running right under Franz Joseph (which is one of two fault lines visible from space, the other being the San Andreas Fault in California). They're sort of overdue for a major earthquake, and the ones in this part of the world are routinely some of the strongest except no one lives here so you rarely ever hear about it (though these quakes routinely raise mountains and coastlines by several meters). Yawn.
Another pretty-but-typical view in the valley. I should point out that our cloud cover was a little low, unfortunately, as these mountains are around twice as high in actuality (so in this picture, I'm told, the mountains keep going up and up behind this main part). Suprise suprise, it rains a lot in the rainforest!