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The Silk Route - World Travel: New Zealand: Franz Josef - Glacier and flightseeing on the Fritz Mountain Range
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New Zealand: Franz Josef
February 2017

Franz Josef Grand Traverse Flightseeing
Murchison glacier on the Fritz Mountain Range, New Zealand


Spectacular snow-covered mountains, immense crevassed glaciers and brilliant blue lakes seen on a flightseeing trip over the Fritz Range out of Franz Josef.

Franz Josef

lunch at Snakebite Franz Josef
Lunch at Snakebite.
 Franz Josef Glacier Valley walk
A little closer.

As we approached Franz Josef the heavens opened and it was still raining hard when we parked. We were hoping for at least reasonable weather particularly here as we had a scenic flight and trekking on the Fox Glacier planned. We went straight to Air Safaris who were taking us on the flight and checked the weather forecast. Taking their advice we changed our flight from tomorrow morning to the afternoon of the following day - we'd deliberately left ourselves plenty of time here for just this eventuality.

We headed off for lunch at Snakebite: fish and chips and Buffalo wings in a spicy sauce hit the spot! Unlike Andrew, I couldn't manage the triple chocolate pistachio slice as well!

 Franz Josef Glacier Valley walk
Leading edge of Franz Josef glacier from Canavan's Knob.

The Franz Josef Glacier is only 5km from the village which takes its name, the glacier was named for Franz Josef of Austria. The village itself was another product of the gold rush in the late nineteenth century.

The following day we walked the Franz Josef Glacier valley as far to the glacier as it's possible to go. There is an ongoing danger of rock falls so the walk is 500m shorter than it has been in the past.

 

 Franz Josef Glacier Valley walk

 

 

There's a large rock en route, called "Canavan's Knob"!, that it's possible to climb to get a first decent view of the glacier. It was rather a dull, misty day so long distance shots in particular are not great.

 

Grand Traverse Flightseeing

Grand Traverse Flight
The Waipo River drains from the Franz Josef glacier - it is currently 2 metres above the surrounding land because of the massive amounts of silt being deposited!

Grand Traverse Flight
Grand Traverse Flight
Tucked into the notch on the left of this expanse of west coast rain forest is Lake Matheson.

We were so lucky to have fabulous weather for our Grand Traverse flight over the mountains with Air Safaris, though we'd had to postpone from the previous day because the weather was so bad. Air Safaris were brilliant in rearranging things twice to fit in with our other activities.

It was a spectacular experience, following the course of the Waipo River over primeval forest to the coastal plain where the sea was covered with cloud up to the shore and the Okarito lagoon, a birdwatcher's paradise.

Grand Traverse Flight
The silt plain makes for quite a surreal landscape.
Grand Traverse Flight

 

Then south and inland to Lake Matheson and the Cook River Flat before turning east to the main event - the mountains and glaciers.

Grand Traverse Flight
Mount Tasman, Aoraki Mount Cook and the Fox Glacier.
Grand Traverse Flight
The head of the Fox Glacier.
Grand Traverse Flight
Fox Glacier
Grand Traverse Flight
Grand Traverse Flight
Fox Glacier on the right.
Grand Traverse Flight
Just north of Fox Glacier.
Grand Traverse Flight
Grand Traverse Flight
Grand Traverse Flight
The heavily crevassed surface of Fox Glacier.
Grand Traverse Flight

We swung to the north of Fox Glacier over a smaller glacier which plunged steeply down the mountain, then we flew back across Fox Glacier.

Grand Traverse Flight
Grand Traverse Flight
Grand Traverse Flight
Avalanches waiting to happen.
Grand Traverse Flight
Mount Tasman & Aoraki Mount Cook
Grand Traverse Flight
Aoraki Mount Cook
Grand Traverse Flight
Mount Tasman
Grand Traverse Flight

Grand Traverse Flight

Grand Traverse Flight
Mount Sefton
Grand Traverse Flight
On the east side of the mountain range, the edge of Lake Pukaki
Grand Traverse Flight
Grand Traverse Flight
Lake Pukaki
Grand Traverse Flight
Lake Pukaki and, in the foreground, Tasman Glacier Lake. The glacier lake formed in 1991 and has been growing ever since.
Grand Traverse Flight
Mount Sefton
Grand Traverse Flight



Grand Traverse Flight
Mount Tasman from the east.

We seemed to fly very close to the peaks and had fantastic views of Fox, Franz Josef, Murchison and other glaciers, Mount Tasman and Aoraki Mount Cook, and right over the Fritz Range to see the beautiful blue glacial lakes of Tekapo and Pukaki on the east side.

Grand Traverse Flight
Grand Traverse Flight
Grand Traverse Flight
Grand Traverse Flight
Aoraki Mount Cook and Mount Tasman from the east.
Grand Traverse Flight
Tasman Glacier
New Zealand's longest glacier at 29 km.
Grand Traverse Flight
The Tasman Glacier terminates in an ice-lined glacial lake, 150m in depth, which drains into the Tasman River and then into beautiful blue Lake Pukaki.

 

 

We flew right around Mount Tasman and Aoraki Mount Cook, doing a lovely lazy circle in the sky on the east side so that we were both able to see all of the spectacular views.

 


Grand Traverse Flight
Tasman Glacier

 

Our pilot, Tony, gave a running commentary all the way. Most of the information in the captions comes from what he told us or the company literature.

 

Grand Traverse Flight
Tasman Glacier
Grand Traverse Flight
Grand Traverse Flight
Tasman Glacier

Grand Traverse Flight
Grand Traverse Flight
Lake Tekapo
Grand Traverse Flight
Godley Glaciers on the mountains behind their terminal lakes.

 

 

 

 

Our furthest point north was to view the Godley Glaciers and their glacial lakes, which feed the Godley River.

Then over the Murchison, New Zealand's second longest glacier at 16km, and the pristine white head of the Tasman Glacier. 50 m of annual snowfall cover a base of ice up to 800 m deep - the upper reaches of the glacier are a popular winter sports region.

Grand Traverse Flight
On the right the 16 km Murchison Glacier sweeps around the mountain.
Grand Traverse Flight




Grand Traverse Flight
Grand Traverse Flight
Grand Traverse Flight
Looking down the length of the Tasman Glacier from near its head at Hochstetter Dome.
Grand Traverse Flight


Grand Traverse Flight
Grand Traverse Flight
Franz Josef Glacier

A final flourish over the magnificent Franz Josef Glacier, which descends almost to the Tasman Sea, and Lake Mapourika, the largest of the West Coast lakes and a remnant of the last ice age, before returning to the airfield.

Grand Traverse Flight

 

Grand Traverse Flight
Lake Mapourika
Grand Traverse Flight