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The Heli Hike at Franz Joseph Glacier is without a doubt the sole best travel experience I’ve ever had. Get ready for three hours of raw adventure, on one of the most beautiful and rugged terrains possible. On a backpacker budget, it’s an expensive activity (ranging from NZD$450-500 per person), but it’s worth every cent – so save up for the best travel experience of your life!
What is a Heli Hike?
A Heli Hike is where you hike in an area accessible via helicopter. In the case of Franz Joseph, the heli hike involves a five minute each way phenomenally scenic chopper flight from the township. The helicopter glides up through the valley, banking around mountain ridges, before coming in to land on a flat part of ice on the glacier. Although it’s only a short flight, it really satisfies the desire to get up into the mountains and see the beautiful glacier from above. And what an amazing opportunity to fly in a helicopter – the ultimate way to travel!
What should I wear for my heli hike at Franz Joseph Glacier?
Your Heli Hike company will provide you with waterproof trousers and a jacket, special boots, and extra warm socks and gloves. Underneath this, I’d recommend wearing thermal leggings (I wore two pairs!); several warm layers on your upper body; and a hat/gloves. I wore a thermal base layer and a down jacket, before putting the provided waterproof jacket provided on top. Don’t forget sunglasses as it’s pretty bright up there!
Note: there are some pretty strict restrictions over what you can take with you up onto the glacier. Anything you want to take must fit into the oversized bumbag that they provide you with. There’s enough space for a small bottle of water, snack, phone, wallet and camera. You cannot take a drone, selfie stick, or any other sort of camera attachment with you.
What should I take with me on the glacier?
On the day you’ve booked in for your Heli Hike, you’ll be required to arrive at the shop in town to check in one hour before your scheduled departure. Here, you’ll be kitted out with all your gear, weighed (there’s a weight limit of 115kg, with gear on) and briefed for your expedition. This all takes about an hour.
Next, you’ll walk just a few minutes to the helipad and board for the flight of your life! The first view of the glacier is absolutely stunning as you approach.
Upon landing on the ice, it’s time to get your crampons on (don’t worry, your guides will show you how!) and learn to walk on your spikes. It feels a little odd at first, but you’ll get the hang of it within five minutes.
Expect to be up on the ice for about 2-2.5 hours, depending on weather conditions. During this time, you’ll climb up the glacier and through the epic ice caves. Your guide will give you tons of information about the glacier in this time too. Climb at your own pace, and you’ll absolutely love it!
After your amazing adventure of a heli hike at Franz Joseph Glacier, you’ll return to the ice helipad in time remove crampons before your short flight back through the valley to town. And that’s it – have the best time! We did ours with The Helicopter Line, and I can’t recommend them enough.
In the area and looking to do some more epic hiking? Check out the Roys Peak climb here, just a few hours drive away!