The Franz Josef Glacier was one of the most breathtaking views we had encountered in New Zealand. Though the town itself is somewhat isolated and remote, there are a handful of fun activities to do around the area. One of the most famous tours is the heli-hike tour that takes you up and into the glacier in a helicopter before you embark through a four hour hike surrounded by ice walls, caves, and crevices.
Unfortunately, the tour itself is weather dependent and of course we were hit by quite a massive storm the weekend we were there, so the heli hike was unfortunately not a viable option for us. When in Abel Tasman, we had met a good group of guys who had provided us with great hiking recommendations within The Franz Josef area.
Not wanting to waste a perfectly good day, we went on a 5 hour hike up to Robert's Point. The track is about 7 miles long and reaches 1,797 feet high. The hike is rated as relatively hard, and with good reason. The path was all uphill and massive cliffs were connected by one-man swinging bridges. At one point during the hike, there seemed to be no trail and the rest of the path was all back country rock climbing.
We had crossed unstable bridges, on all fours against slippery rocks and trenched through waterfalls to get to the top of the mountain. At the peak, we had a beautiful view of the mouth of the glacier before it disappeared into the clouds. It had been slightly raining throughout our excursion, however, that view had made it worthwhile.
What we hadn't taken into account was how the weather would turn on us on the way down. The rocks had become slippery from all of the rain water and the ground itself was unstable. We were about 30 paces from each other when the ground underneath Brendan had given in on a narrow path.
Breaking his fall on the moss of a rock, Brendan had fallen nearly 15 meters and had taken down branches and rocks with him. High on adrenaline, Brendan managed to make his way back up to the path with his leg and head bleeding. We tore out the first aid kit and began assessing the damage caused by the fall. We cleaned out his cuts with tweezers and sterile pads and banged him up.
Remarkably, Brendan was able to hike the remaining 2 hours of the hike without so much as wincing. Afraid of other hikers enduring the same landslide, we had waited for several of the groups that had been behind us and warned them of the unstable ground by where he fell.
When finally making it down we contacted the medical center and the police to report our concerns of one of the hikers that we hadn't seen coming down the mountain.
As the town was quite small, we had to wait for the one doctor on call to drive an hour back to Franz Josef to examine Brendan. We ended up being escorted to the medical center in a police car so that I could assist the officer in identifying the missing person while Brendan got examined by the doctor.
After spending hours in the hospital, Brendan left with a confirmed broken nose, bruised eyes, concussion and 20 stitches in his leg. It happened to be our four year anniversary as well and surprisingly enough, it was not the first time we had spent an anniversary in the hospital.