Trying to get a view of Franz Josef Glacier from Alex Knob Peak
While we had planned to get up early to walk up the Alex Knob Trail for some good views of Franz Josef Glacier, in reality it didn't quite work out like that. Instead the nice warm bed didn't want to let us go, and then we decided to have pancakes for breakfast. Which in turn took forever!
We enjoyed a short break at Lake Wombat.
By the time we started walking, the clouds had already formed in the valley and the view from up top wouldn't be too good - just as the trail info had suggested. We walked up anyways. On the way we did a short detour to Lake Wombat, then continued onwards with a fast pace.
Walking up the Alex Knob Trail felt really easy for us, so we rushed up through dense forest and mystical looking paths. It was one of the first hikes after we stopped following the Te Araroa trek and therefore also the first time we only had very lightweight backpacks. In fact we only had one small backpack with us with the bare essentials (food, water and some rain clothes). However, if this is one of the few hikes you are doing and you haven't just walked a few hundred kilometers the past few weeks you definitely shouldn't underestimate this trek.
When we arrived at the Rata Lookout, there were literally only clouds visible, and the bottom of the glacier just peeked out below of it. We were a little bit disappointed. But while we packed the camera up again, and had a short drink of water, the clouds suddenly moved away, offering a great view of the glacier. It lasted only a few moments, but at least we had gotten what we wanted. Satisfied we continued. Unfortunately that magic didn't happen again when we got to the Christmas Lookout. Here the clouds stayed, persistenly.
On our way we passed two people also going up, and met quite a few going down - they had obviously managed to get up in time.
Even though we weren't carrying backpacks, the steep trail made us sweat and get out of breath every once in a while. But the path is mostly pretty good walking, with few obstacles and good footing. We arrived at the summit, "Alex Knob", after about 2 1/2 hours walking. The further up we had gotten, the more foggy it had become, and we could literally see nothing.
We decided to have lunch and just see of maybe the clouds would drift away again. In the end we stayed up top almost an hour and every now and then the cloud cover would start to fade just for a moment, but then turned the world gray again. It never really allowed for a full view of the glacier, but we did get a few good glimpses of the mountains around us.
The way down was even faster than up and our knees hurt a lot less than they often had on the Te Araroa – hiking really is a lot easier without the weight of a backpack!
Back in the valley we jumped into our car and drove along the west coast towards Hokitika. There we found a cute little Campground to pitch our tent. It was called "Links-View Holiday Park" and must have opened only recently. All the facilities were really new and the common room was more like our living room at home than a campsite facility. That was really nice for a change.
If you are interested in walking the Alex Knob Trail or any other Trail we highly recommend consulting the website of the Department of Conservation (DOC) beforehand, since you usually will find all relevant information and possible hazards there:
Track information of the DOC on the Alex Knob Trail (8 hr return)
An alternative route with possible glacier views is the Roberts Point Track, which is supposed to require less time to climb:
Track information of the DOC on the Roberts Point Track (5 hr return)
If you want to increase your chances of having a cloud-free view onto Franz Josef Glacier then start as early as possible in the day.