One of the best walks in the Franz Josef area, Roberts Point Track takes you as close to the terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier as is safely possible. It is more technical than most walks in the area so best for those with some experience and done in good weather.
The plan had been to walk the physically harder, but technically easier (judging by blog posts), Alex Knob Track but DOC had a 1080 drop planned which closed the track for the day. Which was probably a good thing as clouds covered the top parts of the Alex Knob Track pretty much spot on noon, while the rest of the sky was blue for my walk further up the valley on Roberts Point Track.
From an empty Franz Josef Glacier car park, thanks to Covid, being midweek and in October, it was a short, easy walk to Peters Pool for quite stunning mirror like reflections.
From here the track is super easy until it reaches the impressive Douglas Bridge crossing the Waiho River. A couple of people tragically died about a decade ago trying to cross upstream of the bridge which is understandable looking at the currents below.
After crossing the bridge signage mentions them and another walker who died at a similar time, presumably trying to get closer to the glacier. There is a creek to cross, which makes clear that this is a trickier track than most in the area.
When I first visited Franz Josef Glacier a decade earlier it was possible to take a guided walk along by the Waiho River and up onto the glacier. Due to the rapid retreat of the glacier, since 2012 it is only possible to step onto the glacier with the help of a helicopter. A sign explains that the track is directly beneath their flight path. Pre-Covid there would have been a helicopter passing overhead every fifteen minutes. When I walked this track I heard maybe half a dozen in a day, a sign of how things had changed.
After Arch Creek Bridge the track opened up to views of the valley.
The 2015 Roberts Point Swing-Bridge was one of the longest I’ve come across anywhere in New Zealand.
The snow capped mountains ahead were pretty stunning.
The track was more challenging / interesting than expected, but you had to watch your footing.
Looking back I could see the car park, lookout platform on Sentinel Rock, and where the glacier walk track now ends after the river routing changed.
Hendes Hut was built in 1907. It is rudimentary but would provide shelter in bad weather. The bench just before it with views was a more appealing snack spot.
The hut was built as a smithy for Peter Hende to forge the wrought iron bars used to support Hende Gallery, an unexpected highlight of the track, and unlike anything else anything else I’ve seen in New Zealand.
Soon after this the track opened up to big views.
There were unusual rock formations to carefully walk up, these would be extremely slippery when wet.
Rope Bridge Creek had another cool bridge to cross, and a huge drop below.
The bush is quite beautiful.
The track finishes with a sizeable lookout.
From which there were excellent views of Franz Josef Glacier. It’s less mighty than it once was when it filled this valley, but is still an impressive sight.
A Goldfinch joined me looking for food.
After enjoying the view and eating lunch I returned the way I came, which was slightly faster but somewhat tricky in places. It’s often easier to go up than down! Peters Pool wasn’t as reflective but still a pleasant last photo stop on the way back.