I give this activity a 5 because it is terrifying, exhilarating, and do-able for a complete couch potato.
Glacier hiking is exactly what it sounds like, hiking on a glacier. I was lucky enough to go glacier hiking on the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand. Franz Josef is somewhat unique because it is one of two glaciers that borders a rain forest.
To prepare for glacier hiking I was outfitted head to toe in what can only be described as an ugly outfit. Wool long johns, sweatshirt, waterproof pants, hat, scarf, gloves, wool socks, and steel-toe boots. I carried clamp-ons (spikes) around my waste, and my lunch on my back.
It was a 2 mile hike on flat ground through the rain forest to reach the glacier. By the time we reached the bottom of the glacier I was sweating. I looked up and realized I was in for a long day. I met our guide, who compared to us, looked like he was ready for a day at the beach. Seeing him dressed in shorts (yes shorts!), steel toe boots and a wind breaker made me wonder what all of my layers were for. On his back, in place of his lunch, was a large pick-ax. I would soon discover that pick-ax would be a life saver. Our guide would use it to dig our path out of the glacier since there was no actual path on the ice.
We started out by climbing up and up pulling ourselves on rope. I should note here we were not climbing up a shear cliff, it was a very moderate hike, despite the fact that we were hiking on ice. We hiked through ice tunnels, over crevices, and jumped up to high levels of ice. We drank water right off the glacier and breathed in the freshest air that Earth has to offer. It was strenuous and challenging, even scary because there was always the risk of falling and getting stuck in the ice. We hiked down shear cliffs holding onto only rope, and jumped up over puddles of water that went down only who knows how far. We kept have to take layers off because if we started to sweat we were done for. They told us sweat was our number one enemy because it would make our body temperature drop. By lunch time we had reached the base and had an amazing view of the canyon below, the rain forest, and the tower of ice reaching up to the sky. All the fear, all the exhaustion was well worth it.
After lunch we kept hiking and hiking. Eventually we found ourselves in a large canyon of ice. We looked around and could not see a way to hike out. Neither could our guide. He disappeared and promised he would be right back.
About a half hour later he did come back with another guide and dug us out. We hiked down the glacier (infinitely easier than hiking up) and 7 hours after we started out we found ourselves at the bottom.
This is a very limited description of glacier hiking. But hopefully it will give you a feel of what to expect. Think cold. Think tired. Think of a long long day in a cold cold environment. But also think of the challenge and the accomplishment when you are done.