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A day in the life of a New Zealand Glacier Guide: Nic Kerr traded in his suit and tie for a waterproof jacket, woolen gloves, and an ice axe and is living every day like an adventure.

8 Dec 2016

When 24-year-old TAFE Queensland graduate Nic Kerr felt the mind-numbing nature of office life take over, the thrill seeker took life by the horns, opting to swap his career for the awe-inspiring outdoors and is now living every day like an adventure.

Nic traded in his suit and tie for a waterproof jacket, woolen gloves and an ice axe. He moved across the ditch and now spends his days guiding small groups aloft New Zealand’s picturesque Franz Josef Glaciers.

“The lakes, rivers and rugged coastline are perfect for kayaking, rafting and hiking,” Nic said. “I love seeing the look on people’s faces as we explore the striking glaciers and snowy alpine peaks. The world is a beautiful place and we quite often forget that,” he said.

Working on rare landscapes like Franz Josef requires highly skilled and competent guides who understand how to respond to the unpredictable nature of Mother Nature.

“My interview was easily one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had, even if I didn’t get the job,” Nic said. “After the introductory handshake I was actually flown onto the glacier and one of the senior guides took me out exploring for a few hours putting me through my paces to assess my skills up on the ice,” he said.

Studying outdoor recreation at TAFE Queensland in Mooloolaba, Nic learnt the hands-on skills necessary to impress his assessor and successfully turned his passion for the outdoors and sense of adventure into a career.

“What’s not to like about camping, rafting, kayaking, hiking, rock climbing and abseiling?” Nic said.

“I learnt how to lead teams in high risk outdoor activities, the importance of team work under pressure, problem solving, first aid and search and rescue.”

“I felt like I could get a job anywhere in the world, and I did,” he said.

Living in Franz Josef, a small town of around 350 locals, Nic’s working day starts at 7:45am with a safety briefing assessing the weather forecast to determine how the glacier’s predicted movement will affect the day’s tours.

“Once given the all clear, I’ll routinely check over all of the safety equipment and begin individual medical checks with clients before performing a safety demonstration in preparation for the day’s adventure,” Nic said.

“After I’ve prepared everyone for the day ahead, we head off into the rainforest for a ten minute walk down to the helipads, jump into the helicopters and fly to the peak.”

“The temperature on the ice is typically only about five to 15 degrees and it usually takes us about three hours to make our way through the ice formations.”

“My job is mostly just to make sure everyone is having a fun and safe time.”

“As we walk around, passing through the unique terrain and impressive ice formations, I’ll stop the group to talk about different features of the glacier, the valley and New Zealand in general. But most people are so blown away by all the caves and crevasses that the whole ‘speaking in front of people’ part of the job is pretty easy,” he continued.

“At the end of the day, I’ll stay up on the ice and help the other guides put in new tracks or work on improving the old tracks to ensure that we’re all working in a safe environment the next day,” Nic said.

“I love working with people to help them develop a better understanding and sense of themselves, to realise the strengths and qualities they have and how to use them to achieve their potential and what they want out of life.

“I would definitely recommend studying outdoor recreation at TAFE Queensland to anyone who wants to get into this line of work. The skills I’ve learnt can easily be transferred into other emergency services careers; it’s just that the course had the hands-on adventure training I enjoyed most,” he said.


For more information about outdoor recreation courses available at TAFE Queensland visit our website or call 1300 308 233.

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