Auyuittuq National Park

    For the experienced adventurer

    Looking at Thor Peak Down the Weasel River, Summer.

    Auyuittuq means “the land that never melts” in Inuktitut, which couldn’t be more true. The Park is 19,089 square kilometres and is accessible by outfitters from the surrounding towns of Pangnirtung and Qikiqtarjuaq. Boat travel is used in the summer while in the winter snowmobiles are used to traverse the icy terrain. 

    There are many wildlife-viewing opportunities, especially if travelling from Qikiqtarjuaq, this is because all the fiords are inside the park. Hiking is possibly the most popular activity in the park. Skiing is offered as well as climbing and mountaineering. 

    Registration and deregistration are a very important part of staying in the park. When registering you will also attend a mandatory orientation where park staff can give you tips and points of interest on your route before entering the park. Deregistration is important so if visitors do not check out within 48 hours, the park staff will initiate a search and rescue.

    One of the many Arctic Hares that call the Park home, this one in mid molt, Spring.

    In the spring months the fiords are frozen and lots of wildlife is waking up for the start of the season. There are lots of mammals, birds and aquatic life. Polar bears are just coming out of hibernation with their cubs. This poses an opportunity for a great picture, but at the same time safety is a huge factor. It is not uncommon at this time for snowfall, and in the spring months whiteouts are possible. Skiing is most popular at the beginning of the season.

    In the summer, hiking and climbing season opens. The fiords are normally ice free but the water levels become very high late July and early August. Because the glaciers tend to pick up rock and debris, extreme caution is recommended for any river crossings.

    Akshayuk Pass is the most popular spot in the park for hiking and skiing. This passageway will take you through breathtaking landscapes and some of the most iconic mountains such as Odin, Thor and Asgard, to name a few. Thor Peak is a 5,495 ft elevation and features the greatest vertical drops on the planet sitting at 4,101 ft. This mountain is stunning. Mount Asgard is such a unique looking mountain, it has two flat top cylinder shaped peaks and a saddle that holds them together. This mountain was also used in the scene of the James Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me. Mount Odin has an elevation of 7,044 ft and is the highest mountain within the Baffin Islands.

    An Arctic weasel pokes his head out from his hiding spot under one of the emergency shelters, Summer.

    GPS devices are permitted but may not always work. Because the park is in such a remote area, you can’t always rely on technology. This means that at any moment, if something happens, you are left to your own devices. There are emergency shelters in the park, located on certain spots of the map. They contain radios, which are in contact with the park staff. Satellite phones are recommended, but don’t rely on them. Visitors must take this into consideration, as this is not an experience for a first-time hiker.

    The park also features the Penny Ice Cap, which is a remnant of the last ice age. The glacier is protected within the Park. Within the last few decades the ice cap has been receding due to increased temperatures in the summer and winter months. Researchers are studying the ice cap to get a better idea of how the glacier will react to hotter temperatures. So far, in Auyuittuq, they’ve noticed it’s contributed to the flooding in Akshayuk Pass in the late summer months. The end goal is to see how the glacier will affect sea levels and just how much of the ice cap will melt.

    Every season offers its own unique insight to the land. The land is sacred to the Inuit, especially Akshayuk Pass, where locals set up various animal traps, which provide food for their families. There is so much ancient culture and appreciation for the land. Because of the harsh climate, temperatures reach as low as -40 in the winter, this Park is not for the inexperienced. When the seasons change and it rains, freezes and thaws, things are shifting. It proves that the land in the Arctic is alive and thriving; whether it be the rock fall, the sound of the water flowing or the wind howling, Auyuittuq is truly flourishing with life.

    The famous twin peak of Mount Asgard.

    The Park is a beautiful place but at the end of a visit, people may want to spend a few extra days in Qikiqtarjuaq or Pangnirtung. Staying in these communities will give visitors a great insight into Inuit culture. This will give people the opportunity to ask questions about the Park, about Inuit traditions or points of interest in the town. It will also give people the chance to possibly do some fishing and view more wildlife. Nunavut has a lot to offer. Hunters may want to hunt for big game animals. Dog- sledding is another excursion that could be of interest. The possibilities are endless and the culture is what people go away with and remember the most.

    Mountains reaching up to the sky, rock falling and hearing the echo of the wind through the mountains is something one normally only sees in a movie. To think that Canada offers such a beautiful yet rigid place makes it even more exciting and surreal. Auyuittuq is just one of many spectacular provincial parks in Canada, but it’s one of the most unique. The Arctic way of life is fairly unknown and this Park gives people the opportunity to visit and experience northern life like never before.