Nunavut October 31, 2022

Auyuittuq, ᐊᐅᔭᐃᑦᑐᖅ, means ‘Land that Never Melts.’ It is a unique arctic wilderness of ice caps, mountain peaks, deep valleys, and spectacular vistas. At the heart of the park is the massive Penny Ice Cap, whose radiating valley glaciers are still actively shaping the land. The glaciers flow down into the surrounding treeless valleys, where they melt into swift rivers that rush over the rock and tundra valley floors to the ocean. This powerful landscape reflects the Inuit belief that time is infinite.

The Akshayuk Pass is a 97 km ice-free trough that cuts through the mountains of Auyuittuq National Park and forms our travel route. Glaciers once filled it and helped carve out its deep U-shaped profile, characteristic of glacier-formed valleys. Today, the roar of rushing water, the sound of wind-blown sand, rocks falling down the steep face of a mountain and gravity persistently pulling glaciers downslope all serve to remind you that the geological history of the pass is still in the making.

Auyuittuq Getaway

The Auyuittuq Getaway is a suitable expedition for any reasonably fit hiker with some previous backpacking and camping experience. We will be ascending the Weasel River Valley to the Arctic Circle and on to Windy Lake, a total distance of 30 km (18.7 miles). Along the way we may stay at some campsites for several nights and explore the surrounding area in a series of day hikes with light packs.

The first part of the route is the broad and flat extension of the fiord bottom that is criss-crossed with runoff from the surrounding peaks seeking the ocean. This disturbed ground is an excellent place to see many of the wildflowers of the arctic especially the broad violet petals of River Beauty.

A little over the mid point of our journey up the Weasel Valley we will pass over the Arctic Circle which marks the most southerly point of 24-hour daylight during the summer solstice. The Arctic Circle coincides with views of Schwartzenbach falls, a narrow, multi-tiered falls that is the highest in Canada outside British Columbia.

The objective of our expedition is to reach the Windy Lake Moraine. Climbing the moraine from our camp below provides inspiring views of Thor Peak from our southern vantage point with glimpses of Mt Sif (Thor’s Wife) & Mjolnir Peak (Thor’s Hammer). A hike beyond Windy Lake to view Mount Thor is a popular option.

Turning back for home, we will take some time in an area known as the Rock Garden. Here, huge boulders, larger than cars and small cottages(!) hide small tarns and wildflowers around each turn.


The journey has challenges to test novice hikers and those new to the Arctic. Although overall elevation gain is modest, at less than 100m, we will need to climb over moraines composed of glacial till and cross several cold streams along the way.

Auyuittuq Classic

The Auyuittuq Classic is a suitable expedition for any reasonably fit hiker with some previous backpacking and camping experience. An adventurous novice can consider the trip. We will be carrying full packs and will hike in places where the route is challenging.

On the Auyuittuq Classic we will hike up along the entire Weasel River Valley (approximately 37km) beyond the Auyuittuq Getaway Trip turnaround point. Once we pass Windy Lake the footing in the moraines becomes tougher over glacial till that is less consolidated.Our water crossings are still very manageable but may require crossing in the first hours of the morning when the water is at its lowest. We will reach the top of the Akshayuk pass at 400m with a little more than half of the elevation gained in a single day.

However, the rewards are consummate with the challenge. Thor peak becomes visible as we approach Windy Lake. However, some of the most impressive views are from the valley directly below as the claimant to the highest interrupted granite face in the world looms over our route from the far side of the river.

Summit Lake is more than just a comfortable camp and convenient stopping place! Along the trail at the highest point of the journey is an inukshuk with a triangular rock for its head. This inukshuk marks what many guides and park staff agree is the best view in Auyuittuq. Looking south, our route to this point is flanked by Breadablik and Thor in the east with Northumbria and Odin in the west.

Less known, but just as rewarding, is a view just past summit lake. Do pause to see the reflection of Sigmund, Signy & Sigurd Peaks in Summit Lake! Humming something from Wagner’s “Nibelungenlied” is of course optional.

A day trip, with minimal gear, to view the flat top of Mt. Asgard may be possible depending upon group progress, weather, and general conditions. This day trip is optional and challenging requiring additional river crossings while covering 11km each way. Some expedition members may opt for a rest day instead exploring the Summit Lake area.

After Summit Lake, our route will thankfully lead back down towards the sea. Our hope is to take some time exploring the various hidden corners we missed in our push to ascend the valley.

Auyuittuq Traverse

The Auyuittuq Traverse is a suitable expedition for a reasonably fit and adventurous hiker with previous experience on a multi-night hiking trip. We will be carrying full packs and this is a challenging hike, but the efforts of this adventure are profusely rewarded.

The Traverse crosses the Cumberland Peninsula from North Pangnirtung Fiord to Pangnirtung Fiord linking the full length of the Owl and Weasel River valleys. The northern “half” (65km) is much more remote and less travelled than the southern portions covered by the Classic and Getaway. River crossings in the centre of the pass can vary significantly and may pose significant obstacles to progress. There are nine named river crossings with additional smaller streams throughout the two valleys. The ground can vary underfoot from meadow to tussock, from trail to broken rock with some spongy-boggy footing thrown in!

As mentioned, there are rewards. We will access the park via boat, sheltering from the open waters of the Davis Strait behind numerous islands. Often, winds blow the last of the previous year’s sea ice into the sheltered bays along our route as Northern Fulmar glide around our boat to our trailhead.

Once in the park, we will see the broad, previously glaciated, valley of the Owl giving way to the steeper “V” of the Weasel valley. Wildflowers abound in the north end of the park. Depending upon the season you will note Purple Saxifrage, Mountain Avens, Wooley Lousewort and Arctic Poppy.

Although, the rugged terrain provides little provender for wildlife we still may see Gyrfalcon, Red Fox, Arctic Fox,
Arctic Hare, or Ptarmigan along the way. Here some of the most imposing mountains remain unnamed (at least in English).

We do of course pause along our route to take photos, admire the landscape before us and chat with our colleagues. Although we plan a rest day mid-trip to take a side trip and treat our feet, often weather or river-levels have other plans. It is beautiful here without parallel, but we have a boat to catch on the other side!

Auyuittuq Ski Traverse

The Auyuittuq Ski Tour is a suitable expedition for any reasonably fit and adventurous skier with previous experience on a multi-night hiking or ski trip. We will be pulling our pulks but have the support of a local Inuit and his komatiq for carrying the bulky and heavy items. In places the route is challenging, but the efforts of this adventure are profusely rewarded.

Mosquito free, guaranteed! However, the Ski Traverse has its own challenges. Skiing for the most part will be along the frozen surface of the Owl and Weasel Rivers as this is where the light snows in this region tend to accumulate. Despite our enthusiasm for the trail ahead we will learn to move slowly to preserve energy and limit the amount of sweating into our base-layers in this colder environment. Often daytime temperatures hover around -7°C (19°F) perfect for skiing and (with an extra layer) breaks to have a warm drink or chat with colleagues. For camping we will find some deeper, wind packed snow to level our tent sites, create some seating and perhaps small windbreaks. That is because as the sun descends so will the temperature. -20°C (-4°F) or less is common.  But fear not! Our clothing, good cheer (and cooking stoves) will keep our communal kitchen/dining tent warm until it is time for bed. Please don’t forget to look at the stars and maybe even the aurora.

There are great advantages to seeing Auyuittuq at this time of year. Travel on the frozen rivers is more efficient than on the surrounding rugged valley sides. This is especially true if clear ice can be found to toboggan down the Weasel River riding on top of our pulks. The famous peaks of the Akshayuk Pass are visible and resplendent in their winter mantles. Yes, Thor Peak is even more imposing in winter.

The rugged terrain provides a harsh habitat for wildlife and sightings can be rare. That being said, as we ski we will see the daily travels of the local wildlife recorded in the snow and may spot Arctic Fox on their daily rounds. Sorry, there will be no wildflower viewing on this trip.

Our goal is Overlord Emergency shelter at the south end of the park where we will wait for our pick-up. Just as we entered the park from Qikiqtarjuaq by snowmobile and sled, we will now ride to Pangnirtung taking our memory of this place with us.


We run all of these departures each season, with our most current dates and rates available here.