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The 12 Best Kept Secrets Of Auyuittuq National Park

SASHA BARKANS IN COLLABORATION WITH PARKS CANADA

Massive craggy granite peaks, glaciers, colourful tundra valleys, and storybook fjords make up the unbelievable landscape of Nunavut’s Auyuittuq National Park. While many have seen the parks winding waters full of narwhal or ringed seals in National Geographic or some of its steep cliffs in Hollywood films, most still know little about this magical park. Here are the 12 best kept secrets of Auyuittuq.

1. James Bond Base Jumped There

Mt Asgard in Auyuittuq National Park. Photo: Parks Canada

Mt Asgard in Auyuittuq National Park was featured in the opening scene of James Bond’s The Spy Who Loved Me in 1974. Base Jumping is a prohibited activity in Auyuittuq National Park, but James is so sly he got in before Auyuittuq was a park!

 

2. It Features The Earth’s Greatest Vertical Drop

Climbing Thor Peak (1675 m). Photo: Parks Canada

Experienced climbers have an endless array of climbs to choose from in Auyuittuq National Park. Thor Peak is 1675 m (5495ft) making it the earth’s greatest vertical drop of 1250 m (with a slightly overhanging rock face that averages about 15 degrees).  Close behind is Mount Asgard at 2015 m (6611ft) with a 1200m vertical rock face.

 

3. Scandinavian Gods Gave The Peaks Of Auyuittuq Their Names

Staring towards Asgard. Photo: Eric Brown

Early European travellers were inspired by Odin, Thor, Loki, Balder, Fridd, and Breidablik while Mt Asgard was named after the home of the gods.

 

4. The Major Historical Travel Route From Each Shore Of Baffin Island Runs Through The Park

Akshayuk Pass. Photo: Parks Canada

The major historical travel route from one side of Baffin Island to the other was actually the pass just south of Auyuittuq National Park.  After Inuit were moved to the communities of Pangnirtung and Qikiqtarjuaq, Akshayuk started using the pass now named after him to guide the visiting doctors and teachers between the communities.

 

5. Auyuittuq National Park Straddles The Arctic Circle

24 hours of daylight and 24 hours of darkness is unique, even for the north. Photo: Parks Canada

 In the Northern part of the park, the longest day sees 24 hours of sunlight while the shortest has no daylight at all.

 

6. Auyuittuq National Park Is One Of The Most Accessible National Parks In The Canadian Arctic

Snowmobiling into the park. Photo: Parks Canada

Visitors can take a scheduled flight all the way to Pangnirtung or Qikitarjuaq and hire a local outfitter to take them into the park by snowmobile or boat, depending on the season. And neither community is too far from Auyuittuq! 

 

7. Most Visitors Explore Part Or All Of The Akshayuk Pass (98km)

Hiking Akshayuk Pass. Photo: Parks Canada

The most common route is to start in Qikiqtarjuaq and hike all the way to Pangnirtung! 

 

8. The Ski And Snowshoe Season in Auyuittuq National Park Doesn’t Begin Until April 

“Spring” skiing. Photo: Parks Canada

While late June to September is hiking and climbing season.

 

9. Auyuittuq National Park Is Inuktitut For “The Land That Never Melts”

The massive Penny Ice Cap. Photo: Parks Canada

It’s called this because it’s covered by the Penny Ice Cap.  This Glacier is approximately 6000 km2, covering more ground than Prince Edward Island!  It is a remnant of the Laurentide ice sheet that once covered most of North America. The park is also home to peaks and valleys of the Arctic Cordillera Mountain Range which are stunning.

 

10. There Is A Superintendent’s Order That Closes The Park To Visitors During Berry Harvesting Season

Delicious northern crowberries. Photo: Parks Canada

Inuit burned Arctic Heather for heat and used it for bedding and tent insulation. Arctic Sorrel was eaten fresh. The ban is put in place as berries such as blueberry and crowberry were and remain a traditional food that is eaten today.

 

11. The Park Experiences Rapid Changes In Water Levels

Beautiful blue glacier runoff in the spring and summer. Photo: Eric Brown

Every summer when the snow and glaciers melt, Auyuittuq National Park experiences big changes in the water levels of the rivers.  This can happen within a 24 hour period or over the entire season.  Travellers must be prepared to sit and wait for the water to subside to crossable levels should their visit coincide with one of these flood events.  This can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

 

12. Locals Avoid Drinking Water From The Large Rivers

Skyscape is limited when you’re in the thick of the pass, so get your fix at either end. Photo: Parks Canada

For thousands of years locals have avoided drinking from the large rivers and collect water from the small streams where there is less sediment. If you visit the park, Parks Canada always recommends that people treat the water prior to drinking it.

 

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