Auyuittuq National Park in Canada’s eastern Arctic has some of the most beautiful alpine scenery on earth. This backpacking expedition crosses the entire Akshayuk Pass, including the rarely-seen northern section in the Owl River valley.
We meet in Qikiqtarjuaq – a remote Inuit hamlet on an small island off the north coast of Baffin Island. Local Inuit will take us by motor boat to the end of the North Pangnirtung Fiord. At this point, we’ll help each other put on our packs for the first steps south on our 97-km journey. We begin with the ascent of the Owl River Valley to the top of the pass – 500 metres above the sea.
As we penetrate the mountains we’ll pass melting glaciers extending from the enormous Penny Ice Cap. Between Glacier and Summit Lakes, the magical cylindrical tower of Mount Asgard draws us to the top of the pass. Then we begin the long descent of the Weasel River Valley. Mount Thor, 1500 metres above us, is said to have the longest, uninterrupted cliff face in the world. We’ll pass Windy Lake before crossing the Arctic Circle. Next, it is on past Crater Lake towards our final destination at Overlord – a majestic peak overlooking the trailhead on the shore of Cumberland Sound. Joavee Alivakyuk will meet us here and take us by boat to his home village of Pangnirtung.
The “Auyuittuq Traverse” is a suitable expedition for any reasonably-fit and adventurous hiker with previous experience on a multi-night hiking trip. We will be carrying full packs, and, in places, the route is challenging – but, the efforts of this adventure are profusely rewarded. It will be the trip of a lifetime.