Introducing Auyuittuq National Park
Among the globe's most flabbergasting places, Auyuittuq (ah-you-ee-tuk) means 'the land that never melts.' Appropriately, there are plenty of glaciers in this 19,500-sq-km park, plus jagged peaks, vertiginous cliffs and deep valleys. Hikers trek the 97km Akshayuk Pass (crossing the Arctic Circle) in summer, when it's snow-free. Nearby, experienced climbers and base jumpers scale Mt Thor (1500m), the earth's highest sheer cliff, and twin-peaked Mt Asgard (2015m), famed for the parachute scene from The Spy Who Loved Me. Camp in any safe, wind-proof, ecologically appropriate spot. Nine emergency shelters dot the pass.
Akshayuk's south end is 30km from Pangnirtung: a two-day hike or, more commonly, a boat-ride with an outfitter ($110 per person each way). It's worth doing this just for a day-trip – the boat ride is awe-inspiring, and the feeling of hiking this uninhabited wilderness, if only for a few hours, is memorable. Another multi-day hike heads 20km each way to Summit Lake. For about $200 per person, through-hikers can arrange to be picked up at the other end of the pass by an outfitter from Qikiqtarjuaq, served by First Air and Canadian North (one-way to Pangnirtung $280).
While wondrous, Auyuittuq is also brutal and isolated. To hike it you need to be an experienced wilderness operator, and fit. Think ten days as an average for the route. Rivers must be crossed; polar bears are seen most seasons. A guide makes sense: speak to Pangnirtung outfitters or book a package from the south.