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 along the 97km Akshayuk Pass (crossing the Arctic Circle) between late June and early September, when it's snow-free. Nearby, climbers scale Mt Thor (1500m), the earth's highest sheer cliff. Camp wherever you can find a safe, wind-proof, ecologically appropriate spot. Nine emergency shelters dot the pass.
Parks Canada is in Pangnirtung, next to the Angmarlik Interpretive Centre. You must register here and pay the park entry fee (bizarrely set at $24.76 per night, up to $148).
The south end of the pass is 30km from Pangnirtung. In summer you can hike there in two days, or, more commonly, have an outfitter take you by boat (about $110, two-person minimum). For about $175 per person, through-hikers can arrange to be picked up at the other end by an outfitter from Qikiqtarjuaq, which is served by First Air and Kenn Borek Air.
While wondrous, Auyuittuq is also brutal, isolated and sometimes polar bear-ridden. Only wilderness veterans should conduct self-guided treks here; other people can sign on with the park's only licensed tour company, Black Feather, which offers 10-, 14- and 16-day hikes, ranging from $3100 to $3800.