Straddling the Arctic Circle on the northeast coast of Baffin Island, Auyuittuq National Park is one of the most spectacular destinations in the Canadian North. The heart of the park is the massive Penny Ice Cap, a remnant of the ice sheet that extended over most of Canada east of the Rockies about eighteen thousand years ago, and the 110km Pangnirtung/Akshayuk Pass, a major hiking route which cuts through the mountains between Cumberland Sound and the Davis Strait. Auyuittuq is Inuktitut for “the land that never melts” but despite the unrelenting cold in summer the sparse tundra plants do bloom and chance encounters with arctic hares and foxes, polar bears, Canada geese, snowy owls and gyrfalcons are a possibility. Just offshore you may spot narwhal, walrus, bowhead and beluga whale, as well as harp, ringed and bearded seals. Yet the main attraction is not necessarily the random, rare wildlife sightings, but the sheer rugged beauty and raw power of the dramatic landscape.
Services within the park are extremely limited and the weather is highly unpredictable. Snowstorms, high wind and rain occur frequently, and deaths from hypothermia have been known even in summer. All-weather hiking gear is essential, as is a walking stick to assist you with the ice-cold stream crossings which occur every 200–300m and can be waist-high in July. There is no wood for fuel, so a camping stove is essential.