Today marks 1 year from when we completed our 100km traverse through Akshayuk Pass in Auyuittuq National Park, Nunavut, Canada.
Eleven days after leaving the northern community of Qikiqtarjuaq, we reached the Nunavut flag marking the southern point of the 100km traverse.
To mark the anniversary of this trip of a lifetime, here are our TOP TEN photos from the trek that show a glimpse of the beauty of the north.
1. Setting out
We started our trek at the north end of the Pass, 2.5 hours and 85km by boat from the remote village of Qikiqtarjuaq. Few hikers attempt the full traverse, and so the northern section of the hike is less traveled, and as a result, has no worn path. The lack of path added to the uniqueness of the northern section of the hike - there was an immense sense of remoteness and an untouched pristine beauty to the landscape.
2. Wildflowers along the Owl River
Don’t be fooled by the easy looking terrain in the photo above! The grass-looking terrain was a mossy bog that would envelop our feet whole with every step. With the weight of our packs every step forward felt like emerging from a mud pit.
These wildflowers were a welcome sight! Not only were they beautiful and unexpected in the harsh landscape and conditions (the temperature ranged from -3 to +8 during our hike), but they also indicated easier walking underfoot. The flowers thrived in sandy terrain, and the hard packed sand was a breeze to walk on compared to the sinking tundra moss.
3. More wildflowers
One truly feels isolated in this Northern section of the pass with its broad valley and lack of path. Most of the peaks and glaciers are also unnamed over this 50km stretch, a contrast to the more travelled Southern section of the pass.
5. Family shot
From the smiles in this pic you wouldn’t guess how heavy our packs were! This was taken on Day 1, meaning we had 13 days of food on our backs (includes extra meals in case we were stuck longer than expected at river crossings waiting for water flow to slow). Our packs were so heavy these first few days that Campbell and Tim had to hoist our packs up for us and we would slip into them like stepping into a coat.
6. A windy day
On our second day the wind blew in and howled at us all day. It was so strong that we walked duck style to cut the wind, taking turns being lead bird. Silver lining of the strong winds? The mosquitoes took respite and we enjoyed some buzz free moments.
7. Camp at the end of the Owl River
Night four on the trek we camped at the base of Mount Battle, where the Owl River ends.
Previously in the afternoon we spent an hour unsuccessfully attempting to cross the Owl River. This was our first “primary concern” river crossing, and we were fooled into thinking we could cross it in the afternoon, despite knowing it was the hardest time to cross as the sun had been beating down all day, melting the glaciers and increasing the flow of water. The river spanned 400m, and with 10m to go we had to turn back. The water was too deep and too fast to make it the final stretch. So close!
We trudged back the 390m and set up camp in the sun amidst the mountains and arctic cotton tufts. The next morning we triumphed and successfully crossed the river at 2am.
8. Leaving Summit Lake
Leaving Summit Lake, the pass becomes narrower and we found a small path that would guide us all the way to the Pangnirtung Ford. The mountains and glaciers in this section are dramatic, and named.
Breidablik Peak and the Weeping Glacier on the East bank (far left) was Campbell's favourite. Further ahead, behind the Weeping Glacier, you can see Thor and its sheer face.
9. Camping under the shadow of Thor
Our seventh night in Akshayuk Pass we set up camp across the river from Mount Thor, which lays claim to the worlds greatest vertical drop of 1,250 meters.
It had been several days since we had felt sun, so we all enjoyed a sunny afternoon at camp with this stunning mountain backdrop.
10. Taking in the view