Weather, hypothermia and frostbite

Auyuittuq National Park

The polar marine climate means long, cold winters and short, cool summers, with sub-freezing temperatures year-round at higher elevations. The Penny Ice Cap, steep mountain slopes and the linear valley of the Akshayuk Pass create conditions for steady winds. You are likely to experience blowing sand in the summer and possible whiteouts in the winter/spring.

Weather in the Arctic is notoriously changeable and Auyuittuq National Park is no exception. Abrupt weather changes can affect temperature and visibility sometimes for several days. Whiteout conditions are possible any time of year.

The park receives low amounts of precipitation but late summer is the wettest time of year. Weather can change suddenly and without warning. Be prepared for snow anytime, anywhere in Auyuittuq! By mid-August new snow is common in the pass and above 2,000 feet it is permanent.


Wind can be localized. The head of Pangnirtung fiord can be calm while high winds are blowing in Pangnirtung. When this happens, outfitters will not go out in their boats. Winds of 15-20 km/hour are common year-round, they tend to be stronger (30-40km/hour) from late summer to early winter, with extremes to 100 km/hour. Winds in Akshayuk Pass have reached 175 km/hour.

  • Wind can blow your tent away or destroy it. We recommend using a 4-season tent and protecting it with a snow. Anchor it with rocks, but check that they aren’t a part of an archaeological site. Please replace rocks where you found them, when you leave.
  • Wind can make travel impossible. Your schedule should be flexible enough to accommodate a few stormy days. Delays of one to five days are typical.
  • Ensure your stove works well in high winds. We recommend at least 2 stoves per group.


Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition. People with hypothermia can no longer keep themselves warm and cannot warm themselves without assistance. Know the signs and symptoms of hypothermia, know how to treat it and take precautions to prevent its onset.

Be prepared for extreme weather conditions- there have been many evacuations in recent years due to visitors suffering from severe frostbite or hypothermia. Remember to take the windchill factor into account when evaluating spring and summer temperatures. Cold temperatures become drastically colder with the added effect of wind.

  • Signs and Symptoms of Hypothermia

    • Shivering (may be absent in later stages)
    • Numbness
    • Lack of coordination
    • Confused or unusual behaviour
    • Body temperature below 35ºC (95ºF)


    First aid

    1. Remove any wet clothing and dry the casualty.
    2. Warm the person gradually by wrapping him or her in sleeping bags and dry clothing.
    3. If available, use heat sources such as hot water bottles or heating pads to assist warming avoid direct contact with skin), or use body heat.
    4. If the casualty is alert, give warm liquids to drink.
    5. Get medical attention as soon as possible.


Skiers, mountaineers and other winter and spring travellers must guard against frostbite when travelling in Auyuittuq. Conditions of extreme cold and wind are common, and care should be taken to avoid exposing the skin.

  • Signs and symptoms of frostbite

    • Shivering (may be absent in later stages)
    • Lack of feeling in the affected area
    • Skin that appears waxy
    • Skin that is cold to the touch
    • Skin that is discoloured (flushed, white, yellow, blue)


    First aid

    1. Cover the affected area.
    2. Handle the area gently - do not rub!
    3. Warm the area gently by immersing it in water warmed to 40.5ºC (105ºF).This may require melting snow on a portable stove.
    4. Keep the frostbitten part in the water until it looks red and feels warm.
    5. Bandage the area with a dry, sterile dressing. Avoid breaking any blisters.
    6. Get medical attention as soon as possible. Do not thaw the frozen part if there is a possibility of refreezing.

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