Weather, hypothermia and frostbite

Quttinirpaaq National Park

Quttinirpaaq National Park is a polar desert – it is a cold region with little precipitation. Winters are very cold with some of the lowest temperatures recorded in Canada. In contrast, summers, though short, can be surprisingly warm, particularly in the Lake Hazen area. Coastal areas of the park are generally cooler and receive more precipitation than the interior. Winds throughout the park tend to be light, except on the ice caps. There are 24 hours of daylight from May to August and 24 hours of darkness from November to February.

Weather in the Arctic is notoriously changeable and Quttinirpaaq 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.

Be prepared for snow anytime, anywhere in Quttinirpaaq!


Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition. People with hypothermia can no longer keep themselves warm and cannotre-warm themselves without assistance. Know the signs and symptoms of hypothermia, know how to treat it and take precautions to prevent its onset.

  • 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.


Winter and spring travellers must also guard against frostbite when travelling in Quttiniripaaq National Park. Conditions of extreme cold 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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