Sirmilik National Park of Canada
Hazards and Safety
While many of the hazards of mountain travel in Sirmilik National Park are common to all mountain environments, others are unique to the Arctic. Even experienced mountaineers may not have encountered Sirmilik's hazards before. Please consider the following carefully in the light of your own experience and preferred comfort levels. Some mountaineers believe that travelling in the cold and wind of Sirmilik in the springtime is similar to travelling at 10,000 feet or higher elevation in more southerly, Canadian mountain ranges-in the dead of winter. Are you ready for this?
Avalanches occur here as in any alpine area. While the high winds in the park may make it tempting to camp in the lee side of a mountain, it is wise to make sure that the campsite is well protected against the collapse of a cornice or snow pillow those lee winds may have created. Do not pause or set up your tent in the mouth of a gully or avalanche runout zone. Unexpected spring avalanches may bring down mud and wet snow.
YOU MUST BE PREPARED FOR SELF-RESCUE. Rescue facilities and services are very limited in Sirmilik National Park. Technical rescue equipment and personnel have to be brought in from outside of Nunavut. In the event of injury or mishap, weather and travel conditions may delay rescue for many days -- or make it entirely impossible.
Winds can be a hazard for skiers and mountaineers.
- Wind, combined with temperatures which are already well below 0°C can create a wind-chill temperature that is beyond measurement. Windproof clothing from head to toe is absolutely essential. See the section on equipment considerations for more recommendations on windproof clothing.
- Wind can blow your tent away or destroy it. Make sure that you have a good tent (mountaineering dome or tunnel tent) and that it is securely protected by a snow wall.
- Wind can make travel impossible. Your schedule should be flexible enough to accommodate a few storm-bound days. Delays delays of from one to five days are the usual experience.
- Wind can make cooking difficult. Water must be melted from snow or ice and most backpacking stoves do not work well, or at all, in strong wind conditions. We recommend you bring two stoves at least per party.
- Look at snowdrift patterns to determine a safe campsite. Use rocks to anchor your tents. Avoid camping on snow machine trails. Avoid campsites below cornices.
- Consider aspect and sun exposure when selecting your routes to maximize your exposure to the warmth of the sun.