Mount Thor (Thor Peak) in Canada

Being one of the Extremes on Earth, Mount Thor holds the prime as the greatest vertical drop in the world. The peak of Mount Thor towers up 1250 meters (4101 feet), delivering the drop that is more than one and a half times the height of Burj Dubai – currently the highest man made structure on Earth. With such impressive and unmatched measurements, the Thor Peak attracts fans of climbing and base jumping from all over the world, but one doesn’t have to be into extreme sports to enjoy the mountain. Aside from claiming the prime as the world’s greatest purely vertical drop, Mount Thor is also one of the world’s most impressive mountain peaks to look at and photograph.

The Peak of Mount Thor, Photo: Ansgar Walk, Wikipedia
The Peak of Mount Thor, Photo: Ansgar Walk, Wikipedia

Mount Thor Location

Mount Thor is located in Auyuittuq National Park, on the Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada. Nunavut is the newest and largest Canadian territory which takes up much of Northern Canada and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The mountain range Thor Peak is a part of is named after the island it spreads across – Baffin Mountains which are part of vast mountain range known as Arctic Cordillera. The nearest town from where to start an excursion would be Pangnirtung, which is located 46 km (29 miles) southwest of Mount Thor. You can see the location of Thor Peak on a navigable, interactive map below (provided by Google Maps TM):

What’s In The Name

Thor is the name of Nordic God of Thunder. Baffin Island is close to Greenland so the Viking influence in names is apparent. Mount Asgard also bears the name from Norse mythology known as being the capital of Norse Gods, the home of Valhalla hall.

Auyuittuq, the name of the national park means “the land that never melts” in Inuktitut – the language of Inuit people, Nunavut’s Aboriginals.

How to Get to Mount Thor

One of the specialties I like to offer on pages of Vacation Ideas are hidden tourist gems. These are the places none of your friends have been to and most will probably not have heard of, yet they are absolutely fabulous and some of the finest on Earth. Mount Thor is definitely one of them. It does get a fair deal of avid climbers and base jumpers visiting it, it’s still one of the least touristy areas introduced on Vacation Ideas yet.

Auyuittuq National Park is far and wide one of the most remote and least accessible places on Earth. I wouldn’t even be able to call it an “off the beaten track” tourist spot because that doesn’t do its remoteness justice. No matter what type of exotic location your friends may have visited where you haven’t been yet, once you have visited Mount Thor, you will wipe their location off the table top in an instant.

Trekking Through Akshayuk Pass in Auyuittuq National Park, Photo: pmorgan, Flickr
Trekking Through Akshayuk Pass in Auyuittuq National Park, Photo: pmorgan, Flickr

This remoteness comes at a price, though. There is no regular plane services to these parts of Canada and none of larger carriers service this area so your only option are small charter plane companies or group tours. This can easily push the price to thousands of dollars but if a large enough group can be put together, it could reduce the cost significantly.

The best starting point is Churchill, Manitoba (known for its Polar Bear spotting adventures). From there one could arrange a flight into Pangnirtung which brings you on Baffin Island from where further arrangements can be made.

Parks Visitor Information Center in Pangnirtung sells entry permits to Auyuittuq National Park. You can buy a daily pass for $15 or an annual pass for $100. Visit the Auyuittuq National Park of Canada official website for most up to date information on current fees and weather conditions: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/nu/auyuittuq/index.aspx

Stream Crossing in Auyuittuq National Park with Thor Peak in the Background, Photo: deepchi1, Flickr
Stream Crossing in Auyuittuq National Park with Thor Peak in the Background, Photo: deepchi1, Flickr

Pangnirtung is about 30km across the fjord from the entrance to the Auyuittuq National Park. Inuit people (Canadian aboriginals) living in Pangnirtung offer boat services to get you there, or if you get to the area in winter (not recommended) and the fjord is frozen, you can rent a snowmobile.
Getting to Mount Thor from the entrance to Auyuittuq National Park is a real adventure on its own. The only Ranger Station that exists in the park is by the entrance so you won’t have many safe heavens once you dared inside. You will be taking the Akshayuk Pass which starts at the entrance and follows through the valley along the Weasel And Owl Rivers. You will need to ford the rivers at shallow crossings on several occasions.

Inukshuq – cairns of rocks built to resemble the shape of a person line the way so you don’t get lost. The feeling of tightness with other adventurers and explorers is really strong in a remote location such as Auyuittuq National Park.

Inukshuq Leading the Way to Mt. Thor, Photo: deepchi1, Flickr
Inukshuq Leading the Way to Mt. Thor, Photo: deepchi1, Flickr

It is a 4 hour swift hike from the park entrance to the foot of Mount Thor but the nature is spectacular and pristine, giving you the feeling of exploring places no man has seen before. After you have passed Windy Lake, you will see Thor Peak towering in the distance.

Small hut at the base of Mount Thor is available to the adventures to sleep in or rest before challenging climb. It isn’t big and will only take about 4 people max, but it’s better than nothing in this untamed wilderness. Another hut is located at the foot of Mount Asgard and by the entrance, near Mount Overlord where the camping site is.

Steep Cliffs of Mount Thor, Photo: Peter Morgan, Wikipedia
Steep Cliffs of Mount Thor, Photo: Peter Morgan, Wikipedia

Mount Thor – The Best Time to Visit

If you intend to do climbing, the best time to visit Thor Peak would be between June and August. If you are not a climber but would like to experience unspoiled, raw wilderness at its finest, you may start to plan your expedition as early as April and as late as September, however it is strongly recommended that you time your visit to the Auyuittuq for summer. Winters in Nunavut are known for being long and tough. Temperature often drops below -40 Degrees Celsius and stays in that range for weeks. Coupled with strong winds, this truly is not the type of weather to explore the wilderness in. However, Auyuittuq National Park is open to visitors year round so it is possible to go there even in the midst of dead winter, but you truly don’t want to do that.

Camping in Auyuittuq National Park

The only official campground is by Overlord Mountain at the head of Akshayuk Valley. Camping is otherwise allowed throughout Auyuittuq National Park but bear in mind that this is pure wilderness. You camp wherever you can find a good spot for the tent.

Summit Lake Reflect Mouth Thor, Photo: deepchi1, Flickr
Summit Lake Reflect Mouth Thor, Photo: deepchi1, Flickr

Mount Thor Climbing

The very first people to climb Mount Thor were the members of Arctic Institute of North America. Hans Weber, F. Schwarzenbach and J. Rothlisberger reached the peak of Mount Thor in 1953. Since then, Thor Peak has attracted many mountain climbers not only because of challenges it represents, but also because of its spectacular looks. Entire Auyuittuq National Park has countless peaks that would satisfy even the most demanding climber, including Mount Asgard which is best known for the BASE jump performed by stuntman Rick Sylvester in 1976 for the opening sequence of The Spy Who Loved Me, the tenth film in the James Bond series.

Thor Peak is technically a very challenging mountain to climb and should only be attempted by the most seasoned climbers. Extensive climbing experience is essential no matter which route you pick.

Mount Thor Rappelling

The west face of Mount Thor is an uninterrupted wall with 1250 meters long drop and an average grade of 105 degrees which means it slightly overhangs. This makes for challenging, but rewarding climbing. To descend such steep mountain wall, climbers must rappel (rappelling – sometimes called abseiling – is the technique used by climbers to descend the slope which requires the use of ropes because it’s too dangerous to go without). The attempt at rappelling Mount Thor was made in 2004 by a Canadian park ranger Philip Robinson who climbed the mountain on his own and attempted to descend the steep wall but encountered a problem with his equipment and fell to his death.

The world record for the longest rappel in the world was set by a team of American climbers who rappelled Mount Thor on July 23, 2006. The world record team consisted of following world grade climbers: Tim Hudson, Deldon Barfuss, Donny Opperman, Gordon Rosser, Kenneth Waite, Ben Holley, Dirk Siron and Chuck Constable. The first successful attempt to scale western wall of Mount Thor was made in 1985. The team took 33 days to complete their mission. Previous 30 attempts all failed.

Thor Peak and Forkbeard Glacier Behind It, Photo: macz_out, Flickr
Thor Peak and Forkbeard Glacier Behind It, Photo: macz_out, Flickr

Mount Thor BASE Jump

Thanks to its uninterrupted wall that continuously overhangs, Mount Thor has been attracting the stuntmen and daredevils wishing to experience the long lasting free fall. Many BASE jumping attempts have been performed at Mount Thor, including formerly the highest BASE jump in the world, even though that has since been surpassed by the BASE jump off Great Trango Tower in Pakistan.

Mount Thor Video

Video below is an episode from an “Into the Arctic” video journal by artist Cory Trepanier. It shows lightly what it takes to get to Thor Peak and has some nice images of the mountain:

Mt. Thor in Canada is the world’s largest cliff face. It is set against the backdrop of the magnificent Penny Ice Cap – the only ice formation on Earth that still remains from the last Ice Age. Surrounded by fjords of unspeakable beauty within the Auyuittuq National Park, Mount Thor is one spine tingling piece of granite rock that’s sure to bewilder both thrill seeker, as well as beauty admirers.

Bay of Fundy

The Bay of Fundy is a 170 Miles (270 km) long ocean bay located on the East Coast of Canada, between the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and is renowned for being a place with the highest tides on the planet. 115,000,000,000.00 (one hundred and fifteen billion) tonnes of ocean water raises the sea level at the Bay of Fundy by as much as 53 feet (16.2 meters) twice a day. This means that Bay of Fundy, being a single bay gets more water flowing in and out every 12 hours than all of the fresh water rivers in the world combined get in a day. This makes Bay of Fundy one of the most fascinating natural phenomenons on the planet and should be on a “must visit at least once in my life” list of every traveller.

Bay of Fundy Seen from Fundy National Park, Photo by Product of Newfoundland, Flickr
Bay of Fundy Seen from Fundy National Park, Photo by Product of Newfoundland, Flickr

Bay of Fundy Tides

Bay of Fundy experiences one high and one low tide twice a day. It takes on average 6 hours and 13 minutes for low tide to grow into a high tide and then additional 6 hours and 13 minutes for the water level to drop from high tide to low tide. This frequency will give each visitor a chance to see at least one high and one low tide during the daylight hours any time of year. Tide times as well as the tidal range vary slightly from one community along the bay to another.

Walking on the Oean Floor Along Hopewell Rocks at Bay of Fundy, Photo by Ryan James Anderson, Flickr
Walking on the Oean Floor Along Hopewell Rocks at Bay of Fundy, Photo by Ryan James Anderson, Flickr

Bay of Fundy Ecosystem

High tides of the Bay of Fundy create marine ecosystem that’s very rich and dynamic. Eight species of whales, including rare and endangered Right Whales call Bay of Fundy their home, making it one of the best places in the world for whale watching. Bay waters are also populated with abundance of dolphins, seals, porpoises, and other marine life. Thousands of migratory birds rely on Bay of Fundy as their feeding ground during their long journeys across the planet, which gave Bay of Fundy a label of a World’s Bird Watching Hot Spot. Some of world’s most important fossil discoveries were made in the Bay of Fundy.

High Tide Turns Rock Formations Into Small Islands Used by Cormorants, Photo by headharbourlight, Flickr
High Tide Turns Rock Formations Into Small Islands Used by Cormorants, Photo by headharbourlight, Flickr

Fundy National Park

Parks Canada declared the forested area on the sea side of Bay of Fundy a National Park. The entrance to the park is near the village of Alma, in southern part of New Brunswick, approximately 80 km from Moncton. Fundy National Park offers 110 km of self guided interpretive hiking trails, excellent sea kayaking opportunities, lake canoeing, horseriding, mountain biking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and more. Camping grounds as well as roofed accommodation are available throughout the park. When giving sea kayaking a try, keep in mind that sea levels at Bay of Fundy change quickly. By the time you’re done kayaking, the shore will not be where it was when you picked up your kayak.

Bay of Fundy Video

Bay of Fundy is truly one of the most breathtaking places on the planet and the opportunity to see the tides rise and descend within a span of hours makes for unforgettable experience. Pristine nature and sustainable coastal development put Bay of Fundy on the map of popular eco tourism spots. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience one of planets most astounding natural wonders.

Ottawa Tourism

Ottawa at Night, Image: Robbie's Photo Art, Flickr
Ottawa at Night, Image: Robbie's Photo Art, Flickr

Ottawa, the capital of Canada is easily one of the most picturesque capitals of the world. It pays to mention that it’s also one of the most tourism friendly capitals. What do I mean by “the most tourism friendly”? It’s simple – unlike most capital cities, Ottawa has all of its interesting sites so close to one another, that you can visit them all on foot completely avoiding cab or public transportation fees. How’s that for great tourist destination? That being said – do not think of Ottawa as some form of miniature city. Ottawa has it all:

  • beautiful art galleries, great museums and thriving performance arts scene for all you culture junkies
  • rich history with countless historical spots, including absolutely majestic gothic Parliamentary buildings for all you history junkies
  • great restaurants with world class chefs for all you culinary junkies
  • busy athletic and sport scene that includes Ottawa Senators NHL team for all you sport junkies

Ottawa – Geographical Location

Ottawa is located on the south bank of the Ottawa River in Canadian province of Ontario. The Ottawa River also outlines the border between Ontario and the French-Canadian province of Quebec. The North bank of the Ottawa River is the site of the French speaking town of Hull. This position between predominantly English province of Ontario and predominantly French province of Quebec makes Ottawa an exciting blend of English and French cultures.

Culture in Ottawa

Ottawa has grown to be a culturally diverse city. The Canadian National Arts Centre and the National Gallery of Canada are housed in Ottawa. If arts don’t fit your taste, you can visit the Canada Science and Technology Museum or the Canadian Museum of Nature. Ottawa’s twin city of Hull which is just across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill is home to the Canadian Museum of Civilization. A number of theaters are available throughout the city for those looking to see a play or an opera.

Ottawa - National Gallery Art Museum, Photo: Derek Farr ( DetroitDerek ), Flickr
Ottawa - National Gallery Art Museum, Photo: Derek Farr ( DetroitDerek ), Flickr

Ottawa Downtown

Ottawa’s major attractions, such as Parliament Hill or the National Gallery of Canada are expectedly located within the downtown core of the city, however the downtown also has large residential area with attractive shopping centres and restaurants. The Rideau Shopping Centre or the Sparks Street Mall will surely fix your shopping itch, while Suisha Gardens or Hy’s Steak House will take care of the culinary one.

Peace Tower

At 92 meters (302 feet) high the Peace Tower is Ottawa’s main landmark. The Tower ascends the grandiose Parliament Buildings which pose proudly at the junction of three rivers – the Ottawa River, the Rideau River and the Gatineau River. Rideau Canal offers boat rides in summer and ice sculpting as well as skating in winter.

Ottawa - Parliament Building with High Peace Tower, Photo: Joel Bedford, Flickr
Ottawa - Parliament Building with High Peace Tower, Photo: Joel Bedford, Flickr

Ottawa Nightlife

For nightlife Elgin Street is a place to be. You can pop in to any of the clubs along the street to get a little taste of capital city’s nightlife. Bulldog Pub is great, but also try Griffin’s or Big Daddy’s Crab Shack.

The Glebe

The Glebe is a shopping strip along Bank Street just south of the Queensway, which borders Ottawa’s downtown on the south. With lots of specialty shops often focusing on art scene, The Glebe offers unusual experience and a look at more the alternative part of the city.

Sandy Hill

Sandy Hill is where most of embassies are located. The University of Ottawa is in this area which means there are many young people around all the time. To the north of Sandy Hill, across Rideau Street you can find the Byward Market – one of those “you name it” markets. Whatever your taste, you will likely find something of interest there. It’s also one of the most popular Ottawa tourism spots. You’ll find many visitors and vacationers browsing specialty shop during the day and enjoying the nightlife in any of numerous bars after the sun had set.

Somerset Heights

Somerset Heights used to be Ottawa’s Chinatown, however an influx of immigrants from Vietnam influenced the name change in the late 70’s. The Heights remains THE spot for people who like quality Asian food. Some of Ottawa’s finest Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants are located in Somerset Heights.

Rockcliffe Park

Rockcliffe Park is further east and north of Sandy Hill and is the home of Rideau Hall – home of Canada’s Governor General and 24 Sussex Drive – home of Canada’s Prime Minister. Some of Canada’s finest and most expensive real estate can be found in Rockcliffe Park, including the multi-million dollar home Michael Cowpland, the founder of software company Corel.

Parliament Hill reflecting on the Ottawa River, Photo: Vince Alongi, Flickr
Parliament Hill reflecting on the Ottawa River, Photo: Vince Alongi, Flickr

Ottawa is a lively city with lots of open spaces, green parks and some of Canada’s finest national attractions. Sightseeing opportunities are endless and the city is busy with fun festivals all year round so you’re guaranteed to have a good time and find something matching your interest level regardless of the season. Plus you’ll be in the capital city of Canada – a country notorious for its fun and friendly people. Welcome and enjoy.

Niagara Falls Vacations

Niagara Falls at Night, Photo: Aneurysm9, Flickr
Niagara Falls at Night, Photo: Aneurysm9, Flickr

Niagara Falls counts as one of those vacation spots where you can feel the tremendous power of Mother Nature with every part of your body. Large bodies of water making their unstoppable way throughout the rocky terrain as they bolt down into the swirl get you connected and appreciative of our planet’s natural beauty. The sheer visual spectacle of a Niagara Falls vacation is mesmerizing and guaranteed to leave impressions that will last a lifetime.

A Niagara Falls vacation however offers more than just a spectacle. Niagara Falls are the rush. Being so close to the unstoppable, deadly power of nature is like walking on the back of Godzilla. You know that if you crossed the line, there would be no saving you, but at the same time you know that you’re safe. You’re just given the opportunity to enjoy this formidable, deadly beast from up close, you can feel it’s monstrous power, you can feel it’s breath on your neck, but it can’t get you. This is the type of rush Niagara Falls vacation offers, this is the type of rush hardly any other place on Earth can get you.

Niagara Falls Panorama Image from Canadian Side, Photo: Sbittante, Wikipedia
Niagara Falls Panorama Image from Canadian Side, Photo: Sbittante, Wikipedia

Niagara Falls Geographical Location

Niagara Falls is geographically located on Niagara River, which maps the border between Ontario, Canada and New York, USA. It consists of two massive water-falls – Horseshoe Falls is in Canadian province of Ontario and American Falls is in U.S. state of New York. The two falls are separated by Goat Island.

Most visitors to the Niagara Falls agree that Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side are more impressive than America Falls on the U.S. side. This is also influenced by more attractions with “more to do” on Canadian side as well as better hotels and restaurants.

Reaching the U.S. side of Niagara Falls is not difficult and can be easily done on foot even by people with lower fitness level. Three bridges connect Canadian Niagara Falls with US Niagara Falls. Rainbow Bridge, which is the closest bridge to the falls offers eye-popping view of the falls and is open to pedestrians. Non commercial vehicles are also allowed to cross it, however summer traffic sometimes gets it backed up so the best choice is to stay on the Canadian side, leave the vehicle there and walk to the U.S. to enjoy American Falls as well as The Bridal Veil Falls (smaller waterfall strip on the side of American Falls located between Luna Island and Goat Island).

You can check out a navigable bird’s view of the Niagara Falls by visiting Microsoft Virtual Earth HERE or see its location on the map cut out below (courtesy of Google Maps).

Niagara Falls Location on the Map (Google Maps)
Niagara Falls Location on the Map (Google Maps)

Things to Do on a Niagara Falls Vacation

Niagara Falls Vacations offer vast variety of interesting activities that are guaranteed to satisfy all age groups. Helicopter tours are available for those who would like to enjoy the ultimate view of the falls, however you’ll find it breathtaking even if you’re stay on the roads siding the river.

Boat tours are available for those willing to get real up close to the Niagara Falls. “Maid in the Mist” is the most popular boat that sails at the bottom of the falls and will take you so close you can literally touch the falling water. The popularity of this attraction sometimes causes long waiting times so it’s best to get there early in the morning to avoid rush afternoon hours. The “Cave of the Winds” boat tour will take you to the base of the Niagara Falls and is available from Goat Island Park on the U.S. side. Parkway that runs alongside the Niagara River will take you to the town called Niagara on the Lake.

Horseshoe Niagara Falls from the Canadian Side, Photo: MJCdetroit, Wikipedia
Horseshoe Niagara Falls from the Canadian Side, Photo: MJCdetroit, Wikipedia

Best Time to Take Niagara Falls Vacation

Niagara Falls offers bewitching sight year round so it’s all up to your personal preference to decide whether you like to travel in warm weather or in cold. Winter in the Niagara region lasts from November till March and while snowfalls are not rare, the snow typically melts quickly. Icy water creates a whole new spectacle that summer visitors don’t get to see, however there is a downside to visiting Niagara Falls in winter – getting up close to falling water is hardly fun. Getting splashed on and soaked by a waterfall in -15 degree Celsius is not exactly the most pleasurable experience (unless you enjoy the extremes). Another downside of Niagara Falls vacation in winter is that many attractions remain closed.

The biggest attraction in winter is the Winter Festival of Lights. As the name suggests, the Festival of Lights is a magnificent display of animated lights, sparkling trees and fireworks. It runs from Thanksgiving to New Year and attracts over a million people every year. It is definitely a not to be missed spectacle. The Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights New Year’s fireworks are typically the most sensational fireworks display which is why Canadian national and provincial TV stations broadcast it as part of their New Year’s festivities.

Most people would enjoy a Niagara Falls vacation best in the summer though. All the attractions are open and running, so you can go for a boat tour and/or a helicopter tour and you can enjoy the marvel for longer periods of time without getting frost bitten. Picture taking in winter is also often limited as many cameras don’t operate the greatest when the temperatures drop and pressing the shutter button with numb fingers gets rather challenging.

Niagara Falls at Night, Photo: JR, Wikipedia
Niagara Falls at Night, Photo: JR, Wikipedia

Whether you decide to take your Niagara Falls vacation in winter or in summer, you’re in for a dazzling treat. Natural beauty of Niagara Falls is so empowering each member of your family will enjoy it and will never forget the magnificent display it offers. Even if you’re a solo adventurer, there is so much to see and to do in the Niagara Falls area that you will never get bored. There is a reason why Niagara Falls is often referred to as one of the great wonders of the world. Put it on your must visit location list. And make sure you pack in an extra set of camera batteries and an extra memory card. You won’t believe your eyes when you get there. Enjoy and let me know how you liked it.