A trip to the Lena Pillars; the cold – nearly killed us!

This continuing Yakutsk topic is all very well, but it’d never be complete without… the Lena Pillars! Unique – check. Grandiose – check. Must-see – check! A long (~250km!) line of huge stone ‘fingers’ (~200 meters in height) sticking up out of the ground along the eastern bank of the river Lena ->

The Lena Pillars have been a firm fixture on my Top-100 List of Most Beautiful Must-See Places on the Planet since its inception, it goes withoug saying.

Getting to them in winter takes a full day by car from Yakutsk. First you get to the nearby Pokrovsk on the perfectly adequate road. You continue to drive past villages on the left bank of the river, then it’s an hour-and-a-half along… an ‘ice road’ – just like the ice road that connects Yakutsk to the Lena Highway. If you want to see this ice road being driven on – check out the dashcam footage at the end of this post…

There’s a footpath, then a few hundred steps, that take you up to the top of the pillars in not much time at all. Once I reached the top I noticed straight away how the views differ markedly in winter to those in summer (I was here back in 2013). Basically, everything’s covered in snow or hoarfrost. Much like Yakutsk, but the ‘countryside’ version:

The view of the river Lena – awesome. It’s just as grandiose – and wide (3km here!) – as it is in the summer of course, it’s just that the color’s changed! ->

One thing: it was freeeeeezing here! Up until this walkabout we’d been out in -50°C temperatures for an hour or hour-and-a-half, tops. Today we were out in the cold for much longer. In a word: ouch! We felt the bitter cold most while sat on sledges that were towed by a snowmobile across the frozen Lena. We were only on the sledges for the three kilometers breadth of the river, but we were all covered in hoarfrost by the time we reached the foot of the pillars! Brrrrrrr. As I didn’t want to repeat that, I decided to walk on the way back. And I made it! Woah! From one bank of the Lena to the other – on foot! It got a bit hairy in the middle of the river – what with the big clumps of ice I had to slalom around – and then more than a little scary when I noticed a few cracks in the ice (!) that had been made under the weight of the fallen snow, but I made it!

Lena – you got me on my knees!

The Lena Pillars in any season are oh-my-grandiose, but I have to say that in winter, they are a little bit less so. Because most everything is covered in whiteness, the pillars are kinda camouflaged in the not-too-far distance, and the height of the cliffs somehow appears less striking:

So, if you ever fancy a look at the Lena Pillars in the flesh yourself – make sure you come in the season when you can actually see the flesh, without it wrapped up in a white blanket ). Oh, and try the helicopter option, if poss. Here’s why (pics from 2013) :

PS: The ice-road footage:

The rest of the pics on our Magadan–Moscow road trip are here.

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