Yakutia Pole of Cold

pole of cold – полюс холода

There are 3 small settlements in Yakutia which claim to be the Pole of Cold: Oymyakon (Оймякон), Tomtor (Томтор) and Verkhoyansk (Верхоянск). As a story goes, in 1926 a geologist named Sergey Obruchev was exploring the area looking for gold and being in Oymyakon either registered minus 71.2ºC or only theorized that temperature in this area may fall as low as minus 71.2ºC. However, the fact of minus 71.2ºC has never been documented. The documented lowest temperature in Oymyakon equals to minus 67.7ºC. Feb. 06, 1933. Meanwhile, in Verkhoyansk on January 15, 1885 a political exile Sergey Kovalik clocked minus 67.8ºC and on February 6, 1892 the local properly licensed and equipped meteorological station again measured minus 67.8ºC. The problem with Verkhoyansk is its remote hard-to-reach location. In warm season only by air. While Oymyakon and Tomtor can be reached by road all the year round. Location matters. (For Verkhoyansk see Yakutia North page).

Usually, on day three of a road-of-bones trip Yakutsk-Magadan we drive from Tyoply Klyuch (Теплый Ключ) to Oymyakon. In 250 km we reach the abandoned village of Kyubyume (Кюбюме) where there is a gas station and a cafe named "Cuba". It is advisable to replenish your tanks with gasoline. Next gas station is in Ust-Nera 240 km away. All facilities look simple and humble but do the job.

The cashier's desk is marred with stickers of many so-called "extreme" expeditions. Pay here.

Pumps. Fill up here.

The Cuba Café. The food is good and cheap despite its remote location.

Tank trucks on the way to Ust-Nera.

oymyakon – оймякон

Having replenished the tanks we leave the Kolyma highway and drive east in the direction of Oymyakon. Kyubyume - Oymyakon = 200 km.

In Oymyakon there are two memorials dedicated to the -71.2ºC and to Sergey Obruchev.

"The lowest air temperature in the northern hemisphere -71.2ºC was registered here"

The newer memorial.

Perhaps the best time to visit the Pole of Cold in Oymyakon and Tomtor is March when temperatures are still low but relatively comfortable. Besides, winter setting becomes the Pole of Cold much better than mosquitoes in summer time. The Indigirka River flowing past Oymyakon never freezes. Even at minus 60ºC. Visitors can enjoy winter swimming at extremely low temperatures.

Minus 45ºC in the morning of March 15, 2020 in Oymyakon.

yakut horse

A few kilometers from Oymyakon there is a horse farm. The Yakut horse is a special cold-resistant breed that admits no stables. Yakut horses stay outdoor all the year round, even at minus 60ºC. The guy who runs the farm charges 1,000 rubles per person. If you are unwilling to pay, you may see and picture Yakut horses free of charge along the road all over Yakutia.

tomtor – томтор

Tomtor is 160 km from the Kolyma highway. 40 km before Oymyakon. The residents of Tomtor ensure the rest of the world that the -71.2ºC belongs to them. To substantiate their point of view they erected a higher and bigger monument commemorating the -71.2ºC and later added a bust of Sergey Obruchev.

Welcome to the Pole of Cold.

This old stela in Tomtor reads that in 1926 Sergey Obruchev discovered a gold bearing rock in the basins of Indigirka and Kolyma rivers and in Oymyakon established the lowest temperature in the northern hemisphere  -71.2ºC as well as the biggest temperature amplitude 109.2ºC. It means the highest air temperature in Oymyakon equals +38ºC.

WWII memorial in Tomtor.

airport – аэропорт

A couple of kilometers from Tomtor there is a small airfield with a dilapidated wooden airport. The Oymyakon airfield was commissioned in 1942 as a part of Alaska-Siberia air route used to ferry lend-leased war planes from the United States to the eastern front. In spite of its shabby look the airport is operational. In summer it operates one flight a week from/to Yakutsk.

Usually, we drive the whole length of the runway just for fun.

Below is a link to a short video of an attempted takeoff.

Next to the airport is a small graveyard of good old Soviet machinery which foreign travelers find photogenic.

yuchyugei – ючюгей

The village of Yuchyugey is located about 90 km from the Kolyma highway and 65 km from Tomtor. Local villagers breed reindeer and sew nice national costumes. A photo session can be arranged.

On the way to the Pole of Cold.

It would be nice to combine a drive along the Road of Bones with a visit to a mysterious place – Lake Labynkyr . The lake is 120 km away from Tomtor. It is accessible by foot, horse or specially designed all-terrain vehicles. Lake Labynkyr is a very scenic, rarely visited place and is presumably inhabited by an unknown prehistoric animal. Local Yakut hunters and fishermen reported a number of sightings. In 1959, two Russian geologists also reported a sighting of the monster.