Lena Pillars: An Amazing And Remote Geological Wonder

On February 9, 2014 by Tim Newman

Lena Pillars - Russia Yakutsk - from the air

The Lena pillars are an impressive natural rock formation along the banks of the Lena River in far eastern Siberia. The magnificent stone pillars are each 150-300m (490-985ft) high.

Lena Pillars - Russia Yakutsk - triangle Lena Pillars - Russia Yakutsk - towers

The Lena pillars became a UNESCO world heritage site in 2012 but they are still relatively unknown thanks to their incredible and near perfect isolation.

Lena Pillars - Russia Yakutsk - sunset

Animal Collection

Lena Pillars - Russia Yakutsk - helicopter

The nearest town (a day’s boat ride away) is Yakutsk which is about 450 kilometers (280 mi) south of the Arctic Circle and considered to be one of the coldest cities in the world. January’s average temperature is −38.6 °C and the record high for January is just -5.8 °C. Frost bite territory.

Lena Pillars - Russia Yakutsk - geology

The pillars themselves are made of alternating bands of limestone, marlstones (calcium carbonate or lime-rich mud or mudstone which contains variable amounts of clays and silt), dolomite and slate of the Lower/Middle Cambrian. They were once the bottom of an ancient sea and consequently the place is littered with fossils.

The pillars are formed, in part, by the freezing and thawing action on the pillars widening gullies as it expands and contracts across millenia. The extremes of temperature (-60 in the winter up to +40 in the summer) cause huge stresses in the rocks.

Lena Pillars - Russia Yakutsk - from above

Russian Collection

Lena Pillars - Russia Yakutsk - forest unesco

I found some rafting tours that will take you there. The shortest of which is 8 days and costs about £400. That’s not bad, but you have to get yourself to Yakutsk first. The cheapest flights I could find from the UK to Yakutsk were £476 which isn’t bad either, but that’s in March when temperatures are well into the minus zone every day. Personally I don’t like the idea of river rafting through ice. If you do visit the area be sure to drop in on Lake Baikal, it looks amazing.

Lena Pillars - Russia Yakutsk - close up

Lena Pillars UNESCO

Lena Pillars - Russia Yakutsk - camping trip

The place is so isolated and extreme that it’s never likely to get much tourist trade. But that’s a good thing for the Lena Pillars themselves and the surrounding wilderness I suppose. There’s not much left on this planet that we haven’t either ruined or are currently ruining, so it’s nice to see somewhere us humans can barely survive. At least it’s got a fighting chance then.

@media all and (max-width: 228px) { div#darkbackground, div.visiblebox { display: none; } }