Two Italians are Cycling 1,200Km Through the Coldest Part of Siberia

On January 13, at the coldest time of year, Stefano Gregoretti and Dino Lanzaretti began a 2,000km expedition through Siberia.

The journey is split into two legs. Currently, they are cycling 1,200km, in temperatures as low as -60°C, from Oymyakon to Verkhoyansk. The two villages are the two coldest settlements in the world. Then in summer, they will stand up paddleboard 750km along the Yena River from Verkhoyansk to the Arctic Ocean.

They have named their challenge Siberia 105° to highlight the 105°C temperature range now experienced in Siberia because of climate change. In winter, the temperature in Verkhoyansk can plummet to -67°C, while last summer, it rose to 38°C.

Photo: Dino Lanzaretti


Although that part of Siberia is known for its large temperatures fluctuations because of the continental climate, no one has ever experienced such a drastic and destruction range. Scorching summers have caused wildfires that don’t die out, even in winter. The permafrost is thawing, destabilizing the structures built on top of it. It also releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The Italian duo arrived in Siberia on January 7. Six days later, they began their journey. Pedaling through Oymyakon, they stopped at the marker known as the Pole of Cold. Oymyakon holds the record for the lowest temperature in the northern hemisphere ever recorded: -71°C.

Gregoretti and Lanzaretti with the Keeper of the Cold. Photo: Stefano Gregoretti

The Keeper of the Cold

At the monument, they met a flamboyant character known as Chryskhan, the Keeper of the Cold.

In 2014, another Western visitor, Felicity Aston, explained the Keeper’s significance:

“Striding around the monument was a figure clad in a magnificent floor-length coat of shimmering blue trimmed with white fur and studded with colorful beads that tinkled like broken ice when he moved,” she wrote. “Wearing a headdress in the shape of entwined bull horns, he carried a staff decorated with white horsehair. He introduced himself to us as Chyskhan, the Lord Keeper of the Cold.

“In Yakutian mythology, Chyskhan is responsible for distributing winter across the globe. Every autumn, a dozen or so of the 25 official Santa Claus equivalents from various cultures around the world gather in Oymyakon to collect symbols of cold from Chyskhan. They return in spring to hand back the tokens.”

Early problems

Unofficial send-off aside, the first few days of the Italians’ expedition have not been easy. Problems soon began with the gearbox on Lanzaretti’s bike. They had to take it apart and reassemble it — no easy matter in those temperatures.

At least, the pair are experienced in the cold. In 2017, Lanzaretti cycled across Siberia in winter. And Gregoretti is an endurance athlete who has covered many kilometres in extreme cold and cycled through the Canadian Arctic.