M56 Kolyma Highway
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Federal Highway M56
|Федеральная автомобильная дорога M56|
|Length:||2,031 km (1,262 mi)|
|West end:||Nizhny Bestyakh|
|Russian Federal Highways|
The M56 Kolyma Highway (Russian: Федеральная автомобильная дорога «Колыма», "Federal Automobile Highway 'Kolyma'") is a road through the Russian Far East. It connects Magadan with the town of Nizhny Bestyakh, located on the eastern bank of Lena River opposite Yakutsk. At Nizhny Bestyakh the Kolyma Highway connects to the Lena Highway, also designated M56.
Locally, the road is known as Trassa (Russian: Трасса - "The Route"), or Kolymskaya trassa (Russian: Колымская трасса - "The Kolyma Route"), since it is the only road in the area and therefore needs no special name to distinguish it from other roads. The bulk of the Kolyma Highway, the sections between Khandyga and Magadan, is often referred to as the Road of Bones.
The Kolyma Highway was constructed during the Stalinist era of the USSR by the Dalstroy construction directorate. The first stretch was built by the inmates of the Sevvostlag labor camp in 1932, and construction continued with the use of gulag labour until 1953.
The road is treated as a memorial, as the bones of the people who died while constructing it were laid beneath or around the road. As the road is built on permafrost, internment into the fabric of the road was deemed more practical than digging new holes bury the bodies of the dead.
The road today
In 2008 the road was granted Federal Road status, and is now a frequently maintained all-weather gravel road. When the road was upgraded, the route was changed to bypass the section from Kyubeme to Kadykchan via Tomtor, and instead pass from Kyubeme to Kadykchan via the town of Ust-Nera. The old 420 km section via Tomtor is now largely unmaintained; the 200km section between Tomtor and Kadykchan is completely abandoned. This section is known as the Old Summer Road and remains one of the great challenges for adventuring motorcyclists and 4WDers.
The area is extremely cold during the winter. The town of Oymyakon, approximately 100km from the highway, is believed to be the coldest inhabited place on earth. The average temperature in Oymyakon in January is -50°C.
While the highway itself is generally excellent, with a surface of compacted gravel or clay, the Old Summer Road is in a state of disrepair and is a challenging 4WD track, with washed-out bridges and sections of road reclaimed by streams in summer. During winter, frozen rivers may assist river crossings.
The Old Summer Road has become a challenge for adventure motorcyclists. After the fall of the Soviet government, the road was first traversed by Western motorcyclists in summer 1995, when the British Mondo Enduro team completed a crossing from Yakutsk to Magadan. Shortly afterwards a Norwegian wanderer Helge Pedersen also completed the road, starting from Magadan.
Subsequent notable traverses by motorcycle include Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman's round-the-world motorcycle journey in 2004, made into a popular television series, book and DVD, all named Long Way Round. However, due to the timing of the journey and the condition of the road, it was not possible for them and their support crew to complete the traverse unassisted. They instead joined a Russian freight convoy, whose trucks were able to ford the still swollen rivers.
Simon Milward completed the road in 2001 by motorbike and it was cycled in the 2004 winter by Alastair Humphreys and Rob Lilwall, followed on foot by Rosie Swale-Pope in 2005 and ridden solo on motorcycle by both Adrian Scott and by Russian woman Sasha Teplyakova (via the Old Summer Road) the same year. In 2007 the Polish Motosyberia team completed the Old Summer Road. In 2009 Walter Colebatch and Tony Pettie on the Sibirsky Extreme Project completed the new road, from Yakutsk to Magadan via Ust-Nera, in three and a half days. In 2010 Walter Colebatch returned to host the first commercial motorcycle tour on the Road, in which Sherri-Jo Wilkins became the first foreign female rider to ride the road. In September 2010, Paul and Dean Martinello together with Barton Churchill, completed the Old Summer Road into Magadan, and remain the latest motorcycle arrival to Magadan - the 30th of September. In summer 2012, Sean Ardley of California cycled the road from Magadan to the Lena River in 16 days, 12 hours. In June 2013, Nikolaos J. Kavouras member of Motorcycle Club of Kozani, was the first Greek biker who made the new road (via Ust-Nera) in four days, completed his «mongolia2magadan» effort. Commercial trips for small numbers of motorcycles are available. The very first attempt to ride a motorcycle in winter condition was made by Dan Popescu, motorbiker, the Romanian Motorcyclists Association (AMR) president in late March 2012. He rode one Aprilia Pegaso 650 IE on the distance between Yakutsk to near Kyubeme in few days, including night time riding, the coldest temperature down to -35 Celsius, helped by a back up team in two 4x4 including an ambulance.
|0 km||Nizhny Bestyakh / Yakutsk||on the Lena River|
|350 km (220 mi)||Krest-Khaldzhan||Road, northeast, summer ferry across the Aldan River.|
|380 km (240 mi)||Khandyga||on the Aldan River|
|Alternative: Summer Hydrofoil from Yakutsk down the Lena and up the Aldan, 530 km (330 mi), 10 hours.|
|over Suntar-Khayata mountains, 1,200 m (3,940 ft) pass, Vostochnaya River.|
|700 km (430 mi)||Kyubeme|
|940 km (580 mi)||(New route) Ust-Nera||on the Indigirka River, east: several mining towns, Artyk town, headwaters of the Nera River, 1,452 m (4,760 ft) pass.|
Alternative: (Old Summer Road route) 155 km (100 mi) northeast to Tomtor, 250 km (160 mi) road northeast (may not be passable except when frozen), into Magadan Oblast.
|1,240 km (770 mi)||Kadykchan||(nearby are coal mines and the old Myaundzha uranium processing centre).|
|1,330 km (830 mi)||Susuman|
|1,500 km (930 mi)||Debin||with the Kolyma River bridge|
|1,680 km (1,040 mi)||Orotukan||road turns southeast and south, 300 km (190 mi) of largely unpopulated taiga,|
|1,830 km (1,140 mi)||Atka||enters lowlands,|
|1,950 km (1,210 mi)||Palatka|
|1,980 km (1,230 mi)||Sokol|
|2,030 km (1,260 mi)||Magadan|
There is also a scenic shortcut from Magadan to Susuman via Ust-Omchug called the Tenkinskaya Trassa, which receives a lot less heavy traffic than the main section of the M56 between Magadan and Susuman.
Distances: Yakutsk to Khandyga 380 km (240 mi), on to Kyubeme 320 km (200 mi), to Kadykchan (via Tomtor) 420 km (260 mi), Kadykchan to Susuman 90 km (60 mi), Susuman to Magadan 630 km (390 mi). From Kyubeme to Kadykchan north via Ust-Nera (the new, maintained section) is about 650 km (400 mi).
As of summer 2010, the Old Summer Road via Tomtor was still passable to motorcycles and 4×4s.
- Warren, Marcus (10 August 2002). "'Road of Bones' where slaves perished". The Daily Telegraph (London: TMG). ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
- Westcott, Gary & Monica (2012). "Road of Bones to the Coldest Place in the World -". Russian Life. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
- Thompson G., (2002) Kolyma - The Road of Death
- Middleton, Nick., Going to Extremes
- Colebatch, Walter. Siberian Extreme 2010 - Back for More, 8 July 2010. Retrieved 25 July, 2014.
- p. 57, Extreme Weather: A Guide & Record Book, Christopher C. Burt and Mark Stroud, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007, ISBN 0-393-33015-X.
- Погода и Климат. Retrieved 25 July, 2014.
- Bloom, L. R. and Vince, A. E. (2006) Mondo enduro: the ultimate adventure on two wheels - 44,000 miles in 400 days, Findon: RippingYarns.com, ISBN 1-904466-28-1
- McGregor, E., Boorman, C. and Uhlig R. (2005) Long way round : chasing shadows across the world, London : Time Warner, ISBN 0-7515-3680-6
- Pedersen, H., Payne, D. and Squire, S. (1998) 10 Years on 2 Wheels: 77 Countries, 250,000 Miles, Elfin Cove Press, ISBN 0-944958-38-9
- Scott, A. (2008) The Road Gets Better From Here, Vivid Publishing, ISBN 0-9804934-0-4
- The Long Course route and GPS track 
- Thompson, G. (2002) Kolyma - The Road of Death, The Mission Reporter, Florida : Dundee, www site [accessed 21 May 2007]
- Turtle Expedition
- AskYakutia.com : Road condition reports
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Kolyma Highway.|