The Dyatlov Pass Incident
In February 1959, a group of hikers died in mysterious circumstances on the slopes of a then unnamed mountain. Now one of the most famous mysteries of the 20th century, are we any closer to understanding what exactly caused the Dyatlov Pass Incident?
The sun was beginning to set over the Western rise as the two men crested the hill. A combination of exhaustion and the biting cold of the late Russian Winter had slowed their progress to a crawl, but it had not dampened their determination. They plodded on through the deep snow with only one thing on their minds. They were students of the Ural Polytechnical Institute and they were out searching for their friends who had failed to return from a hiking trip two weeks prior.
The dying light meant that they would soon have to call it a day. They did not relish the prospect of finding their way back to camp in the dark, especially through such unforgiving terrain. But despite those dangers, they could not help but appreciate the allure of their surroundings. This wilderness had a calming, almost serene beauty and they could only hope that it had been kind to their friends.
Although their hearts remained resolute, after so many days searching, that hope was fading as quickly as the setting sun. Ahead of them were the rising slopes of Kholat Syakhl, translated from the Mansi word meaning “Dead Mountain”, so named by the local Mansi tribes due to the fact that nothing ever grows there. For this reason, the vision that greeted the two men in that late afternoon was an immense, perfectly smooth hillock, blanketed with pure white snow.
And they would have turned back at that point, if not for the fact that something had caught their attention. In the midst of all that brilliant white, they could make out a singular dark spot about halfway up the side of the mountain, sticking out like a sore thumb, completely at odds with its surroundings.
It would take them another half an hour to reach, but as they got closer, they could make out the vague outline of a large tent. They knew immediately that it belonged to their missing friends and upon inspection; they found that—besides a large hole in the side canvas—everything else was in order. The sides of the tent had been insulated with coats and empty backpacks, ski boots were lined up neatly near the entrance, padded coats and blankets lined the floor and elsewhere they found personal items stowed away and a wood axe and saw at the far end of the roughly 8sqm shelter.
The two rescuers breathed a sigh of relief as they noticed that there were no bodies. They cautiously celebrated as they permitted themselves to believe that their comrades were not dead, but they could not shake the feeling that something about the scene before them still seemed a little odd.
They did not know it at the time, but this was only the beginning of an enduring mystery, one which remains unresolved to this day. A mystery that would go on to become one of the most famous and strangest cases, not just in Russia, but in the history of the entire world. Over the next few days, they would begin finding the bodies of their friends, but nothing about their deaths seemed to add up. There would be no satisfactory conclusion and all investigation would quickly cease, not to be talked of again for quite some time.
A 60-year-old mystery
In the 1990s, after being buried in top secret archives for more than 30 years, the Russian government finally released the details of the incident to the general public. It was not largely known about outside of Russia, but it would gain international attention throughout the late noughties thanks to creepypasta websites and of course; YouTube. This is a story you may have no doubt heard countless times already, but allow us to tell it one last time.
We will present only the facts and try to cut out any embellishment. We will run through the time line of events and the precise details of the incident itself. We will address every theory in turn and pick them apart one by one, and by a process of elimination, we will try to deliver a clearer picture. But the fact of the matter is that we may never know exactly what happened on that freezing cold night back in February of 1959.
What we do know is that a month before, in January of that year, nine students of the Ural Polytechnical Institute in Sverdlovsk and an older, ex-military companion set out to hike across the Siberian wilderness. There were ten group members in total and they were all experienced hikers, each being rated at Grade II in their capabilities by the Institute itself.
Their aim was to reach Otorten Mountain in the Northern Urals, a trek which would take them over nearly 300 miles of terrain in the midst of a harsh Russian Winter. They were led by Igor Dyatlov, an accomplished radio engineer and a natural-born leader, respected by many of his peers. Everyone aspired to take part in one of his hikes and it was considered a high honour to do so. It was after him that the mountain pass where the incident occurred would later be renamed.
Making such a difficult journey would ultimately garner a Grade III certification in hiking for all participants; the most prestigious hiking qualification in the country at that time. An achievement which required all group members to cover at least 186 miles of ground, a third of which had to be in challenging terrain.
The minimum duration of the trip had to be sixteen days, with no fewer than eight of those days spent in uninhabited regions, and with at least six nights spent in a tent.
It was a tough assignment, but in completing this task, the certification would allow each member to teach their craft as Masters of Sports, a distinction that everyone in the team was desperate to attain. And so a mixture of excitement and determination was in the air as the ten companions stood on the platform at Sverdlovsk train station, stooped under the weight of their packs.
Not once did the thought ever cross their minds that this would be their last trip, one that would ultimately end in disaster. Nine of the ten members would never return alive. As fate would have it, the tenth member, Yuri Yudin, would cut his trip short halfway through the hike due to ill health. And it is thanks to him that we have a detailed account of the group’s movements up until 28th January. Everything after that point has been pieced together from journal entries and photographs taken by the group. Their arduous journey would play out as follows…
On the evening of 23rd January, they caught the 9:05 pm train from Sverdlovsk, which would take them over 200 miles north to Serov. The journey was roughly 11 hours in length and would see them arriving at their destination at 7:39 am the next morning. Whilst in Serov they caught up on some much-needed sleep and then spent the afternoon entertaining the children of a local school. In the evening, they boarded another train, which would take them a hundred miles further north to Ivdel, arriving there at around midnight.
This left them with a six-hour wait before they caught a bus at 6 am out to Vizhay on the 25th January. The next day, they travelled further North to an area known simply as Sector 41, and there they would spend the night. At 4 pm on the 27th, they travelled up the frozen Lovza River in the dead of night and would arrive at an abandoned geological site in the early hours of the next morning.
It was at this point that Yuri Yudin—hindered by rheumatism and other ongoing illnesses—would turn back. After saying their farewells, the rest of the group continued travelling north towards their objective. Yudin would look over his shoulder one last time to see his friends skiing away in the opposite direction, his heart heavy with disappointment, oblivious to the quiet irony that his illnesses had just saved his life. This was the last time he ever saw his friends alive.
The route to Otorten Mountain
It was on this day, the 29th January that the group’s hiking adventure would commence proper. After having travelled mostly by road and rail, it was now time for the hard work to begin, as they made the rest of their way towards Otorten Mountain on foot. They continued skiing north along the frozen Lovza River into the late evening before setting up camp for the night. On the 30th, they would head west following the Auspiya River – one of the Lovza’s tributaries – all the way up to the base of an unnamed mountain, marked on maps simply as Height 1079. In the years that followed, this peak would come to be officially recognised by its Mansi name of Kholat Syakhl – The Dead Mountain.
It was here that they would set up camp and build a cache to store any excess supplies in an effort to lighten their loads. This was in preparation for the ascent of Otorten. The 1st February would see progress slow to a crawl as the harsh weather began to set in. The low visibility would contribute to the group’s straying off course and in the last hours of daylight, they would find themselves half way up the slopes of Height 1079.
Igor made the decision to set up camp here for the night, perhaps due to a combination of not wanting to lose the ground they had already covered and the fact that the daylight was fading fast. He also more than likely wanted to practice camping on a mountain slope as an extra challenge for himself and the group.
In any case, it is known that the hikers were settled into their tent by around 5:30 pm. They worked on a mock paper together – The Evening Otorten – which was a humorous report on the group’s activities over the last few days and also served as a team building exercise. Photographs had also been taken whilst they were making camp and everyone seemed to be in good spirits.
The mystery begins
But whatever took place over the next few hours is highly mysterious and would go on to become what is now known as the Dyatlov Pass Incident. Nobody knows for sure exactly what happened, but from collected evidence, authorities were able to ascertain that at some point during the night of 1st February, something spooked the hikers so much that they would cut their way out of the tent and run out into the freezing cold night, barefooted and in little more than their underwear.
All nine group members perished; most of them from hypothermia, but some from horrific injuries, of which nobody has ever been able to satisfactorily explain. The entire event is still steeped in mystery, even after all this time, and although a few theories have come close to presenting a plausible explanation of what exactly took place, none of them are without their problems.
The first sign of anything amiss came about midway through February. Igor and his companions had been due to return to Sverdlovsk on the 13th, but nothing had been seen or heard of them. This was no immediate cause for concern; delays were normal and at the start of the trip, Dyatlov himself had told Yuri Yudin—the young man who had abandoned the hike early due to ill health—that he expected the return journey to take longer.
By the 15th, families were beginning to feel a little concerned. They reasoned that at least a telegram or some other form of communication informing them of the delay should have been received by now, but they had heard nothing. Five days later, on the 20th, with still no word, the group’s families demanded that a rescue operation be mounted in order to locate their loved ones.
The search parties were initially assembled of volunteers such as family members, fellow pupils and teachers from the university. On 26th February, a student by the name of Mikhail Sharavin and a close friend found the abandoned tent on the gentle, 30 degree inclined slopes of Kholat Syakhl at an altitude of 800 meters. It had collapsed and appeared to be badly damaged, with a large slit in the side canvas. It had been covered with a light snowfall and they found many of the group’s belongings inside, but they could see nothing of the hikers themselves.
The fading light meant that the search would have to be called off for the day. The rescuers made camp in a more optimistic mood than they had started out with. They firmly believed that the group were out there somewhere, alive and braving the cold in a snow cave or abandoned house. They couldn’t have known that the bodies of their friends were lying beneath the snow, lifeless and silent, not too far from their own camp. The next day, on the 27th February, the full horror of the Dyatlov Pass Incident would begin to unfold…
Search and rescue
The next morning, the search and rescue party made an early start, keen to determine the group’s direction of travel away from their abandoned tent. They were soon joined by a larger group of volunteers as well as members of the Russian military.
Leading away from the campsite, the rescuers discovered at least eight sets of footprints, possibly nine, heading down the slope towards the edge of a wood at the very base of the mountain. Bizarrely, most of the tracks looked as if they had been made by people wearing only socks and even barefooted in some cases. They disappeared after about 500 metres, apparently covered by snowfall.
The woods were situated almost a mile downhill on the opposite side of the pass. At the edge of the tree line, underneath a large cedar tree, they found the remnants of a small fire. They also noticed that the cedar tree’s branches had been broken or snapped off completely up to five meters above the ground, suggesting that someone had climbed it. This at first looked promising, but any hopes of finding the hikers alive would be short-lived.
The first two bodies; Doroshenko and Krivonishchenko
Early on the morning of 27th February, they found the body of Yuri Doroshenko underneath the cedar tree, close to where the fire pit was situated. At 180cm tall, Doroshenko was the group’s tallest and most well-built member. He was described as impulsive and brave by those who knew him. On a previous expedition, he had apparently chased away a bear that had wandered too close to camp.
Doroshenko had minor cuts and bruises all over his body. His nose, lips and one of his ears were covered in dried blood. His upper lip was swollen as if he had been hit in the mouth. A grey, foam like substance was also found on his cheeks suggesting he had suffered from a pulmonary oedema. His right temple and one of his feet had been burned. Despite all of these signs, the cause of death was listed as hypothermia.
Yuri Krivonishchenko’s body was found lying right next to Doroshenko and was discovered at roughly the same time. Krivonishchenko had been the group’s joker and musician, and had something of a reputation for being a master storyteller. He had been studying construction and hydraulics at the university.
As with Doroshenko, minor bruises and abrasions were found on his abdomen and various limbs. The tip of his nose was missing, possibly eaten by animals after death. A chunk of flesh had been torn off the knuckle on the back of his left hand, which was later found to be in his mouth, suggesting that he had bitten himself, possibly as a way of staying awake or, if he had been hiding, in order to stifle a cry. Both of his hands had suffered burns. The cause of death was also listed as hypothermia.
Dyatlov, Kolmogorova and Slobodin
The next body to be discovered was that of Igor Dyatlov, the group’s leader. Highly intelligent and meticulous in preparation, Igor was well respected amongst his peers. His knowledge of radio systems was said to be encyclopaedic, having crafted a number of wireless devices using household items. His body was found later the same day further up the slope 300m from the cedar tree, as if he had died whilst heading back towards the tent. He was found face up and covered with snow. Both his hands were clasped together in front of him, with his arms tight against his chest. His watch had stopped at 5:31 am.
Like the others he had minor abrasions and bruises. Blood was found on his lips and his lower jaw was missing an incisor. The coroner reported that injuries to his hands were consistent with those which occur during a fist fight. As with the other two bodies, Dyatlov had also died from exposure.
The last hiker to be found that day was Zinaida Kolmogorova. Zinaida, or Zina, was regarded as lively and bright by her friends. She had a natural warmth and her outgoing personality was very welcoming. She was highly attractive and many of her male companions privately admitted to having had a crush on her. Her body was discovered face down 630m away from the cedar tree. Like Dyatlov, it seemed that she had died whilst struggling to make her way back to the tent.
She had also apparently died from hypothermia, but her body was in a similar state to the others, with minor cuts and bruises. However, she had a fresh, foot-long bruise in her lower right lumbar region. It appeared as though she had been hit with a blunt object, such as a baton or the butt of a rifle. The coroner also found that she was not sexually active. This was investigated in order to determine relationships within the group and whether this could have been a cause for any kind of friction between the male members.
Rustem Slobodin’s body was not discovered until 5th March. Slobodin was the group’s second musician and he always carried a mandolin with him on every single hike. He was the son of affluent university professors and had already earned a degree in mechanical engineering. Rustem was found face down 480m from the cedar tree, somewhere between Igor and Zina. Like them, he also appeared to have been trying to make his way back to camp.
He was one of the few hikers to be found wearing footwear, although he only had on one felt boot on his right foot. Like the others, he had minor wounds all over his body, but somewhere along the line he had fractured his skull. Despite such an appalling injury, it was not serious enough to have caused his death. Slobodin also died from exposure.
The bodies in the ravine
Dyatlov, Doroshenko and Krivonishchenko had all been lightly dressed. Their bodies were found wearing little more than their underwear. Kolmogorova and particularly Slobodin, on the other hand, were better dressed than the other three, although the clothing they had on was nowhere near sufficient enough to withstand such low temperatures. With the exception of Dyatlov, it was discovered that the other bodies had been moved in some way after death; most were found face down even though they had died on their backs.
The bodies of the last four hikers were not discovered until two months later when the snows began to melt. A Mansi native by the name of Kurikov noticed cut branches, forming a trail, which receded 75m further back into the woods behind the cedar tree. This led to a six-metre-deep ravine where a pair of black cotton pants was found. The ravine was still half filled with snow, but on 5th May, rescuers worked tirelessly to dig it out. The remaining four bodies were located inside, buried under four metres of snowfall.
All of them were better dressed than the previous victims – it was later discovered that only one of them had died from hypothermia – and it was assumed that these four had taken clothes from the other dead bodies found near to the cedar tree. Along with the hikers, they also found a hastily constructed den, which suggested they had survived for some time whilst in the ravine.
Kolevatov, Zolotaryov, Thibeaux-Brignolles and Dubinina
Alexander Kolevatov was a student of nuclear physics; a methodical young man with an imposing physique. He was a very private person and enjoyed smoking a pipe. Kolevatov was the only person found in the ravine who had apparently died of hypothermia. Despite this, he had a broken nose, a deformed neck and was missing his eyes and the soft tissues around them. There was also a fairly large open wound behind his left ear and portions of his clothing were found to be slightly radioactive.
Rescuers found Alexander Zolotaryov’s body right next to Kolevatov’s. They were embraced back-to-breast. At 37, Zolotaryov was the oldest and most experienced member of the group. He had seen military action on the Russian Front during World War 2 and was something of a stranger to his companions. Nobody really knew him; he had joined the hike at the last minute, but the others had warmed to his personable nature rather quickly. He had already achieved his Grade III certification in hiking and they respected his expertise. His birthday was on February 2nd and it is a particularly sad twist that he either died on or just before his 38th birthday.
Zolotaryov had not died from hypothermia, but from a crushing injury to his chest. All bones in the top half of his right rib cage had been fractured. He had a large open wound on the right side of his head, a cut so deep that the skull bone had been exposed. He was also missing his eyes and eyelids. He was found with a pen in his right hand and a piece of paper in his left, but had died before he could write anything down.
Nikolai Thibeaux-Brignolles was found just two metres away from the other two. Brignolles had already graduated from the university, earning his degree in Industrial Civil Construction. Though serious and extremely well-read, he was the most humorous member of the group. Brignolles had died from a massive impact to the skull, with multiple fractures to the temporal bone. This sort of injury would have left him unable to move.
It should be noted that Zolotaryov and Brignolles were the best dressed members of the group, both were found wearing footwear, which has led many to believe that they might have been outside of the tent at the time the incident took place.
Finally, Lyudmila Dubinina’s body was discovered only a meter away from the other three. Lyudmila was the youngest member of the party and was a fervent communist. She had a reputation as an outspoken and highly principled student and although serious on the surface, she had a razor sharp wit, which often kept her companions in high spirits. Unfortunately, of all the group members her body was found in the worst state. Like Zolotaryov, she had also suffered a crushing injury to her chest; all but eight of her ribs had been broken.
Her eyes, tongue and the soft tissues around the mouth and eyelids were missing. The coroner found a significant amount of blood in her stomach, which suggested her tongue could have been removed whilst she was still alive. Animal predation shortly after death was also listed as a possibility. On top of all this, her clothes were found to be radioactive. It should be noted that small amounts of radiation were also apparently detected in and around the area of Dyatlov Pass.
The injuries to Dubinina, Zolotaryov and Brignolles were of particular interest. The coroner reported that they did not exhibit the blunt force trauma associated with any kind of attack using melee weapons. Instead, they were the sort of injuries only seen in car accidents or explosions. They were inflicted at speed and caused by a huge amount of pressure.
So, what happened?
Needless to say, authorities were initially baffled. They could have accepted one or two hikers having lost their lives, but the deaths of nine highly experienced individuals seemed incomprehensible. The campsite was examined and re-examined countless times and from the evidence gathered, investigators were able to piece together a rough idea of what happened.
Forensic examination of fibres in the tent material determined that the cuts had been made from the inside. The zip on the main entrance was still locked in place, suggesting that none of the group had left the tent in this way, they had all exited through the large hole in the side canvas.
Many of their belongings were left behind – things that would have otherwise saved their lives – including layers of protective clothing. Footprints leading away from the tent indicated a haphazard and panicked flight. The tracks initially diverged on different routes of escape, but regrouped about a hundred meters further down the slope. It was determined at this point that the hikers were no longer running, but taking calm, methodical steps. They walked almost in single file.
Upon reaching the tree line at the bottom of the slope, it is assumed that Doroshenko and Krivonishchenko—the least well dressed—quickly began to suffer from hypothermia. They all huddled around a hastily lit fire in order to keep themselves warm, but it was most likely not sufficient enough. They could not see the tent from their position and it is assumed that somebody climbed the large cedar tree in order survey the scene and see if it was safe to return.
Investigators believe that three members of the group, freezing and already in the initial stages of hypothermia, decided to brave the elements and make their way back to the tent. The remaining four members stayed behind to look after Doroshenko and Krivonishchenko, hoping the other three would return with provisions. Little did they know it, but Dyatlov, Slobodin and Kolmogorova would expire at various stages of their ascent.
After the deaths of Doroshenko and Krivonishchenko and with still no sign of the other three, the remaining four members decided to head into the woods for better protection from the weather. Stumbling through the darkness, three of them fell from a height of six metres into the ravine and suffered appalling injuries. An alternative to this theory is that they all made it to the bottom of the ravine, but were crushed under a massive collapse of ice and snow from above. All members of the group now lay dead or dying as the snow and wind howled across the slopes of Kholat Syakhl.
Authorities were fairly confident that this is what happened, or some small variation of it, at least. However, the question on everybody’s lips was; what on Earth compelled these individuals to leave the safety of their tent in such a panicked and distressed state? Some event must have taken place at the campsite which disturbed them so much so that they prioritised fleeing the scene over the structural integrity of their only shelter and of protecting themselves against the sub-zero temperatures. And this is the crux of the entire mystery. What was that event?
There have been a number of theories over the years. First and foremost amongst them – and the explanation almost everyone uses to try and rationalise the incident – is that an avalanche was responsible. It is theorised that during the night, the hikers heard a rumble heading towards their camp and fled in fear for their lives. However, this possibility does not stand up to scrutiny.
The 30-degree incline of the mountain slope was just not steep enough to pose any threat from an avalanche and if Dyatlov or even Zolotaryov had suspected any such danger, they would never have made camp where they did. Secondly, an avalanche would have completely covered over the campsite, including the footprints that were found leading away. The tent was only partially covered by a light snowfall and was still standing when found. Finally, the hikers would never have been able to out run an avalanche over such a distance.
On the other hand, if an avalanche occurred on another slope in the same area, it is possible that the group may have misinterpreted where it was coming from. Sound carries through mountain ranges, and events which occur miles away can seem much closer. If the group simply thought that an avalanche was about to come down on top of them, this could have been a reason to leave the tent.
The stove has also been cited as another explanation. The group carried with them a portable wood burning stove, which doubled as a heat source as well as a cooking apparatus. It had its own chimney, which allowed the hikers to set it up inside the tent and it took around 45 minutes to assemble. The theory is that the stove malfunctioned during the night, causing a substantial amount of smoke to billow into the shelter, resulting in the group’s exit.
There are a number of problems with this theory, however. First and foremost; the stove had not been set up. When rescuers discovered the campsite, the wood burner was found disassembled and packed away. Secondly, no smoke or fire damage was reported. And finally, is a malfunctioning stove really a compelling reason to destroy your only shelter from the elements and run away in a panic? Would the hikers not have looked back at least once whilst walking towards the treeline to see if the tent had really gone up in flames? Unfortunately, this explanation collapses under closer scrutiny.
Another theory is that the Russian military had been carrying out weapons tests in the area. The air force was known to deploy floating mines over parts of the Ural Mountains, which were explosive devices attached to parachutes. They would usually detonate about a metre above the ground and it is possible that one could have exploded near to the tent, injuring some of the hikers in the process and causing them to flee. However, there would have been distinctive tell-tale signs, none of which were found despite the area being combed extensively during the search and rescue operation.
Some people suspect that the group may have been attacked or coerced into leaving the tent by a third party, whether that third party was Russian Special Forces, members of local Mansi tribes or other people wishing to do them harm. This theory is supported in some way by the fact that – whether major or minor – nearly every single member of the group had suffered some form of injury, which alluded to the possibility of a struggle having taken place.
Could the calm, measured paces further down the mountain slope suggest that they were being ordered to walk away at gunpoint? Again, this is highly unlikely. No other tracks were found in the area besides those of the hikers themselves and it’s difficult to pinpoint a motive for anyone to do such a thing. After all, none of the group’s belongings were taken, not even their money, which decisively rules out a robbery.
Russian Special Forces, espionage and Yetis
Interestingly, Yuri Yudin believes that his friends stumbled upon something they were never supposed to see and were killed by Russian Special Forces. One of the lead investigators attested that the Russian military had in fact found the abandoned camp site two weeks before the search and rescue team and that the discovery of other tracks in the area was covered up. This theory is not beyond all possibility. After all, how can we be certain about the extent of footprints in the area – or lack thereof – when the entire scene had been contaminated by people walking through immediately after the camp had been discovered?
Some suggest an internal conflict within the group, but this seems even more implausible. Why would a fight amongst themselves cause all members to leave the camp?
Espionage was also suspected, with some people theorising that the entire hike was a ruse so that certain individuals in the group could meet up with western agents and exchange information. It is thought that not all of them were aware of this and that a struggle broke out when the true intentions of the trip were uncovered. But again, this does little to explain the mass exodus of the tent.
A photo taken by Brignolles on 30th January – the now infamous Frame No. 17 – depicts what many believe to be a Sasquatch or Yeti stalking the group. The local Mansi tribes in particular tell many legends about such creatures and absolutely believe that they inhabit the Siberian wilderness. The hikers also wrote a small article about the Yeti in their mock newspaper. This has led some people to put forward the possibility that the group were either spooked by one of these beings coming too close to camp or were indeed attacked by one or even several for encroaching upon their habitat.
However, this brings us back to the issue that, although wildlife tracks were found in the area, there was nothing significant enough to match a Bigfoot or even a bear for that matter. Not only that, but even crypto zoologists examined Frame No. 17 and determined that the proportions match those of a human being rather than those of a Sasquatch.
Lights in the sky
Carrying on with paranormal or supernatural themes, the number nine is said to have been quite significant in this case. According to local Mansi legends, nine hunters died on the same slopes hundreds of years before in horrifying and mysterious circumstances. In 1991, an aircraft carrying nine people crashed in the same area killing all aboard. This has led some to suggest that Kholat Syakhl is cursed or even haunted by evil spirits. Did one of these spirits manifest in the middle of the hiker’s tent on the night in question? Or was it something more alien?
Perhaps the most prominent fringe theory suggests that UFOs were involved. Although this may sound far-fetched, there may actually be some weight to this idea. Another hiking team, just a few miles away from the Dyatlov group, reported seeing lights in the sky over Kholat Syakhl on the night of February 1st. This was corroborated by locals, who also reported seeing orb like shapes in the sky over the same area.
Mansi tribesman would also say that this sort of phenomenon is fairly common in the Ural Mountains. A rather chilling photograph on Krivonishchenko’s camera – the final shot he ever took – shows what looks like an odd light anomaly in the night sky. Zolotaryov’s second camera seems to show more images in a similar vein, although the film was damaged and it is hard to say exactly what they depict.
On top of all this, the lead investigator – Lev Ivanov – stated many years later that the Soviet government had pressured him to keep anything to do with supposed extra-terrestrial involvement out of his reports. Of particular note are the burn marks he found on trees at the bottom of the slope, particularly the tops of some of the pines, which were singed and blackened. Ivanov was of the belief that these trees, or someone hiding within them, had been shot at indiscriminately with heat based weapons.
The state of some of the bodies was also consistent with cattle mutilations found all over the globe, although this could have been down to a combination of animal predation and putrification post mortem. The coroner also reported that the bone fractures were caused by very high pressure and that even a fall from a height of six meters could not have caused them. Finally, the radiation found on some of the victims’ clothes is also a point of constant contention, although this could be attributed to the fact that Kolevatov was a nuclear physics major. The contamination could have occurred in one of the labs at the institute before the trip even began.
One thing a lot of people find interesting is the nature of the group’s escape, particularly how the footprints seemed to indicate that it had changed from frantic flight to slow measured paces further down the slope, almost as if the group had become entranced. Could they have been brought under some form of control before certain members were abducted, whilst the rest came to their senses and suddenly found themselves out in the cold, a mile from their tent?
Perhaps the most convincing theory of all was put forward by Donnie Eichar in his 2013 book “Dead Mountain”. Eichar believed that the group were affected by a naturally occurring instance of infrasound. As mentioned in another chapter on Kenny Veach, infrasound is an ultra-low frequency sound wave which is said to have extremely negative effects on human beings, causing them to feel nausea, fear, dread and even hallucinate in some cases.
Eichar postulates that the group became convinced of an impending doom about to befall them and left the tent without any consideration for how they were going to survive in the aftermath. All they could think about was escape. When they finally realised the folly in what they had done, it was far too late. Experts in infrasound phenomena have examined the contours of Kholat Syakhl and have stated that, if the conditions were just right, the smooth slopes would be perfect conductors for such sound waves to manifest.
So are they what caused the hikers to leave the safety of their tent in the middle of that freezing cold night, inadequately dressed and ill-equipped in most other aspects? There are a few issues with this explanation, of course. Infrasound affects different people in different ways, so why would they all react in the same way? Surely, at least one of them would have seen reason? Not only that, but would the effects of infrasound really be strong enough to affect a whole group of people continuously over the course of a mile? The jury is still well and truly out.
After all these years we are still no closer to understanding what kind of event could drive so many people to act so recklessly and unfortunately, we may never know the truth. It seems the secrets of Dyatlov Pass died on the slopes of Kholat Syakhl along with the young men and women who undertook such a difficult assignment. Whatever happened, it was such a tragic waste of life. Truly, our hearts are with their loved ones and these vibrant and talented individuals should never be forgotten. If we are to have any hope of solving this case, we should never stray from the curiosity we all feel regarding their final moments. The sounds of their toil, laughter and even their horror will forever echo through the lonely mountain pass where they spent their final days. May their brave souls live on forever.
For more information and to see the pictures recovered from the group’s cameras, visit dyatlovpass.com