Russia is known for its freezing cold winters and its many mountains, so its no surprise that skiers are abundant in the icy country. However, not all skiers come back alive, and not all deaths can be explained. In 1959, nine hikers went up the Ural Mountains. None of them came down alive. To this day, their deaths cannot be explained.
Igor Dyatlov was the group leader, taking eight other people up to the mountain Gora Otorten (meaning “Don’t Go There” in Mansi), while camping on Kholat Syakhl (“Dead Mountain”). Knowing this, the deaths of the hikers suddenly seem unavoidable. Going up a mountain with a name like that just invites trouble. However, that’s before we get into the situation at hand.
When the hikers didn’t get to their location at the time that they had previously allotted, a search and rescue team was sent out. What they found was nothing short of strange. The tents were still pitched, all of the groups rations and clothing still inside. There was evidence of the hikers having cut their way out of the tent and leaving in a hurry. The truly strange part though, was the way that the corpses were found.
The bodies were found months apart and in varying places. The first two, Yuri Doroshenko and Yuri Krivonischenko were found underneath a tree, the remains of a fire next to their bodies. Branches were broken about 5 feet above the ground, with skin embedded in the branches, suggesting one of the pair attempted and failed to climb the tree. Theorists suggest that they were trying to get a vantage point on someone or something. Neither were wearing shoes, nor anything beyond underwear and a shirt. It’s been suggested that the bodies were scavenged for warmer clothes, consisting of a knitted vest and a sweater that was found on two other hikers. Both hikers died from hypothermia.
The next three bodies were found between the tent and the tree where the last two bodies had been found, each body at least 20 meters apart. Only one was wearing footwear (a single felt boot) and all were lightly dressed, barely any better than the last group. This group included Igor Dyatlov. These hikers died from exposure as well, although one of the bodies had several injuries that cannot be explained. This included a fractured skull, multiple lacerations. Although strange, the bodies that had yet to be found were strangest.
The last four bodies were found more than two months after the last group, lying at the base of the mountain. Each of the last four bodies had fatal injuries. One died of hypothermia, but also suffered from a broken nose and some of his skull was exposed. The most injured of the group, a woman named Lyudmilla Dubinina, was missing her tongue, her eyes, a fragment of skull bone and some facial tissue as well as part of her lips. The injuries were not consistent of a scavenging animal. The third body had major skull damage, and the fourth was missing his eyes and had 5 broken ribs. The force which would have been necessary to cause some of these injuries has been compared to a car crash by a man called Dr. Boris Vozrozhdenny. The clothes on two of the bodies had substantial radiation, which also cannot be explained.
Why did the hikers suddenly flee their tent without the proper equipment? How did they get their injuries? Where did the radiation come from? None of these questions have answers, despite there having been ongoing investigations for more than 50 years now. There are some theories though.
Some of these include an avalanche that they felt the need to run from, although there had been no evidence of this, and does not explain the radiation nor all of the injuries which are not consistent with an avalanche. Another theory is madness through some type of infrared sound created from the wind. There is no evidence of this either. Another theory is a yeti attack, although this has obviously not gathered any type of evidence. Aliens are another theory, which is supported by flaming balls of gas that had been seen in the sky that night.
There are also theories that the local people the Mansi may have attacked, although they are a peaceful people and the injuries sustained would not be possible at a human hand. Lastly, there is the theory that there was military testing involved in the incident. The theory claims that the hikers heard explosions from the experiments and ran from their tents in fear and confusion. There are records of there having been parachute mines being tested around that time in the same area, and would produce injuries similar to what the hikers suffered. In addition, it would explain the radiation. Although this theory also uses the theory of scavenging animals, which is harder to sustain, due to the specific things that were missing from the bodies.
So what happened in Dyatlov Pass? Was it an innocent mistake? Or was it more sinister in nature? It’s likely that we’ll never know.