**Warning for Graphic Pictures**
In February of 1959 nine students of a hiking club in Soviet Russia ventured into the Ural Mountains in the northern part of Sverdlovsk. They were out to get an honorable certification from their school for the trip, but it was an honor none of them would receive. The group never returned home, and after a massive search, the bodies of the nine hikers were discovered scattered within a mile around their camp. But why? What had caused the deaths of nine experienced and cautious hikers? And why had they been found lacking clothing? With massive traumas to their bodies? Why was one woman found missing her tongue?
This was the beginning of a mystery that still confounds today, the mystery of the Dyatlov Pass.
The student hikers of Ural Polytech Institute were keeping a detailed record of their adventure for their school, journaling their travels and taking many photographs along their way. But the final logs in their journal ended the morning of February 1st.
When the nine students made camp at the base of Holatchahl Mountain (aptly meaning “Dead Mountain”) on their way to Ortorten Mountain, the pass they were in had no name. It was later named Dyatlov Pass, in honor of the ill fated leader of the hiking group, Igor Dyatlov.
Igor and the rest of his group were well regarded and respected, known to be skilled and responsible hikers. But on the evening of February 1st something happened to the group that caused them to flee from their camp into the night and certain death, improperly dressed, and in temperatures around -15 degrees.
Upon discovery of their tent it was revealed that it had been slashed by a knife from the inside, meaning the hikers had left in terror from inside.
The first two bodies were found beneath a tree, with the remnants of a fire beside them. Their bodies were singed, suggesting they had perished of hypothermia with the fire still going beside them. Their clothing had been cut and stripped off of them, and was found wrapped around several of the other bodies recovered later, suggesting that the other members had scavenged clothing off of those who had died first and essentially negating the suggestion of paradoxical undressing being the cause of the poorly dressed students.
Dyatlov and two others were found dead on the slope, heartbreakingly close to camp. They were facing it, implying they had been desperately trying to return to it when they fell due to hypothermia. While the first two men had died beside each other, the next three lay in the snow alone.
The final four bodies were not found for many months due to deep snow and bad weather. They were finally found at the bottom of a ravine, under many feet of snow, laying in a slushy creek. Due to this, their bodies were far more decomposed than the others. It was this decomposition that likely actually caused Lyudmila Dubinina’s tongue to rot, and not a supernatural force or violent murder.
Likewise, when initial reports concluded that three of the final four had died of trauma, speculation ran wild. However the broken ribs and cracked skulls were far more likely caused by the hikers falling into the ravine and landing on the rocks below. The four were found wrapped in the scavenged clothes in a last ditch futile attempt at survival, and two were even found frozen in a deaths embrace.
But while details of the state of the bodies were conflated into full blown conspiracy theory, the true mystery of the deaths went largely forgotten. The question was not “how did the hikers die” which was answered simply enough with hypothermia and fall trauma, but instead “what had made them flee?”.
Many theories were put forth, but none were satisfactory. Investigators tried to suggest that an avalanche had swept the students away, but the tent was found mostly intact, there were visible footprints in the snow leading from the camp, and there were no signs of an avalanche. Furthermore an avalanche has never been recorded in the area.
The next suggestion was a violent gale had swept one or more of the hikers away, and the others had gone to assist. Once they left the tent, it would be nearly impossible to find it again in the pitch black night. However, one of the hikers was found with a hat still on his head, the tent post was still upright, and winds that night were recorded at 40 mph, strong, but not as severe as a hurricane.
After another hiking group reported seeing “fireballs” in the February sky, new theories emerged such as a government coverup of nuclear testing and extraterrestrial murder. However though this theory still stubbornly persists, the fireballs reported were seen on February 17th, long after the hikers were dead. And though trace amounts of radiation were found on the hikers, it was not enough to suggest anything unusual.
Perhaps it was the discovery of a mock newspaper crafted by the jokester students which spoke of sightings of the “snowmen”, mixed with the trauma to the bodies, that gave rise to the theory that a yeti had attacked the group. However no injuries found were inconsistent with a nasty fall, and no tracks besides the hikers were found.
As of yet the most compelling theory comes from Donnie Eichar in his book “Dead Mountain”. He did research on infrasounds, sounds below the threshold of human hearing, but capable of effecting the human body. Eichar and several scientists he partnered with suggester that it is possible (if not very rare) that wind struck the dome of Holachtahl Mountain in just the right way to create a “Karman Vortex” effect. This would create two miniature tornados, known for causing infrasound in their roars. Had the hikers heard the roaring tornados nearby and been struck by the panic inducing effects of infrasound? Because no one survived that dark night on a frozen mountain, we may never know.
To this day the true cause of the groups demise is unknown. It was simply labelled by investigators as “an unknown, compelling force”.
For an in depth look at autopsies and more photos check out http://dyatlovincident.com/the-bodies/
And I highly recommend reading “Dead Mountain” by Donnie Eichar.