Here’s one for you, dear readers… (And, yes, this is all true). Inexplicable behavior. Bizarre facts. Inconclusive evidence. Missing body parts. And not a single clue, almost 50 years later, as to what really happened.
The outline: In 1959, ten Russian cross-country skiers — eight men and two women, led by a man named Igor Dyatlov — headed to the Ural Mountains, to a slope called Kholat Syakhl (Mansi language for “Mountain of the Dead”) for a rugged, wintry trek.
* Igor Dyatlov (Игорь Дятлов), the group’s leader
* Zinaida Kolmogorova (Зинаида Колмогорова)
* Lyudmila Dubinina (Людмила Дубинина)
* Alexander Kolevatov (Александр Колеватов)
* Rustem Slobodin (Рустем Слободин)
* Georgyi Krivonischenko (Георгий Кривонищенко)
* Yuri Doroshenko (Юрий Дорошенко)
* Nicolas Thibeaux-Brignollel (Николай Тибо-Бриньоль)
* Alexander Zolotarev (Александр Золотарев)
* Yuri Yudin (Юрий Юдин)
This is a picture of Igor Dyatlov, 23, for whom the accident and location were named (these photos are from the skiers’ own cameras):
The goal of the expedition was to reach Otorten (Отортен), a mountain 10 kilometers north of the site of the accident. This route, at that season, was estimated as “Category III”, the most difficult. However, all members were experienced in long ski tours and mountain expeditions.
The team at the start of their adventure. In good spirits:
The group arrived by train at Ivdel (Ивдель), a city at the center of the northern province of Sverdlovsk Oblast on January 25. They then took a truck to Vizhai (Вижай) – the last inhabited settlement so far north. They started their march towards Otorten from Vizhai on January 27. The next day, one of the members (Yuri Yudin) was forced to go back because of health problems. The group now consisted of nine people.
This is a picture of Yuri Yudin, the sole survivor, hugging Lyudmila Dubinina as he leaves the group. Igor Dyatlov, the group’s leader, watches:
Thanks to diaries and cameras found around their last camp, it is possible to track the group’s route up to the day preceding the accident. On January 31, the group arrived at the edge of a highland area and began to prepare for climbing. In a woody valley they built a storage for surplus food and equipment which would be used for the trip back.
This is a picture of the team at camp:
The following day (February 1), the group started to move through the pass.
On their way up, they were apparently hit by inclement weather and veered off course and decided to set up camp and wait it out…
All is calm. All is fine and well. They even take pictures of camp, the scenery, each other. The weather is not so bad. They go to sleep.
Then, something happens. In the middle of the night all nine suddenly leap out of their tents as fast as possible, ripping them open from the inside (not even enough time to untie the doors) and race out into the sub-zero temps, without coats or boots or skis, most in their underwear, some even barefoot or with a single sock or boot. It is 30 degrees below zero, Celsius. A few make it as far as a kilometer and a half down the slope. All nine, as you might expect, die.
Below is a picture of the tent as it was found by the search party:
One of the torn open tents:
And so the questions begin…
Why did they rush out, unable to even grab a coat or blanket? What came at them? The three-month investigation revealed that five of the trekkers died from simple hypothermia, with no apparent trauma at all, no signs of attack, struggle, no outward injuries of any kind. However, two of the other four apparently suffered massive internal traumas to the chest, like you would if you were hit by a car. One’s skull was crushed. All four of these were found far from the other five. But still, no signs of external injuries.
Not good enough? How about this: One of the women was missing her tongue.
Oh, it gets better. And weirder…
Tests of the few scraps of clothing revealed very high levels of radiation. Evidence found at the campsite indicates the trekkers might have been blinded. Eyewitnesses around the area report seeing “bright flying spheres” in the sky during the same months. And, oh yes, relatives at the funeral swear the skin of their dead loved ones was tanned, tinted dark orange or brown. And their hair had all turned completely gray.
The final, official explanation as to what caused such bizarre behavior from otherwise well-trained, experienced mountaineers? An “unknown compelling force.” Hmmmm.
Here’s the problem: All the convenient, logical explanations — avalanche, animal attack, secret military nuke test — fail. Russian authorities held a three-month investigation. Rescuers, experts picked through every piece of evidence. There were no signs of natural disaster. If it was an avalanche, why would it stop at the tent, and not carry on past it, covering the footsteps in the process? And why were the bodies buried in the snow not found at the base of a mountain, but deep in the forest? And if it was just an avalanche, why was the area closed off for three years following the event, and all related documents put in a secret Russian archive until 1990? And in case you think the answers were revealed in 1990 – a number of pages were excluded from the files, as was a mysterious “envelope” mentioned in the case materials list. If it was some sort of weird nuclear megablast (which I suppose may tint you orange, but wouldn’t turn your hair gray), what the hell happened to her tongue? Also, the Urals are a very bad and highly unlikely place for a weapons test. The reason is that it would be difficult to predict where the radioactive waste would be carried away by the wind to, and therefore difficult to keep a secret. The northern regions of Russia and the Kazakhstan deserts were the places used for weapons testing at that time…
There were four watches found – all stopped. One on Slobodin, brand “ЗВЕЗДА”(star), showed a time of 8:45; the second on Dyatlov, also a brand”ЗВЕЗДА”(star), showed a time of 5:31; the third and the fourth, brand “ПОБЕДА” (Triumph), both found on Thibeaux-Brignollel, showed times of 8:14 and 8:39, respectively. Interesting how three of the four watches are stopped in a span of thirty minutes between 8:14 and 8:45…
Dyatlov Pass as it appears today (in good weather):
Dyatlov Pass Memorial:
So, what do you think might have happened?