The Dyatlov pass incident refers to the mysterious deaths of nine ski hikers in the northern Ural mountains on the night of February 2, 1959. A group was formed for a ski trek across the northern Urals in Sverdlovsk Oblast. The group, led by Igor Dyatlov, consisted of eight men and two women. Most were students or graduates of Ural Polytechnical Institute.
At the point of their disappearance, the goal of the ill-fated expedition was to reach Otorten, a mountain that was approximately 6 miles away. The unfortunate hikers never reached their destination, and chillingly enough, the word “Otorten” translated from Mansi (indigenous peoples in the area) language, means “Mountain of the dead men.”
The two women on the expedition were Zinaida Kolmogorova and Lyudmila Dubinina, and the other men were Alexander Kolevatov, Rusterm Slobodin, Yuri Krivonischenko, Yuri Doroshenko, Nicolai Thibeaux-Brignolle, Alexander Zolotarev, and Yuri Yudin.
On the morning of January 27, 1959, the group left Vizhai to begin their trek.Vizhai is the northernmost inhabited settlement in the region. On January 28th, one of the hikers, Yuri Yudin, fell ill and had to turn back.This turned out to be a life-saving turn of events for Mr. Yudin, as he is the sole survivor of the doomed expedition. On January 31, the group began to climb.
On February 1st, the hikers reached Kholat Syakhl, the mountain pass that has since been renamed “Dyatlov Pass” since the incident occurred.When they reached the pass, their plan was to cross over and set-up camp on the other side.Weather conditions worsened, a snowstorm ensued, and the hikers lost their direction due to decreasing visibility.In the confusion of being lost, the group discovered that they had hiked to nearly the top of the mountain pass, so they decided to pitch camp where they were, and head out the next day.They never made it past this point.
It was decided beforehand that Igor Dylatov was to send a telegraph on February 12th to the group’s sports club as soon as they reached Vizhai upon their return. February 12th came and went, with no communication from the hikers. Most people were not alarmed because delays are not uncommon for expeditions – besides, they were nine experienced and capable hiker. The families of the hikers became increasingly concerned in the days that followed. On February 20th, the Ural Polytechnic Institute formed a rescue party consisting of students, and faculty – to no avail so that eventually, police and army forces mounted a full-scale official search and rescue party for the nine missing hikers.
The bodies found
On February 26, the searchers found the abandoned and badly damaged tent on Kholat Syakhl. Mikhail Sharavin, the student who found the tent, said “the tent was half torn down and covered with snow. It was empty, and all the group’s belongings and shoes had been left behind.” Investigators said the tent had been cut open from inside. A chain of eight or nine sets of footprints, left by several people who were wearing only socks, a single shoe or were barefoot, could be followed and led down toward the edge of nearby woods. At the forest edge, under a large cedar, the searchers found the remains of a fire, along with the first two bodies, those of Yuri Krivonischenko and Yuri Doroshenko, shoeless and dressed only in their underwear. The branches on the tree were broken up to five meters high, suggesting that a skier had climbed up to look for something, perhaps the camp. Between the cedar and the camp the searchers found three more corpses, Dyatlov, Zina Kolmogorova and Rustem Slobodin, who seemed to have died in poses suggesting that they were attempting to return to the tent. These four were better dressed than the others, and there were signs that those who had died first had apparently relinquished their clothes to the others. Zolotaryov was wearing Dubinina’s faux fur coat and hat, while Dubinina’s foot was wrapped in a piece of Krivonishenko’s wool pants.
A legal inquest started immediately after finding the first five bodies. A medical examination found no injuries which might have led to their deaths, and it was concluded that they had all died of hypothermia. Slobodin had a small crack in his skull, but it was not thought to be a fatal wound.
An examination of the four bodies which were found in May changed the picture. Three of them had fatal injuries: the body of Thibeaux-Brignolles had major skull damage, and both Dubinina and Zolotarev had major chest fractures. According to Dr. Boris Vozrozhdenny, the force required to cause such damage would have been extremely high. He compared it to the force of a car crash. Notably, the bodies had no external wounds related to the bone fractures, as if they were crippled by a high level of pressure. Major external injuries were, however found on Dubinina, who was missing her tongue, eyes, and part of the lips, facial tissue and a fragment of skullbone;she also had extensive skin macerations on the hands.
What happened on the expedition that drove nine experienced hikers to start off into the woods, some barely clothed? What force killed four of the company, whose injuries are inconsistent with violence?