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Articles

The Dyatlov Pass Incident

by Meg van Huygen / 23 Oct 2014

article-imagePhoto taken from a roll of film found at the camp of the Dyatlov Pass incident (via Wikimedia)

In January of 1959, 23-year-old Igor Dyatlov led a group of eight young Soviet hikers, comprising seven men and two women and mostly university students, into the Ural Mountains, attempting to reach Mt. Ortorten from the small settlement of Vizhai. It took more than three months to locate all nine of their bodies.

They were found about six miles away from their destination, in a forest almost a mile away from their campsite, without their skis, shoes, or coats in approximately -30 degrees Fahrenheit weather. Two of them had fractured skulls, two more had major chest fractures, and one hiker was missing her tongue. Soviet investigators listed the cause of death as “a compelling natural force,” and abruptly closed the case not even a month later.

article-imageSkiers setting up camp at about 5. p.m. on Feb. 2, 1959. Photo taken from a roll of film found at the camp of the Dyatlov Pass incident (via Wikimedia)

Here’s what we know about the incident. Six of the skiers died of hypothermia and three died of injuries. They died separately — two of them were found under a cedar tree near the remains of a fire, while three others were found in intervals of hundreds of feet from the tree, and four more were in a ravine another 250 feet away. The two under the tree had burned hands. The four in the ravine weren’t found until May 4, three months after the incident. The dead seemed to have donated some of their clothing items to the living; Ludmila Dubinina’s foot was wrapped in a piece of Yuri Krivonischenko’s pants, while Semyon Zolotaryov was found wearing Dubinina’s hat and coat, and some garments had cuts in them, as though they were forcibly removed. Consistently, there were eight or nine sets of footprints in the snow, accounting only for the skiers and not suggesting another party’s involvement (on foot, at least). There was no sign of struggle or of any other human or animal approaching the campsite. There was a snowstorm the night of February 2, which is when it was determined, via their diaries, that they died.

article-imageA view of the tent as the rescuers found it on Feb. 26, 1959 (via Wikimedia

Their campsite was made on the slopes of Kholat Syakhl (Dead Mountain), at about 3,600 feet. All the travelers — eight of them in their early/mid-20s with Zolotaryov in his late 30s — were experienced mountaineers, having skied across frozen lakes and totally uninhabited areas to get there. Despite nasty weather and slower progress than they'd planned, their last diary entries reflected high spirits. Charmingly, in a very typical Soviet way of bonding, they even produced a little newspaper about the trip, which they titled The Evening Ortoten and which bore the headline: From now on, we know that the snowmen exist. It goes on to say, “They can be met in the Northern Urals, next to Otorten mountain." (They were, it's thought, probably jokingly referring to themselves.)

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