The Dyatlov Pass incident is one of the most bizarre and terrifying mysteries of the past century. The circumstances surrounding the death of nine Russian skiers in February, 1959, has yet to find a satisfactory explanation. The northern region of the Ural Mountains (near Kholat Syakhl) in modern day Russia, where the incident took place, has been named Dyatlov Pass after Igor Dyatlov, the leader of the skiing group. The incident has been the subject matter of several investigations, movies, and books.
In late January 1959, nine young Russian graduate students from the Ural Polytechnic Institute, decided to go on a trekking and skiing trip in the Urals to take a break from their studies. Twenty-three-year-old mountaineer Igor Dyatlov, had put together a team of eight young men and two women, with one person staying behind due to poor health. The ultimate goal of the mountaineers was to scale Mt. Otorten (4,049 feet) and return within a day.
The team did not return as scheduled, and on February 12th, rescuers were dispatched. The diary entries and films from the groups cameras were recovered, and show that the team had gone pretty much according to plan till February 2nd. In fact, the evidence points at a pleasant trip.
The first signs of the team that rescuers discovered were tents that had been slashed through and abandoned as if in a hurry. The trekking gear, food, and other personal articles of all the members had been abandoned as well. This suggested that the mountaineers had abandoned their camp in a terrible hurry. Further ahead, rescuers discovered foot prints. Later they discovered the bodies of five team members (Igor Dyatlov, Yuri Krivonischenko, Yuri Doroshenko, Zinaida Kolmogorova, and Rustem Slobodin) who were barely clothed and had died of Hypothermia. This strengthened the conjecture that the team was trying to escape some catastrophe, and had ventured out into subzero temperatures without even clothing themselves. After a long search, the remaining four corpses were found in a deep valley. These members were considerably better clothed than the others.
The medical examination of the corpses found in the ravine revealed the following –
- Lyudmila Dubinina had suffered major chest fractures. Her tongue had been removed while she was still alive. Her eyes and a piece of her skull were missing too.
- Alexander Kolevatov had broken a nose and part of his skull was exposed.
- Both Dubinina and Kolevatov had worn clothing that tested positive for significant radiation.
- Nikolai Thibeaux-Brignollel has suffered from major fractures to the skull.
- Semyon Zolotaryov also had suffered from chest fractures. One of his eye balls had also been removed.
- There was no sign of a struggle, or of animal activity around the tent or around the corpses.
- There were only nine sets of footprints in the snow.
- There had been no soft tissue damage – the force that had injured the trekkers seems too great to be of human origin.
This incident occurred at a distance of about six miles from Mt. Otorten. Several theories have been put forward to explain the mysterious deaths – from animal attack to hypothermia induced insanity and from military involvement to alien invasion. None of these have been able to give us a satisfactory insight into the catastrophe that befell these nine fateful mountaineers.