In January 1959, a group of young hikers set off on a journey through the Ural Mountains in Soviet Russia. One month later, all the hikers were found dead. Their bodies scattered around their campsite all in various states of undress. The only clue to their death were four cameras found amongst their possessions.
On January 23rd, Igor Dyatlov led a party of nine hikers, through the slopes of Kholat Syakhl. The terrain is known as rough with brutal conditions. Most of the hikers were students of the Ural Polytechnical Institute (UPI) and friends. They had all hiked previously and were experienced at these types of walks.
A journal kept at the time by Kolmogorva stated that the trip kicked off on a good note. The mood on the train was cheery and photos before starting, support this idea.
“I wonder what awaits us in this trip? What will we encounter? The boys solemnly swore not to smoke the entire trip. I wonder how much will power they have to get by without cigarettes?” Zinaida Kolmogorova
On January 26th the hikers went on the back of a truck on a three-hour ride to a logging site. At this point, one of the party Yudin chose to leave the party as he had sciatica and it has started to become bad. This was a decision that would safe his life.
The next day, the rest of the group started their journey on foot, up the mountains. According to the journals found, they set out late in the day and chose a route that was difficult even for their skill level.
They walked two and a half miles before making camp on a slope of Kholat Syakhl. They were ten miles away from Mount Otorten which was their destination.
The Bodies are Discovered
Having heard nothing from the hikers, by February 20th, friends and family became worried. A search party of volunteers assembled. They eventually discovered the hikers abandoned campsite.
The search party found the group belongings including camera’s and journals. It was this evidence that would be all that was available for authorities, to solve what had happened.
The tents themselves were in shambles, but there were no signs of the hikers. It appeared that the tents had been cut open from the inside. There were also eight or nine sets of bare footprints leading away from the campsite. They seemed to end at a nearby wood about a mile away. Worrying about the safety of the hikers, law enforcement was called in.
A week later, the first bodies were found. Two of the friends discovered under a cedar tree. Beside them the remnants of a fire, they were not far from the original campsite. One of the bodies was brown-purple and had grey foam on his cheek and grey liquid coming from his mouth.
The next three bodies were discovered shortly after. They had hardly any clothes on, despite the freezing temperatures. Some of the bodies found, only wearing underwear.
It was a couple of months later when the snow thawed that the final bodies were discovered. These discovered inside a ravine. The three had most of the clothing from the other victims on, as well as their own. It was thought that they had returned to their friends and removed their clothing for warmth.
This did not explain why they had not returned to the campsite though.
The discovery of the corpses asked more questions than they answered.
Some of the corpses were found in gruesome conditions. One had suffered significant skull damage, moments before death. Two had chest fractures that were caused by an immense force similar to a car crash.
One of the female victims was found missing her tongue, eyes and part of her lips. In a scene remnant of Jack the Ripper, she was missing facial tissue and a fragment of her skull bone. Even with an intensive investigation, these injuries remain unexplained.
The scattered nature of the group also puzzled authorities. It appeared the hikers had left the campsite in a hurry leaving their belongings behind. The puzzling fact, if they left in such a hurry, that they couldn’t dress, then why had they taken their camera’s with them.
Zolotoryov’s corpse was found with a camera around his neck. Three other cameras were discovered with six rolls of film. Some of the cameras were too damaged to be developed, others had captured blurs, but no real evidence.
Local authorities did manage to develop some of the photos. These were used to piece together the relationships of the hikers.
Foul play was a possibility, the hikers were responsible for killing each other. Many people stated though, that the group were harmonious and this was soon rejected as a theory.
What or Why Kill the Dyatlov Pass Hikers?
The first investigation closed without conclusion. Sixty years later the Russian government started the investigation again. The case was reopened in February 2019. However, nothing was again discovered.
This time the authorities stated that cause of death was hypothermia after an avalanche. The physical damage on the bodies would account for the injuries found on the corpses.
However, this still leaves many questions unanswered. There was no evidence that an avalanche had occurred during this time. The explanation of hyperthermia, explains the lack of clothing of some of the victims. Many people when they suffer hyperthermia have confused thinking and behaviour. They also feel as if there are overheating which could have caused them to remove their clothes.
But, what caused the purple-brown colour on one of the hikers? It also does not explain why the two corpses by the cedar trees had scraped away branches above. As if they were trying to seek shelter from something or someone in the tree.
Many people have suspected that the hikers died as a result of an ambush from the local Mansi tribesmen. A sudden attack would explain why they had fled their tents and the damage done to some of the bodies.
The Mansi people are peaceful. Much of the evidence at the scene does not support a violent human encounter. For example, some of the damage done to the bodies was greater than a human could inflict. There were also no other footprints near the scene.
One of the more extreme theories is that the group were killed by a menk. A Russian version of a yeti would account for the immense power used to cause the injuries. This would also explain the damage to one of the hikers face as it was missing tissue. Almost, as if she had been eaten.
Some suggest that small amounts of radiation detected on some of the bodies were caused by a secret radioactive weapon. They stumbling into secret government testing. Those who favour this idea, stress the strange appearance of the bodies at their funerals; the corpses had a slightly orange, withered cast. It is also a popular theory because other groups camping at the time talking about orbs floating in the sky.
“I suspected at the time and am almost sure now that these bright flying spheres had a direct connection to the group’s death” — Lev Ivanov, the chief investigator
But had radiation been the cause of death? More than modest levels would have registered when the bodies were examined. The corpses’ orange hue isn’t surprising given the frigid conditions in which they sat for weeks. They were partially mummified in the cold.
In the end, the hikers’ deaths were attributed to “a compelling natural force,” and the case closed.
No one has ever been able to find a reasonable explanation for what happened to the nine hikers at Dyatlov Pass.