Home In English The Mysterious Death of the Dyatlov Pass Hikers

The Mysterious Death of the Dyatlov Pass Hikers


The snow was pristine and untouched, a fresh blanket that covered the mountaintops. Boris Vozrozhdenny was standing on the mountainside, looking into the distance. The snow looked like a white carpet, a shaggy floor of cotton waiting for a child’s feet to run and jump, for dogs to romp and frolic, for a sledge to take a ride down a slope.

But as he stood there, gazing out at the mountains, Boris realized that the snow was not a soft and fluffy carpet at all. Rather, it was icy and treacherous, a deadly substance that could swallow a man whole. Boris had heard stories about the coldest, most inhospitable corners of the world, where the temperatures were so low that the moisture in the air froze and fell to the ground, settling on every surface like a frosty layer of death. And now, standing as he was on the mountainside, Boris felt as if he was right in the middle of one of those stories.

Farther away, the trees were bare, their branches pointing up at the sky, as though they were begging for a few flurries to fall, something to break the monotony.

He took a deep breath, trying to steady himself. But it was no use; the ominous feeling only grew stronger as he stood there. His feeling was right because what he was going to see was nothing like he had ever seen.


In 1959, a small team was formed for a hiking trip in Sverdlovsk, which could be found in the Soviet Union. The leader of the team was Igor Dyatlov, a radio engineer who studied at the local technical university. He invited nine people to the trip – most of them were also students, and three of them worked. There were eight men and two women but one of them turned back on the trip because of health problems. It is important to note that all of them were experienced hikers. Their goal was to reach a mountain called Otorten.

The group got permission from the local authorities so they could set off. Before the hike, they arrived at Ivdel on 25 January 1959, then they continued their journey to Vizhai where they prepared for the hiking the following day. They left on 27 January. On 28 January, Yuri Yudin changed his mind and turned back because he had heart problems and he suffered from rheumatism.

He did not know how lucky he was.

On 31 January, they arrived at a highland and they prepared for the climbing the following day. They organised their equipment and supplies. The next day, their plan was to set up a camp on the opposite side of the mountain but the weather conditions were so bad that they were forced to stay on the west, close to the peak of Kholat Syakhl. Their camp was set up on a hillside and not in a forested area 1.5 km away, which could have provided them with some protection. It is possible that Igor did not want to go back since they had already reached some altitude or he found camping on the hillside adventurous.

Igor and a local sports club agreed that they would send a telegram message from Vizhai when they returned. This message was supposed to be sent on 12 February. As nothing was received by the club, the family members and friends started to worry and they demanded a search on 20 February. Students and teachers formed a search party and local military units joined the search later.

On the 26th of February, the search party stumbled upon the camp and what they saw sent chills down their spines. They found the shoes and equipment had been abandoned, and the tents were cut open from the inside. Further investigation revealed footprints leading towards the forest, but these were covered with snow after 500 meters. At the edge of the forest, they discovered the remains of a fire and the bodies of Krivonischenko and Doroshenko, both wearing only their underwear. It looked as if they had tried to climb a tree to get a better view of the campsite; branches up to three meters high had been broken off. Between the camp and the forest, the searchers found three more bodies: Dyatlov, Kolmogorova, and Slobodin. It seemed that they were returning to camp when disaster struck. On 4 May, the rest of the bodies were also found. The four corpses were in the forest, a bit farther from the pine tree. It looked that Krivonishenko was underdressed compared to his three companions. It suggested that the other three took Krivonishenko’s clothes but all of them were torn.

After the bodies were found, an official investigation started.

‘I cannot see any injuries that could cause the death of these people. Hypothermia, I would say.’ – the medical examiner said as he was studying the bodies.

At least, this is what he thought at first sight.

A detective ventured into the autopsy lab. The chilly, low-ceilinged building was damp, and a large metal door prevented the cold from escaping. Inside, the dimly lit room was stocked with rows of metal shelves, laden with bodies. It was cold and damp, and a pungent scent of formaldehyde filled the air.

‘Thibeaux-Brignolles has a head injury, while Dubinina and Zolotaryov have chest injuries. But the stranger thing was that the force which caused these injuries must have been really powerful. Even stranger, that no external injuries can be found on these kids’ bodies.’ – Boris said.

‘What do you mean exactly?’

‘Well, it’s like a huge pressure that caused their death. But that’s not all, sir. Some soft tissues are also missing like tongues and eyeballs and I don’t have any explanation for how it happened.’

A chill run down the spine of the policeman, and the temperature in the room was freezing now.

The police held interrogations with a few of the Mansi people in the weeks following the murders. These tribespeople were hunters and were considered likely suspects in the case. The manner of death was so unusual, however, that it was clear the Mansis were not responsible.

The official files claimed the following things:

– Six members of the group died of hypothermia and the three other ones had fatal injuries.

– There were no signs of other people around Kholat Syakhl that night

– The tents were ripped open from the inside

– The victims died from six to nine hours after their

– The victims had died six to eight hours after their last meal.

– All group members left their camp on foot as their footprints and traces indicated.

– There was some radiation on one of the victim’s clothes.

Investigator Vozrozhdenny concluded that the unfortunate fatalities were not caused by people, as they had been slain with tremendous force yet their soft tissues remained unscathed.

The official conclusion was that the group members died from an unknown natural force. The case was closed in May 1959 and the files were sent to the secret archives.

In 1997, photos were released from Krivonischenko’s camera by the daughter of investigator Lev Ivanov. Not that the photos would reveal anything about the mystery.

In April 2018, the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda requested the exhumation of Zolotarev’s body. The results of the examination were mixed: according to the medical examiner, the body was in a condition as if it had been hit by a car. Interestingly, his DNA did not show any similarities with his relatives suggesting that Zolotarev might have been someone else under a false identity.


Soviet secret weapon

This theory was claimed by Anatoly Guschchin emphasising that the cost of keeping state secrets can be very high even if it costs someone’s life.


The theory originates from the fact that the chief claimed that the investigation team did not have any rational explanation for what had happened and his team witnessed flying lights over the area on the days of the investigation. Nonetheless, local Mansi people also reported seeing lights in the distance those nights and they were aware of the occasional presence of those lights.


The official cause of death was an avalanche, as the authorities stated in 1959. In 2020, the authorities confirmed the same explanation: the group had made a mistake to build the camp in that area. As the avalanche started, they heard the noises and they performed an evacuation by leaving their camp and running to the forest. They tried to survive by making fire and by taking the clothes from the dead but they were too inexperienced and could not survive.

However, there were no signs of avalanches, the layer of snow was too thin and the victims would have had different injuries. Furthermore, hikers have never reported avalanches from that area and studies also claim avalanches are not typical of that territory. The footprint did not indicate panic: rather, they were the patterns of walking at a normal pace.

In 2013, author Donnie Eichart theorised that the cause might have been infrasounds created by the wind. Infra sounds are known for causing panic attacks in humans. Donnie Eichart discredited many other theories. Wild animals could not have been the culprits as there were no traces of wild animals and the hikers would not have left the security of their camp. As for the bad weather conditions, experienced hikers would not behave like that. It also could not have been a violent dispute over personal tensions, as there were no romantic or sexual relationships among the members and it was merely flirtation. Likewise, alcohol and drugs were absent, ruling out their influence on the incident.

In 2015, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation reviewed the case and their conclusion was that the extremely heavy snowstorm, the strong winds, the low temperature and the unfortunate location of their camp were all contributing factors to their death. Researcher Keith McCloskey mentions that Lev Ivanov’s boss, Evgeny Okishev wanted to go back to the scene to do a thorough investigation when the Deputy Prosecutor General closed the case. Evgeny Okishev also mentioned that the head of the Sverdlovsk Prosecutor’s Office spent three days with the bodies in the morgue, which was very unusual.

Based on another theory, the hikers were in the path of a Soviet military test and parachute mines might have been dropped in the area. These types of weapons could explain some of their injuries and behaviour. As for the radioactivity, those weapons might have been equipped with this kind of material, however, all of the victims should have been affected by it, not just one of them.

In February 2019, the Russian authorities reopened the case and they favoured the idea of an avalanche or hurricane. They dismissed the theory of crime or any other explanations.

In 2019, a Swedish-Russian expedition stated that the cause of their death might have been katabatic winds. These are extremely strong winds that carry high-density air from a higher elevation down a slope under the force of gravity. This type of wind would have made it impossible to stay in the tent, forcing them to go to the tree line.

Overall, the Dyatlov Pass incident remains a mystery and we will probably never know the real cause of the deaths. However, the theories that have been proposed offer some possible explanations, and they all have some evidence to back them up. Regardless of the cause, the Dyatlov Pass Incident remains a mystery. No one knows what really happened to those hikers. We may never know the truth, but we can be sure that there are unknown forces in nature that we do not understand.