Dyatlov Pass Incident

Denion

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...there's no way to be certain exactly how it happened.
Definitely.

This last bit is important. Even if the ravine were not exposed on the fatal night, any snow pack covering the stream would have been a trap that collapsed if anyone had stepped onto it.
That depends on the type of snow and also how snugly it concealed the rocks. When we get a heavy snowfall where I live and the snow lays thick, I'll confidently run down a steep set of rock-solid stairs that are so thickly covered you can't see them because any type of fall is taken a perfect care of by the soft cushion the snow cover provides. It definitely does reduce any impact to the point of fun.

It's quite possible the rocks were bare. In that case, we have to focus on how high of a snowdrift could have accumulated on the slope, heightening it as a result. The worst case scenario is exposed rocks AND the slope still somehow elevated by a snowdrift. The fact the bodies were discovered under over three meters of snow suggests snow could accumulate in the ravine quite nicely (and from the pics, there is seemingly no reason not to) and/or once the snowdrift on the slope reached a certain level, it would collapse down in the ravine.

Again, it's possible the foursome hit the most hostile of all possible scenarios, i.e. the rocks exposed, the snowdrift on the slope reaching its maximum high before an inevitable collapse.

I'm confident Dubinina's ribcage injuries occurred in the ravine. The penetration of her heart by a broken rib was a fatal injury that would have meant instantaneous incapacitation and death within minutes. She's the one who most obviously came from the cedar / campfire site circa 70 - 75 meters away. If she'd already suffered the ribcage blow-out there's almost no chance she could have made it to the den scene.
Ha, I envy you. I'm no longer confident about anything regarding the DP incident.

Let me start from another end.

I've just come across this pair of pics illustrating the view of the tent from the point of the cedar and vice versa (sorry if these have already been posted):



And now the opposite direction:



Now, it's likely that whoever climbed the cedar and cleared the branches in direction to the tent (autopsy hints at Doroshenko) was trying to look at the situation around the tent, as the slope obviously does allow to look towards the tent point.

I figure this climb must have occurred shortly after descending to the cedar area. This is because no-one would be able to climb up a tree after losing sensation in their hands/fingers and feet (which is one of the early symptoms of hypothermia). We also know that Yuris were most likely the first to die, presumably within an hour / hour and a half after the tent departure.

This leads me to believe they thought the situation around the tent could be visible from a distance. That hints at a light / a possibility of a light / possibility of a light approaching / descending.

It also suggests that soon after the descent, they realized their own situation was highly dangerous and it would better be changed as soon as possible.

Now if they realized their situation was so bad so quickly, why not return? It seems to me they decided to stay because the inspection of the tent area from the cedar had not assured them it was safe to go back.

I tried to imagine some of them could have descended later. But... If some of them could have descended later, why did Yuri's leave the tent so underdressed and unshod?

Then I figured perhaps they were trying to localize the flashlight dumped about 400 meters down the slope in attempt to navigate the part of the group that wanted to return to the tent. But purposely dumping a working flashlight as a beacon so few meters down the slope and then heading on into a pitch black night does not look like a plausible strategy.

Any way I look at it, it seems likely someone rather than something scared them away from the tent. I would also love to see the return track compared with the direction of their descent, or at least where their descent tracks last pointed before they disappeared.

I realize that if the return track proves to be a notable deviation from the probable descent line, it can be argued as a proof of disorientation rather than a means to avoid someone who could have run after them. But if their heads actually pointed towards the tent despite taking a different route back, it would hint at a purpose rather than accident.

Also, Semyon was wearing Ludya's jacket and hat. What do we make of it?
 

EnolaGaia

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A big part of the problem in reconstructing the chain of events is that searchers found only one trail of footprints leading no more than 1000 m downslope from the tent. They did not uncover any coherent trail(s) of footprints beyond that point.

This 'footprint horizon' roughly correlates with entering the scrub vegetation zone between the tree line and open ground. This is the zone within which 3 of the bodies were found.

IMHO the single trail of footprints from the tent down to this footprint horizon doesn't necessarily justify the common presumption that (a) everyone descended at the same time and (b) the group of trekkers descended as a group and then disintegrated into the 3 sub-groups in which the bodies were found.

We have no footprint evidence for:

- the path(s) by which some or all the folks moved from the footprint horizon to the cedar
- any foot traffic between the cedar and the den scene
- the path(s) by which the 3 presumably attempting to ascend back to the tent moved
 

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I've just come across this pair of pics illustrating the view of the tent from the point of the cedar and vice versa (sorry if these have already been posted):

******

Now, it's likely that whoever climbed the cedar and cleared the branches in direction to the tent (autopsy hints at Doroshenko) was trying to look at the situation around the tent, as the slope obviously does allow to look towards the tent point.

I figure this climb must have occurred shortly after descending to the cedar area. This is because no-one would be able to climb up a tree after losing sensation in their hands/fingers and feet (which is one of the early symptoms of hypothermia). We also know that Yuris were most likely the first to die, presumably within an hour / hour and a half after the tent departure.

This leads me to believe they thought the situation around the tent could be visible from a distance. That hints at a light / a possibility of a light / possibility of a light approaching / descending.

It also suggests that soon after the descent, they realized their own situation was highly dangerous and it would better be changed as soon as possible.

Now if they realized their situation was so bad so quickly, why not return? It seems to me they decided to stay because the inspection of the tent area from the cedar had not assured them it was safe to go back.
...
I agree with all this, but I haven't drawn any firm conclusions from these points (alone).

Some time (years?) ago I similarly posted that the tree-climbing, the discarded flashlight, and the flashlight remaining on the tent could be construed to mean there was a plan being executed that involved signaling between the valley and the tent.

This in turn suggests:

- there was a pressing need to get everyone from the indefensibly exposed tent downslope to a more sheltered location as a temporary measure, and
- one or more persons remained back at the tent (the already-collapsed tent, I believe ... ) awaiting a signal.

I've always thought the discarded (dead) flashlight was a vital clue. It was found several meters to the side of the footprint trail, and circa 250 - 300m upslope from the uppermost returnee body (Kolmogorova's).

I think the flashlight died while being carried downslope by someone, and it was thrown aside out of frustration (if it was still night) or irrelevance (if it was the following day).

If it was discarded at night, this would mean nobody had any light in the valley until the paltry campfire was started. No flashlight was found down at the cedar site, the den / ravine site, nor among the 3 returnees.

We've already established that moonrise that night wouldn't have been until after midnight, and it's anybody's guess whether the skies were clear enough to even see the moon (given the horrendous weather conditions).
 

Denion

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I agree with all this, but I haven't drawn any firm conclusions from these points (alone).

Some time (years?) ago I similarly posted that the tree-climbing, the discarded flashlight, and the flashlight remaining on the tent could be construed to mean there was a plan being executed that involved signaling between the valley and the tent.

This in turn suggests:

- there was a pressing need to get everyone from the indefensibly exposed tent downslope to a more sheltered location as a temporary measure, and
- one or more persons remained back at the tent (the already-collapsed tent, I believe ... ) awaiting a signal.

I've always thought the discarded (dead) flashlight was a vital clue. It was found several meters to the side of the footprint trail, and circa 250 - 300m upslope from the uppermost returnee body (Kolmogorova's).

I think the flashlight died while being carried downslope by someone, and it was thrown aside out of frustration (if it was still night) or irrelevance (if it was the following day).

If it was discarded at night, this would mean nobody had any light in the valley until the paltry campfire was started. No flashlight was found down at the cedar site, the den / ravine site, nor among the 3 returnees.

We've already established that moonrise that night wouldn't have been until after midnight, and it's anybody's guess whether the skies were clear enough to even see the moon (given the horrendous weather conditions).
What we know for certain is fairly limited and insufficient. That's why we can speculate rather freely.

I spent a good amount of time contemplating all possible scenarios of the descent, but came to the conclusion they had no time to play around with it. Had one or two or more descended in advance, the rest of them would not have departed the tent so underdressed, unshod and generally unprepared.

Splitting the group in a condition this alarming would have been the dumbest thing on earth. Whatever they decided as a method of dealing with the situation down in the valley, they needed a concentrated effort to make it work, with as many people engaging as possible.

So I keep it simple. They could not stay in the tent and could not retrieve their stuff from it, yet the descent itself was not threatening as to force them to lose their composure and just scatter around. Since their chance to survive seemingly decreased with splitting of the group, I don't think they went separate ways before Yuris died.

I believe the attempt to see what's going on at the tent from the cedar was just that, and the flashlight was dumped because the battery conked out (they were extremely unlucky on top of all other possible horrors that night).

The tent departure hints at someone telling them to leave. It almost screams being forced by someone.

The problem with this explanation is who of all people would have pottered around Kholat in a -30°C night? Who would get in the conflict with nine people, seven of them men (and both Zina and Lyuda were tough cookies; these people were no snowflake kiddos; even the girls would have punched, kicked, scratched, bitten and fought for their lives). Who would have jumped them, not even knowing whether or not these kids were armed.

Army people? Sounds unlikely. Escaped prisoners? They would have stolen as much as possible. Mansi?

Above all, my suggestion is, if anyone pottered around Kholat in a -30°C night, they would be in a life-threatening situation and willing to improve it at all costs.

Here we are. They followed a Mansi hunter's trail. Did he know about them? Well we know about him. And he was the only person we know about they came even remotely close to meeting, having left the last bastion of a somewhat civilized world behind.

We also know that the Mansi trail passed not that far from the tent (around 200 meters actually).

But then we know there were no footprints around the tent. Since even the group's footprints literally disappeared 500 meters down the slope, there weren't many footprints even of the people who we know for certain were there.

Snow shoes. Snow shoes are known to leave no trace or just very shallow traces when used right / especially when used on certain types of snow. And I'm sure that Mansi knew how to use them -- if they used them.

A random neglectful snow shoe trace could also look like an extremely big footprint (let's remember some of the witnesses noted there was one remarkably big footprint around the tent).

Now, Mansi's alibi is:

1. They're peaceful people
2. They actually helped with the search
3. They found the last four bodies

Not saying Mansi had anything to do with this, the problem with the idea that peaceful people could not have forced nine innocent guys to leave their shelter seems very naive to me. It does not take into account that whoever might have approached the tent at night could possibly see the Dyatlov group as the opposite of innocent and harmless.

Let's imagine it's a group of around four armed people with a wounded person. Let's imagine they don't speak any languages the Dyatlov party speak. They seek a shelter at all costs. Let's imagine they approach the tent out of desperation and find it crammed with 7 to 9 shocked and possibly frightened people, most of them men.

The situation under such conditions could be so stressful and so... tight, one is definitely prone to snapping and doing something stupid. Like pulling out a gun.

After that, it snowballs. Abandon the tent and leave it to us. Go, go, go, now.

We automatically presume the tent was cut from the inside by the Dyatlov group afraid of someone.

What if it was cut from the inside by someone afraid of the Dyatlov group?

We also automatically presume that in case they had been evicted by someone, that someone surely finished them off. But they quite possibly could have been scared away and then just hit their unlucky streak without their invaders participating any further. Whoever possibly told them to get out and not return might have just spent the night in the tent and leave in the morning, minding their own business, whatever that was.
 

Denion

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For anyone who has not read it yet, this is a 2019 Dyatlov Pass expedition report including an interesting explanation:

https://dyatlovpass.com/swedish-russian-expedition-2019?lid=1

(SPOILER: The man thinks the group left the tent because of a katabatic wind, sees the flashlight as their own deliberate signal light, believes the ravine crew actually wanted to use the ravine as a wind cover and ended getting crushed by a collapsing snowdrift from the slope, thinks that Slobodin, Dyatlov and Zina were the ones who built the den out of the fir branches only to decide going back is their last chance to survive, eventually dying on the way.)

I think his tent theory (with the group pressing the tent down with a snow (later found on top of it) so it does not get blown away) is an interesting idea. Yet I can't help but think the best guarantee for the tent to stay in place was NOT LEAVING it. And I also think they had enough snow to dig a wind cover on the slope, right by the tent. I also believe that while they may not have had the time to dress properly, they definitely had enough time to simply grab as many shoes and clothes as possible before they descent. Above all, dropping a working flashlight as a landmark seems way too audacious, given they headed into the dark and they could have found the way back using the flashlight and their own footprints / different marks just as effectively.
 

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I have just learned the Dyatlov Pass case will be re-investigated for only three possible scenarios: avalanche, snow slip and (curiously) hurricane.

I'm still trying to imagine what sort of element could force a group like this to leave their shelter without grabbing more clothes, shoes and equipment to make it through the night in the valley.

Especially Slobodin's single shoe hints at putting it on in a hurry. I feel like giving up though. You always come back to insufficient info and unanswerable questions. There are only two things I'm sure about.

1. Setting up the tent on the slope was a mistake.
2. Second big mistake was leaving it (unless someone actually forced them to).

Even though bad decisions can be sensed beyond their fate, that night was unbelievably cruel to all of them.
 

EnolaGaia

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I have just learned the Dyatlov Pass case will be re-investigated for only three possible scenarios: avalanche, snow slip and (curiously) hurricane. ...
The searchers / investigators specifically stated there was no evidence of avalanche at the tent site - a possibility they definitely considered once they discovered where the tent had been erected.

On the other hand, the slope from the tent down toward the cedar had clearly been wind-scoured by the time they found the site circa 2 weeks later. I suppose there's always the chance an avalanche's residue was blown away during this time.

I still think the snow slip theory is a viable and reasonable explanation for the tent's collapse. However, I don't think the tent collapse and the entire party's exodus into the valley happened all at once (as a single-cause / single-response chain of events).

If 'hurricane' is a badly translated reference to high winds or wind effects, I think it's reasonable. We know the weather was foul when the party gained the top of the pass and began pitching the tent. We know the weather conditions deteriorated even further during that night. We know the weather became bad enough to force similarly experienced trekkers on Chistop to flee their mountain for fear of their lives, and fierce winds were among the factors they described.
 

Denion

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I still think the snow slip theory is a viable and reasonable explanation for the tent's collapse. However, I don't think the tent collapse and the entire party's exodus into the valley happened all at once (as a single-cause / single-response chain of events).

If 'hurricane' is a badly translated reference to high winds or wind effects, I think it's reasonable. We know the weather was foul when the party gained the top of the pass and began pitching the tent. We know the weather conditions deteriorated even further during that night. We know the weather became bad enough to force similarly experienced trekkers on Chistop to flee their mountain for fear of their lives, and fierce winds were among the factors they described.
Humans' behavior is seldom as linear as its explanation, but the one thing that keeps bothering me is their unshod / underdressed condition. Especially if we consider the possibility of multiple/separate descents. What would have kept some of them on the slope for longer if not grabbing shoes and equipment?

The extreme wind theory would make a lot of sense had the entire tent collapsed. That never happened though. If the wind had been as severe as to shred the heavy canvas, thus slicing it became the only option to fold it and prevent even more severe tears, how come the tent collapsed at only one end?

Perhaps they were overcome with fear of something that wasn't quite there and panicked? I have also read they did not have a proper map, so perhaps they believed the tree line to be way closer than it actually was?

But why not grab a pair of shoes. And how come two of them were shod?
 

EnolaGaia

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Humans' behavior is seldom as linear as its explanation, but the one thing that keeps bothering me is their unshod / underdressed condition. Especially if we consider the possibility of multiple/separate descents. What would have kept some of them on the slope for longer if not grabbing shoes and equipment?

But why not grab a pair of shoes. And how come two of them were shod?

Perhaps they were overcome with fear of something that wasn't quite there and panicked?
As I've said before - I don't claim to have a single firm theory on what could have happened that night. However, there are certain themes or elements that I strongly suspect were in play. The following is based on these persistent chunks of suspicion.

I think it's most likely there were multiple descents from the tent downslope to the valley, and these multiple descents were motivated by at least two critical events. The confusing set of evidence has always reminded me of accidents I've investigated or reviewed in which there were at least two key failures or threats occurring in a series, with different actions occurring in response to each such stimulus.

Here's an example ... (It's only an example; there are too many variables to claim it's the only possible script.)

T-B and at least one other relatively well-dressed trekker left the tent and descended first. This could have happened early, owing to a dispute over the wisdom of trying to survive the night in the tent's exposed location. It could have happened later, once the weather conditions convinced the entire party they were in extreme danger. The original goal was to establish a fire and / or den in which the party could survive the night.

This advance party was supposed to signal the ones remaining at the tent using either a fire or a flashlight to alert them when an emergency overnight location had been prepared. When the advance party reached the tree line they found it was no shelter against the winds (as the searchers would note weeks later). They switched to a Plan B (digging a snow den) and proceeded in darkness.

If the advance party had been the ones carrying the flashlight that failed, the signaling plan was negated.

Meanwhile ...

At some point the second critical event occurred (e.g., one end of the tent collapsed; hypothermia set in; a snow slip spooked them). The ones left at the tent hurriedly evacuated and made their way downslope without further dressing / preparation.

If this second (panicked) party were carrying the flashlight that failed, they made the last portion (1/2 to 1/3) of the descent in darkness.

They groped their way to the treeline and built a fire at the cedar.

The advance party and the second / cedar party were unaware of each other's presence, even though they were only circa 70 - 75m apart. The advance party was digging, and the cedar party were operating in a desperate frenzy.

Some of the second party (Dyatlov and 2 others) were stunned at not finding the advance party, and attempted to get back to the tent. (If these 3 had been in the advance party, they were attempting to return and advise the others to prepare for descent, but they didn't make it, didn't have any way to signal, and were missed by the final group descending from the tent site in darkness.)

One or more in the second (ill-prepared) party stranded at the cedar climbed to see if there was a signal from the tent site - a signal that never came.

At some point (probably by seeing the light of the campfire) the advance party realized the others had already descended. They found the remnants of the second party at the cedar, unprepared and dying. Two died or were already dead.

The advance party covered the dead at the cedar, stripped the bodies of useful clothing and put them on Dubinina, then attempted to get her (and possibly another second party survivor) to the den.

Still blundering in the dark one, some, or all of them eventually fell into the trap of the 'ravine' (watercourse with steep banks). Any who didn't immediately fall down eventually fell in while attempting to reach the first one(s) who'd fallen.

Again - this is only an illustrative example of a multi-failure / multi-descent scenario. There are many possible variations on this general motif.
 

EnolaGaia

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I have also read they did not have a proper map, so perhaps they believed the tree line to be way closer than it actually was?
I'm not sure how good their map(s) may have been. Dyatlov was familiar with the general area, because he'd discussed different strategies for establishing their cache and routing back at one of the settlements they'd initially visited in the earliest days of the trip.

If the weather conditions had allowed them to see the tree line when they reached the top of the pass, they would have had a reasonable idea how far away it was. I suspect they realized the Lozhva valley wasn't (or couldn't be) any farther away than the Auspiy valley from which they'd come.


The extreme wind theory would make a lot of sense had the entire tent collapsed. That never happened though. If the wind had been as severe as to shred the heavy canvas, thus slicing it became the only option to fold it and prevent even more severe tears, how come the tent collapsed at only one end?
I believe they were subjected to intense wind action (similar to what was reported from Chistop). I don't attach any particular significance to the fact only one end of the tent had collapsed by the time the searchers found it weeks later.

I'd also point out there's no specific reason to assume the tent collapsed on the first night. It could have collapsed anytime during the intervening weeks before it was discovered.

Perhaps more to the point ... I think it's possible the tent didn't initially collapse, but shredded. The oft-cited stuff about the slits being cut from the inside outward started with a seamstress who claimed that's how the damage appeared to her. However, she didn't see the tent until it had been out in the weather for weeks, taken down, folded, transported, unfolded, and finally draped over chairs(?) in a heated room.

I'd put a lot more stock in the seamstress' evaluation if she had observed the slits and thread directionality at the tent site. I have no problem with her assessment of what she saw. I'm only pointing out she didn't see the state of the tent as originally discovered.

IMHO the tent fabric shredding would be a bigger cause for panic than one end of the tent collapsing.

The tent was big, heavy, and assembled by splicing two tents together. If I recall correctly it was 2 or 3 years old, and it had seen prior severe winter service. According to one or more of the trekkers' diaries, it had already been repaired during the preceding days.

... And Dyatlov's jacket was found stuffed into one of the holes in the tent fabric. It suggests, but doesn't prove, that the tent fabric may have been failing that night.
 

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keith McClosky believes the most likely explanation is the party was either killed by Soviet forces mistaking the party as enemies or part of a military exercise via friendly fire.
 
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Denion

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... And Dyatlov's jacket was found stuffed into one of the holes in the tent fabric. It suggests, but doesn't prove, that the tent fabric may have been failing that night.
I believe Dyatlov's jacket is the perfect microcosm of the entire case because, citing another poster from another thread, according to various accounts, Igor's jacket was:

Stuffed in a hole
Hanging just at the entrance to the tent
10 metres from the entrance
 

EnolaGaia

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I believe Dyatlov's jacket is the perfect microcosm of the entire case because, citing another poster from another thread, according to various accounts, Igor's jacket was:
Stuffed in a hole
Hanging just at the entrance to the tent
10 metres from the entrance
Yes - the accounts vary. My recollection is that the 'stuffed in a hole in the tent fabric' version is the version stated by the searchers who originally discovered the tent (who were personally acquainted with Dyatlov and his tent).
 

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I wonder what the group would make of our fascination with their case. I do know that anything can be made to look mysterious when scrutinized to such exacting degree. Although the Dyatlov Pass incident is no run of the mill mishap, it's important to remember that contradictions and mysteries can be found in the most mundane of happenings, too.
 

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Yes - the accounts vary. My recollection is that the 'stuffed in a hole in the tent fabric' version is the version stated by the searchers who originally discovered the tent (who were personally acquainted with Dyatlov and his tent).
This is what have found on this:

Captain Chernyshov stated: ‘About 10-15 metres from the tent we saw slippers and Dyatlov’s fur jacket.

Oss, Svetlana. Don't Go There: Post Mortem (p. 192). LiberWriter.com. Kindle Edition.


From the tent in the direction of the wind, i.e. in the direction where there were traces of people's feet, at a distance of about 0.5-1 m, we found several slippers from different pairs, and ski caps and other small objects were scattered. Weatherproof jacket hung at the entrance. As it turned out, it was Dyatlov's.

Lobatcheva, Irina. Dyatlov Pass Keeps Its Secret (p. 35). Parallel Worlds' Books. Kindle Edition.


Vasily Tempalov, the man with zero experience on such cases, has arrived at last. He gets to work on catching himself up on the day’s events, cataloguing the tent’s contents, and making his official report. He notes the following facts: The tent was set on the slope at a height of 1,079 meters. An even spot was made under the tent, with skis laid at the bottom. The tent was covered with snow. The entrance was partly open, with sheet curtains sticking out. Urine traces were found where someone had been “taking a leak.” When the tent was dug out, a tear in the tent on the slope-facing side close to the entrance was found, with a fur jacket sticking out of the hole. The descent-facing side was torn to pieces. A pair of bound skis was lying in front of the tent entrance. Arrangement of things inside the tent are catalogued.

Eichar, Donnie. Dead Mountain (pp. 121-122). Chronicle Books LLC. Kindle Edition.


---

So... Dyatlov had more jackets and/or some of the witnesses confused it with somebody else's jacket(s). Anyway, we can assume somebody's jacket was sticking out of the slope-facing hole. Reading one of their diaries though, I found out they had used this method before. And since this was the slope-facing hole, I suggest it may have no bearing on what happened that night whatsoever :/

I wonder what the group would make of our fascination with their case. I do know that anything can be made to look mysterious when scrutinized to such exacting degree. Although the Dyatlov Pass incident is no run of the mill mishap, it's important to remember that contradictions and mysteries can be found in the most mundane of happenings, too.
If we pretend that "soul" is a valid concept, it has memory and it connects with our reality, thus they in some form, somewhere watch our struggles to make some sense out of their deaths while debating whose stuff was scattered where and where exactly was the urine sample found, they're most likely laughing their astral butts off, I'd bet you on that.
 

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... And since this was the slope-facing hole, I suggest it may have no bearing on what happened that night whatsoever :/
Maybe ... Maybe not ...

One of the most obvious deficiencies in the recorded evidence concerns the back / slope side of the tent. Except for the passing mention of a hole, there's no complete description of its state. All the attention was given to the other - apparently far more damaged - side.

The difference in level of damage between the two sides of the tent has always been taken as a clue - particularly for adherents of a snow slip theory. It's also a clue for a severe wind theory, insofar as the apparently more damaged side was the one more directly exposed to the probably vicious winds that first night.
 

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I have a new theory that pretty much ticks all the boxes on the Dyatlov Pass Incident. My time away has not been wasted. The theory relies on no flying radioactive yetis, katabatic wind,or Soviet death squads but on the evidence that is known about the case.

My first clue was that every which-way you turn the information in the case, it seemed as if the evidence had no consistency, as if there was something fake going on. Not a cover up per se, but something that seemed to contradict the evidence at every turn.

It dawned on me that what I was looking at is not an altogether spontaneous chain of events, there is an element of simulation about it. But how to account for it?

Then I saw the following like in the Wikipedia entry that clued me in...

"Each member of the group, which consisted of eight men and two women, were experienced Grade II-hikers with ski tour experience, and would be receiving Grade III certification upon their return."
-Eichar, Donnie (2013). Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-1-4521-2956-3. page 32.

What I was looking at was evidence of a training exercise gone wrong.

The USSR in the late 1950s was mending itself and had a new sense of its own purpose under Krushchev, but was in many ways a very dangerous and tough place to live. Russians have also never been overly safety conscious, and often the simplest tasks have an historical butchers bill in human lives that would make other European nations blanch. Training expeditions undertaken by organizations such as the military and the young pioneers were seen as a way of proving the worth of the citizens and constituted a measure of elitism in a society that was not supposed to recognise or laud the individual, thus personal competence was subordinated to group competence. This was the spirit, spoken or not, behind the Dyatlov Expedition.

So what happened at Dyatlov Pass? Let me offer you the following explanation...

The group was making good time and Igor Dyatlov, an experienced hiker was adequately impressed by them, and a number of the hikers had expressed an interest in undertaking fresh challenges in their training. Dyatlov, a young man of 23 and an experienced hiker with high certification is prone to agree with this request, and so he offers them some extra training. remember that young men sometimes take silly risks without quite meaning to. So he asks everyone if they would like to do an avalanche drill at some stage in the next couple of days, and they all enthusiastically agree, eager to test their skills and what they have learned.

So when they reach the pass, Dyatlov gets them to pitch camp in an area under absolutely no risk of avalance, but still on a slope. The weather seems clear, and Dyatlov has prepared the group over the days as to what to expect. He waits for them to start getting settled in the tent, but before they have the stove installed, then he starts the avalanche drill, which starts with everyone having to evacuate the tent in under 10 seconds. This is achieved well, as the group cut their way out. Dyatlov is not concerned about the damage as they have ample material to stitch the tent back up again, and that will form the last exercise. Note that this accounts for the state of undress of the group, as they had to abandon what they were doing and face the next challenge with what they were wearing. Dyatlov leaves a lantern to mark the position of the tent so they can hopefully find it the next day, even in the unlikely event that bad weather sets in and they face a fog or snow.

Next Dyatlov asks them each separately what they do when they are out of the tent and they see an avalanche bearing down on them. They are all prepared for the question, and answer that they run laterally away from the path of the avalance. Rather than making them do this, Dyatlov then says that they were all correct and so they don't have to physically do this.

The next exercise is that of winter survival. Dyatlov poses the problem "It is dark and the tent is buried under snow. You will have a better chance of recovering your supplies with the morning light, but for now you need to find shelter." It is generally agreed that the group will find better shelter and fuel for a fire below the tree line, but after that, the group splits as to how to proceed next. The main group is convinced that starting a bonfire will solve their group survival needs best, but 4 members are of the opinion that they would be better served by digging an ice cave to shelter in, using their combined body heat to stay warm with the snow insulating them (yes, this is known to work and is the main principle behind the success of igloos).

Then everything goes to hell in a hurry. The group splits into two. What Dyatlov hasn't quite anticipated is the weather. It doesn't snow, but the clear skies presage a viciously cold night, far worse than he ever suspected. Dyatlov has seriously miscalculated the risk. The 6 who engage in making the bonfire quickly find themselves in serious trouble as the temperature plummets. Try as they might to get warm, they just can't as the wind chill rips their body heat away. Some of them think better of their choice and try to get to the other group or to the ravine where they can make their own snow cave, but everyone dies.

The group who were digging the snow cave have also made a serious mistake. While the snow bank they are digging into would be safe enough for a single person to dig a personal shelter, they hoped to pool their labor, cooperatively, in good Soviet fashion, so that the whole group would benefit. What they don't realize is that the ice and snow above them is very unstable, and while 4 small caves might have kept each of them alive as individuals, when they group together to make a much bigger group cave, they undermine the structure and they wind up dead and buried under tons of ice and snow with cracked ribs and skulls, because the tons ice and snow acts just like tons of rock.

Now everyone is dead. Scavengers moving thru the area have a gobble at what exposed flesh they can find.

2 weeks later investigators arrive on the scene and can't figure out what happened. Having gathered the evidence, nothing makes sense. Every logical path towards explaining what happened leads to absurd conclusions. The whole thing becomes a legend.
 
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AlchoPwn

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is this the missing layer of meaning ... an avalanche that never was ...
Well presently I think it fits the evidence better than anything else on the market. We can't prove a katabatic wind and there is no evidence of an avalanche, but their tent cutting strongly suggests avalanche avoidant behavior. Now if they had merely heard an avalanche, panicked, and cut their way out of the tent, once they realized they made a mistake, surely they would have merely started sewing it up, and pretty much immediately? They had a light source, and they had the materials to do so. But no, they walk down the mountain slope, badly underdressed, and proceed to attempt winter survival techniques. How else do you account for that sort of unexplainable behavior without drifting into absurd or supernatural explanations ? The fact is that we know that they were doing the hike with training in mind; it's established in the literature. It certanly wouldn't be the first time people have been killed while training.
 

Analogue Boy

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Presumably this wasn’t the first training trip. It would be interesting to find out if previous training expeditions had been carried out beforehand.
 

EnolaGaia

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Welcome back, AlchoPwn. This is an interesting take on the incident. Here are some comments ...

... My first clue was that every which-way you turn the information in the case, it seemed as if the evidence had no consistency, as if there was something fake going on. Not a cover up per se, but something that seemed to contradict the evidence at every turn. ...
I agree that the known evidence seems to leave an explanatory gap or hole, and that this missing ingredient almost certainly related to the Dyatlov group itself (social / interpersonal factors; perhaps some agenda) as opposed to external non-natural forces or intrusions.


..."Each member of the group, which consisted of eight men and two women, were experienced Grade II-hikers with ski tour experience, and would be receiving Grade III certification upon their return." ...
It's been some time since I delved into the certification aspect, but here's what I understand of it ... These group trips were sponsored by university associations / clubs, who observed a formal certification protocol for the participants. A given student's grade certification helped determine his / her qualifications for joining an organized / sponsored excursion.

The 3 grades of certification for the hikers / skiers were awarded to an individual who had completed certain standard requirements. In this sense progress upward through the grade hierarchy was similar to (e.g.) rising through the ranks of the Boy Scouts.

Every description I've seen of the requirements for moving to the next grade involved backcountry experience rather than demonstrated skill sets or absorbing instruction on such skills. The requirements for Grade II and Grade III were based on number of days / nights spent en route, number of nights sleeping in a tent, distance traveled, and the remoteness or difficulty attributed to the area / terrain traversed. Evidence for meeting the requirements consisted of personal records (e.g., diaries; journals) and validation by the group leader.

As such, there was no requirement and no need to subject the party to particular training sessions or exercises.

Naturally, this means I cannot see how training explains the fatal night's course of events. However, I do think there's an element of probable relevance relating to skills, training, and certification ...

There was also an auxiliary - or perhaps entirely separate - certification pertaining to qualifying as an organizer / leader of any excursion. This bit has always been murky to me, and I've never been able to locate clear descriptions of what was involved. Dyatlov was certified to be a group / expedition leader, as he had been in one or more preceding years.

There was one member of the doomed party who would have achieved this organizer / leader certification upon return - Zolotaryev (diverse spellings; hereafter "Zolo"). Zolo was the #1 odd man out among the party - no prior connections with the others, substantially older, a WW2 veteran, and arguably the most experienced outdoorsman of the bunch.

I believe Zolo's relative "difference" and experience, along with his having a bigger stake in completing the trip, played a part in whatever interpersonal issue(s) help to fill in the gap / hole cited above.

More later ...
 

hunck

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Is it really feasible that they would damage by cutting their tent then leave it half-clothed on a bitterly cold night for a mere exercise? It seems a bit unlikely. They would've been well aware how cold it was.

If escaping the [imaginary] avalanche means you freeze to death outside pretty quickly it's not much of a survival strategy.
 

gordonrutter

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Training exercises can have extra bits in largely irrelevant to the thing being trained for. For example when I did my mountain leader training the instructor had me free climbing which was not in any way part of the course or a requirement for certification. I was happy to do it.
Sometimes you go along with training exercises and just enter into all, I can see AlcohPwn’s scenario playing out and people going along with it.
 

hunck

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Training exercises can have extra bits in largely irrelevant to the thing being trained for. For example when I did my mountain leader training the instructor had me free climbing which was not in any way part of the course or a requirement for certification. I was happy to do it.
Sometimes you go along with training exercises and just enter into all, I can see AlcohPwn’s scenario playing out and people going along with it.
Would you have done it with inadequate equipment in freezing conditions though?
 
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