We stumble upon cases that for an instance seem just a usual case of disappearance, but as we dig deeper into it, there are various shocking revelations that make these cases far more intriguing. The unsatisfying endings of some mysteries are so disturbing that it leaves us baffling what actually might have happened. Dyatlov Pass Incident is one such mystery.

In early 1959, a group of young experienced hikers decided to go on for an expedition across the mountains of western Soviet Union, specifically the peak of Otorten. The group was led by 23-year-old Alekseyevich Dyatlov, and it included a total of 9 other experienced men and women greatly familiar with the Siberian wilderness.

Despite all the experience, this expedition proved to be their last. Even an extensive criminal investigation couldn’t reveal what might have actually happened with these young men and women’s lives.

No one knows what led to their strange fate and gruesome injuries with some having their eyeballs missing while one missing a tongue. Although as mysterious as the case might sound, Russian authorities were quick enough to close the case stating their cause of death to be by a “compelling natural force” but as it was obvious — no one could make sense of it.

Dytlov Pass Incident Expedition

The investigators sewed the story together using various photo and diary entries that were discovered after the bodies of the hikers were found.

On January 23, 1959, Alekseyevich Dyatlov as the leader with seven men and two women boarded the train heading for the Ural mountains in the middle of the Soviet Union. A group’s diary entry was written as the train slowly advanced deep into the mountainous Siberian taiga, the entry reads:

I wonder what awaits us on 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? Everybody is falling asleep, and behind the window, Ural taiga is spread in all directions.

Zinaida Kolmogorova

Over the next few days, the group continued to altercate between modes of transportation such as buses, trucks, and at some points, horses and sleigh were used. Eventually, they proceeded on foot and skies. The last inhabited settlement they visited was Vizhai, a lorry village where they spend the night and purchased bread loaves for their upcoming day’s hike.

On January 28th, one of the hikers, Yuri Yudin began to feel uneasy of illness and decided to head back while the remaining group of nine continued to follow as the trek was planned. Little did Yudin knew what fate awaits for his friends.

yuri yudin last photo
Zina Kolmogorova says a final goodbye to Yuri Yudin

After Yudin left, the group resumed their expedition across the Soviet wilderness covered in snow while documenting everything in diaries and cameras. Recovered photos and diary entries suggested that the trek progressed as one would expect with no unforeseen complications.

On February 1st, they reached the foot of the mountain known to the indigenous Mansi population as Kholat Syakhl, meaning “Dead Mountain”, which wasn’t in the way of the originally planned trek.

Worsening weather changed the fate

The trek along with the hikers’ fate would have gone differently if the weather was in their favor that day. The sub-zero temperature and constant snowstorms made the situation worse for them, eventually, they lost the sense of direction and moved into the west, towards the “Dead Mountain” which wasn’t in their planned course.

Realizing they have followed the wrong path, and due to unfavorable weather, the group agreed on setting up their camp on the slope of the mountain, to avoid walking 1.5 kilometers downhill to a dense forest area that could have provided safe shelter to the group. The reason they decided to set up camp there was also possible because Igor Dytlov didn’t want to lose the altitude they have gained.

The group’s diary received its last entry:

The speed of the wind is similar to the air draft created by a taking off airplane. This apparently is the place covered with the deepest snow. Tired and exhausted we started the preparations for the night. There is not much firewood. We are having dinner right in the tent. It’s warm. It is hard to imagine such a comfort somewhere on the ridge, with a piercing howl of the wind, hundreds of kilometers away from human settlements.


The Fateful Journey

Friends and families of the group started to worry about their young ones from whom they haven’t heard for a while. Igor Dyatlov had promised to report their status to their sports club as soon as they would be returned to Vizhai, the last inhabitable settlement the group left a few days ago.

Friends and family expected a telegram from Dyatlov that would have been received to them by 12th February. But as confirmed by Yudin, it had to be expected longer. But nothing arrived after 20th February, family and relatives could no longer wait and demanded a search operation.

After much debate, a team of volunteers eventually head out to find the missing hikers. On February 26th, the rescue team was finally able to locate the camp at the slope. It was obvious at first sight of the scene that something has gone horribly wrong there.

Dyatlov Pass Tent
A view of the tent as the rescuers found it on 26 February 1959

The tent was scrambled, covered in snow. While most of the belongings including several pairs of shoes were orderly placed inside, the tent itself was slashed open with a knife from the inside.

The search operation continued to the next day, and nine pairs of footprints lead the search volunteers down the slope towards the nearby woods. Given that the footprints left rather mild indentations in the snow would suggest that they descended the slope in a rather calm and orderly fashion, as opposed to running away in panic.

After following the footprints for about half a kilometer from the main camp site, the trail was vanished off by the snow. When the volunteers continued in the direction of the trail, they ended near a large Siberian pine tree, at the edge of the forest.

Remains of an improvised campfire were visible there, next to which they found the first two bodies, these were Yuri Krivonischenko and Yuri Doroshenko.

The Beginning of Mysteries

Although bodies of two of the nine hikers were found, it still took another 2 months to recover the rest of the bodies in the frigid climate. Mysteriously, the first two were found severely under-dressed.

Yuri Krivonischenko And Yuri Doroshenko
Bodies of Yuri Krivonischenko and Yuri Doroshenko Via Russian National Archives

At the time of their death, it would have been around -30°C (-22°F) and in sub-zero temperatures and harsh weather conditions, essential clothing and equipment like gloves, hats, boots, jackets, pants were missing from the bodies of Yuri Krivonischenko and Yuri Doroshenko. The pine trees had signs of damage as if someone had climbed it, with branches broken up to five meters high.

Perhaps they were either attempting to locate the tent in the darkness or were trying to hide from something or someone.

The next three hikers, Dyatlov, Kolmogorova, and Slobodin were found soon at varying distances between the tent and the tree-covered by a few centimeters of snow. Although they were better dressed than the first two hikers, yet they still lacked essential items for the snow such as boots, hats, and gloves.

It seemed like they were attempting to reach their tents moments before their death, as their bodies were found facing in the direction of the base camp. While some of these 5 had sustained minor injuries, all of them had died of hypothermia.

Igor Dyatlov
Igor Dyatlov via Russian National Archives

The remaining four were finally discovered on 4 May, at the bottom of a small hill, covered in 3 meters of snow. Three of them had lethal injuries, with one having a fractured skull and two had multiple ribs fracture and probably suffered internal bleeding.

The injuries had been sustained while they were all alive and could not have been inflicted by another person. The medical examiner compared their injuries to that of a car crash.

Their bodies definitely told the tale of something gruesome had happened, with Dubinina missing her tongue, parts of her lips, eyeballs, and part of a skullbone, while Zolotaryov had his eyeballs missing, and Kolevatov missing his eyebrows. It was speculated that they suffered these injuries after their death as their body was found in a stream.

Dyatlov Corpses
Bodies of Kolevatov and Zolotaryov.

Another speculation was related to the indigenous Mansi people, who might have attacked them as they were encroaching upon their lands. However, none of these speculations made sense after some of the Mansi people were interrogated and a criminal investigation was carried out.

The most mysterious of all was their clothes, that were later found to be abnormally radioactive.

But even all of these discoveries couldn’t lead the authorities to believe that the case was not a mere accident that led to the fate of the hikers. The investigating officials were quick enough to close the case giving only vague causes.

On 28th May, after a criminal investigation, the case was discontinued with a cryptic and incredibly unsatisfactory conclusion. In the final report, the cause of their death was outlined to be by an “unknown compelling force which the hikers were unable to overcome.”

Not exactly the answer everyone was expecting, and barely crossed the line of a conclusion. The speculations of involvement of Mansi people also didn’t make much sense as they were known to be largely peaceful. So what happened to the Igor Dyatlov’s group that day?

The Missing Tongue

It sounded mysterious that Dubinina was missing her tongue when found, but this wasn’t given much weight into the medical examination reports that were obtained later.

Some believed that her tongue was ripped out while she was still alive, others speculated that it was eaten by scavengers. And more suspiciously, the medical report said nothing about it, it just pointed out that: “The diaphragm of the mouth and the tongue is missing”, that’s it, there was no mention of cutting or anything about it.

It is highly possible that the medical examiner believed it to be a minor detail or else it would have been elaborated further. Not only the tongue but similarly, the missing eyeballs were not either elaborately explained in the medical report, rather than a single line statement was given: “Gaping orbits, the eyeballs are absent”.

Although these factors seem enough intriguing, the medical report might have provided an indirect explanation. In one of the paragraphs, it said that “Soft tissue injuries to head […] are postmortem changes (Putrefaction and decomposition) to Dubinina’s corpse, which was recently exposed to water prior to detection.”

This could clarify that the last four bodies were all damaged due to the melting snow.

The Radioactivity

One of the most mysterious aspects of this case is that three different clothing that belonged to Kolevatov and Krivonischenko were found to be radioactive. This does indeed sound a bit mysterious but if Kolevatov and Krivonischenko’s career backgrounds are taken into account, this mystery can be unfolded.

While Kolevatov had previously worked at a facility developing nuclear materials, Krivonischenko had a past record of working at a top-secret plutonium production plant for nuclear weapons.

Dyatlov Pass Incident Theories

If every small piece of this mysterious incident has an explanation, why the death of the hikers cannot have a satisfactory explanation? The reason is, while authorities were quick enough to close the case, their theory left more questions than answers. Many provided alternative explanation behind the Dyatlov Pass incident, while some of these are explained deeply, some remains plain straightforward.

The involvement of an UFO

Around the time of the hikers’ disappearance, numerous sources claimed to have seen UFOs in the form of orbs of light moving across the sky during the night for a few seconds up to several minutes.

The people who claimed sightings of UFOs included 3 soldiers and 2 different hiking groups. Some witnesses also claimed that the indigenous Mansi population as well as group of geologists had told them that they had observed fireballs in the sky around the time of the incident.

The problem with UFO sightings is that they do not add much credibility to any case as being unverifiable. Also, only the other hiking group report of seeing a UFO was found to be on the exact time of the incident, other sightings just either occurred earlier or after the incident.

dyatlov UFO Photo
Krivonischenko’s Camera photo, which some claims to show glowing spheres.

The above photo appears to be a photo of a UFO and it could no doubt be a photo of a candle, burning stove, flashlight, or anything glowing. The speculations about this theory are that the sound of a UFO made the hikers leave their tent in panic, and thus they had to cut it open with a knife from inside to leave as quickly as possible. This followed by them taking shelter under the trees.

Although the theory may not be as concrete as other proposed over time, the claim might actually have some weight to it. At the time of the incident, the Soviet Union was in the middle of the cold war as well as the space race. So there would have been a lot of aerial activities going on it the area. At a time when space exploration was a fresh new thing, its not surprising that people were unable to identify the mysterious lights.

Also, at the same time, the Soviet Union did launch several rockets, and the authorities confirmed that the rockets were successfully landed in the northern Ural mountains. But surprisingly this is the same area where the hikers were disappeared. Furthermore, the lead investigation officer, Lev Ivanov, during an interview in 1990 told the reporter that he noticed that the pine trees at the Dyatlov Pass Incident’s site were burned at the top. In the same interview, he said that “the bright flying spheres definitely had a direct connection with the hikers’ death.”

He further claimed that he was warned by his seniors to take out the reference to any unknown flying objects or any strange phenomena, including sketches of fireballs that were drawn by the Mansi people and other testimonies. Although, skeptics add that Ivanov’s claims were baseless on the account that he wanted to make some money from the interviews he gave.

Taking everything into account from the rockets launched by Soviet army officials to Ivanov’s interview, the involvement of UFOs might be possible, but it doesn’t mean it was any extraterrestrial force, it is highly possible that a cover-up from the government was involved.

Furthermore, there were other theories suggested over time by enthusiastic researchers, which includes an attack by Russian Yeti on the group, and this was even covered by the Discovery Channel on one of the documentaries named “Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives”. But obviously none of these made much sense.

Dyatlov Pass Incident : Case re-opens in 2019

When the case remained a mystery even after 60 years, the Russian officials reopened the case for a new investigation.

Dyatlov Pass Memoriam Site
A memorial site for the nine dead hikers in Yekaterinburg, Russia, 2012. via Wikimedia Commons

However, with so many theories that surfaced over time, officials decided to take only three into account: an avalanche, a thunderstorm, or a hurricane. But this leads to yet another dead end with authorities discontinuing the case again with another vogue conclusion that there is no criminal activity involved with the case.

The area of incident was named Dyatlov Pass to honor the nine hikers who lost their lives and a monument was erected in Mikhajlov Cemetery at Yekaterinburg for them.

Last Photo Of Dyatlov Pass incident
The last known photo of the nine hikers alive. via Russian National Archives

Although it is unsure if we ever will come close the truth about the Dyatlov Pass incident but these nine young men and women will surely be remembered for the courage they might have shown in their last moments.

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