The Dyatlov Pass Incident is the tale of ten hikers and nine deaths. Most of them were students from the Ural Polytechnical Institute in Yekaterinburg, who tragically died under mysterious circumstances whilst hiking through the Ural Mountains.
All of the students were experienced hikers with the group’s leader, Igor Dyatlov, being very well-known for his expertise in this field.
After several days of traveling using various means of transportation, their hike started on January 27th, the goal was to reach Gora Otorten, a mountain located roughly 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the eventual accident site. Given the rough terrain and the especially harsh weather around this time of year, their expedition was considered risky, so risky in fact that it was a CAT-III hike, the most difficult of sorts.
Merely one day into the hike, a member of the expedition named Yuri Yudin had to leave the expedition and turn back due to underlying medical issues. This technically makes Yudin the only surviving hiker of the expedition and was also able to provide the authorities and the public alike with a lot of information regarding the expedition.
Getting back on track though: the group’s trek to their ultimate demise wasn’t one that was rushed (though they sure made sure that their end was a quick one). Each hiker came prepared as any hiker though, bringing a reasonable amount of food, water, and equipment. However, Mother Nature made sure to bring her own supplies. These supplies came in the form of weather that can only be found in the likes of Siberia.
A land known for its beauty, wildlife, brutal weather, and harsh temperatures, Siberia is a place you’d think that Climate Change would make it less of a cesspool. While gulags and trees are the norm, so too is snow. A lot of snow. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together could tell you that a snowstorm that’s so bad that you’re unable to see your own hands, even if you place them right in front of your face, you’re likely going to end up six-hundred feet beneath the snow.
That’s precisely what likely happened here. The group—minus Yuri of the lucky stars—lost their way along their predetermined trail and ended up heading west and up the wrong mountain. Once they realized their error, they decided to stop and set up camp. It was this campsite that would later be found and where the known story of what’s now known as the Dyatlov Pass Incident ends.
As for what happened after, that’s as good a guess as any. What’s generally known is that the nine doomed hikers found themselves in their camp until someone—or something—scared them enough to slash open their tent and run. At some point, they began to strip naked before ultimately perishing.
It would be a fair bit of time before all of the hikers were discovered, though some of their injuries didn’t make sense. These include:
- Three of the hikers had sustained physical trauma.
- One hiker had a fractured skull.
- Two of the hikers had major chest fractures.
- One hiker was missing both of their eyes.
- One hiker was missing their tongue.
These injuries are what has kept the legend and mystery of the Dyatlov Pass Incident alive for over half a century. To this day, there’s never been a conclusion that’s been generally accepted, though there are a plethora of theories. While we won’t go over every single one, we will go over a few of them. So without further ado, let’s go through a field of text much less foreboding than the Siberian tourism website.
The first theory that’s been put forward by online speculators is that of the Yeti. A creature of legend and as iconic as other hairy hominids like the Sasquatch of the Pacific Northwest, the Yeti has been accused of being the cause of the deaths of the nine hikers.
The evidence for this theory is generally very flimsy, but the reason for the predominance of it is due to people’s desire for the Yeti to be real.
While some have claimed the creature is docile and/or timid, others have claimed it’s a violent, brutal monster that will attack anything it sees as a trespasser. This, as a result, has brought about the idea that a Yeti—or at least a creature like it—saw the hikers as a threat (or trespassers) and killed them. Yeah… I’m not sure I buy that one at all.
The second theory that’s been put forth is that of aliens. While it may seem like something out of a generic Science-Fiction story, this theory has almost as many (if not more) believers as the one above. Reports of lights in and around the site of where the hikers died were common and many claim that the injuries some of the hikers sustained could only be made by a race with highly advanced technology.
Though that isn’t the biggest talking point for this theory. That honor goes to the radiation levels of one of the victim’s clothing. While the Cold War was going on (a factor we’ll get to in a moment), high levels of radiation are very common with UFO encounters and especially any time someone either gets near one or one has landed.
This has led many to speculate that the hikers were abducted and either deliberately killed by the aliens or they died in an accident, be it by trying to resist the experiment or said experiment went horribly awry.
While there’s no evidence to back this theory up, the concept of an alien encounter being made top-secret is anything but novel. So if you’re a believer in aliens and/or government cover-ups, you’ve likely heard this theory.
Moving on, we come to our third theory: a Soviet nuclear test spooked the hikers and they fled in fear. This theory has been tied to the one of the Yeti to create the theory that the Yeti believed the hikers made the noise and shockwave from the nuclear blast, thereby having it kill the hikers as a reaction. However, that theory isn’t wide-spread and isn’t the focus.
Nay, our focus is on some good old government incompetence.
The Dyatlov Pass Incident took place during a very tense and scary time in human history. The Cold War was a period where every day could be seen as the final day for civilization and as such, the United States and the Soviet Union were pushing to prove that they were dominant power. As such, the best way to prove this was by having the scariest nuclear arsenal and the Soviets were nothing if determined to prove that the Americans were weak.
Enter the nuclear test. What better way to make sure your arsenal is scary than to detonate a nuke in the middle of nowhere to make sure it creates a big enough boom to wipe a city off a map and make the land inhabitable for centuries (if you’re lucky)? Well, there is none—unless some of your citizens are off to have a bit of fun and hike, ski, and camp.
This is the basis for our third theory. Our nine intrepid hikers found themselves caught in the middle of a Soviet nuclear test, which were very frequent at the time. Once the nuke went off, the hikers fled in fear. They sliced their way out of their tent and ran, the blast wave causing the internal injuries and likely triggering an avalanche.
The lingering radiation from the test also seeped into the one hiker’s clothes, though that isn’t what made them strip naked. That was instead caused by hypothermia. You see, when that sets in, the sufferer typically feels extremely hot and fails to realize that they’re in fact freezing to death. As such, the hikers likely felt as though they were in the Sahara as opposed to the tundra of Siberia. In fact anywhere between 20 and 50% of Hypothermia induced deaths are due to paradoxical undressing.
Now as for why this theory hasn’t been proven to be true, we, unfortunately, have to come to very frustrating reality.
The Soviet Union was nothing if not secretive. To admit that they accidentally killed nine of their citizens in a nuclear test would not only be humiliating but earn them the utmost scorn from the world at large.
Even nowadays, the Dyatlov Pass Incident is not only one of the most talked-about mysteries in the world, but it’s also one that many find fascinating and frequently read and write about.
As such, the truth that they were callous enough to perform a test without properly inspecting the area would likely cause the Russian Federation more than a bit of ridicule. It would also likely be another blemish on the country’s long, tumultuous history.
That said, that theory isn’t the final theory. Rather, that goes to a very similar theory, but it removes the Soviet nuclear test from the equation. In its place, we add a bit of paranoia and delusion.
This theory, which is our fourth and final one, centers on the weather of the Ural Mountains and brings to mind a terrifying fact. Whether we realize it or not, we’re prone to hearing things that aren’t there. We also can often think that something is going on when it really isn’t.
A powerful enough gust of wind may make someone think that a tornado is nearby. It can also be mistaken for thunder or lightning. Wind can also kick up snow and, as it flies by the window, you may think that it’s snowing.
This is the basis for the fourth theory. The wind outside the tent made the hikers panic as they thought a powerful storm had arrived or worse, a nuke had gone off and the blastwave had arrived. In their panic, they rushed out of the tent and began to suffer from hypothermia, which caused them to strip naked before they ultimately died.
This phenomenon is known as Katabatic Winds. Essentially, this is when wind flows down a mountain slope at what can be as powerful as the wind during a hurricane. This force could explain why some of the hikers had physical trauma injuries and other perplexing injuries. As for where the radiation came from, it’s possible that one of the hikers died on or near a radioactive site from a past nuclear test.
While there is no evidence to back up any of these theories, the final two are the ones that most have settled on as the definitive answer to one of the world’s greatest unsolved mysteries. That isn’t to say that the possibility of the Yeti or aliens isn’t valid. As is the case with any unsolved mystery, you’re free to make up your own mind. So what do you think, dear reader? Who—or what—killed the nine hikers on that fateful day? Sound off in the comments below and remember to stay safe. You never know who, or what may try to get you when you go hiking next time.