In 1959, a group of nine cross-country skiers died in mysterious circumstances in the Dyatlov Pass in the Urals. After 61 years, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has finally explained what happened: an avalanche, poor visibility, and freezing temperatures.
Soviet officials concluded at the time that the group died due to “the spontaneous power of nature”. But a lot of information was left aside, their location, semi-naked bodies, injuries including skull fractures and broken ribs provided fertile ground for speculation and theories.
On July 11th, 2020, experts determined that the group urgently left the tent due to an avalanche that happened as a result of severe weather deterioration. Later, the members of the group died from frostbite and injuries sustained by the pressure of the snow.
The mountaineer’s group left the tent through the cutouts in it and moved 165 feet to the stone ridge looking for a place to shelter from the avalanche. However, that night, the visibility ranged was from 20 to 50 feet, making it impossible to spot the tent from where they were.
“They did everything right. And here is the second reason why the group was, let’s say, sentenced to death, did not return. When they turned around, they did not see the tent.”
– Said Andrei Kuryakov, deputy head of the prosecutor general’s office in the Urals Federal District.
Prosecutors conducted an experiment to check whether people could find a tent in such conditions. Trying to recreate the circumstances of the mountaineer’s group they blindfolded a man and a woman and gave them the instruction to walk 100 feet down from where it was the tent located. They were unable to find it.
“A man, when he does not see a landmark, goes aside, even if he has some idea where the tent is. Without seeing her on the mountain, you will never find it.”
– Said the Andrei Kuryakov.
Moving away from the tent, the members of Dyatlov’s group made a fire near the cedar, but it went out an hour and a half later. Trying to move forward, the mountaineers were divided into two groups led by Igor Dyatlov and Semyon Zolotarev. Igor’s group crawled toward the tent, but the temperatures were too low to withstand it, freezing in the attempt. On the other side, Zolotarev’s group was trying to generate a safe-floor on the snow, but the digging provoked movements that triggered a demolition of the flooring burying them under a 10-feet layer of snow.
The Zolotarev subgroup suffered severe fractures, which caused many versions of what caused the death of the mountaineers. Experts note that the injuries were caused by the pressure of large amounts of snow.
The group were graduates from the Ural Polytechnic Institute and were led by a 23-year-old man named Igor Dyatlov. They had planned to travel 220 miles on skis to Mount Otorten in the Northern Ural.
The search for the mountaineers began on February 16th of the ’59 when they didn’t communicate before the deadline. When they arrived at the scene, rescuers tripped over a tent cut out and broken. Then, on the slope and in the forest at the foot of the mountain the bodies were found.
Since then, several versions of the causes of the tragedy have been presented. But none of them explained what happened. Even after the closure of the case by the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office, the Dyatlov Group Memory Foundation will continue to seek a full investigation into the death of the mountaineers in the winter of 1959 in the Urals.