An enduring mystery, but has it been solved?
In late January, 1959, ten students and graduates from the Ural Technical University had organised an expedition to reach Mt Otorten in the northern Ural mountains. Part of the trek saw them crossing Mount Kholat Syakhl (which to locals translates as Dead Mountain). Out of the ten who made up the group, only one would return home alive.
The trek was rated category 3, which makes it one of the toughest hikes that one can participate in, but that was not a worry to the group who, for the most part, were quite experienced. However, a day after the trek began one in the group came down with a sickness and stayed behind in a village, the remaining nine in the party continued on.
From here the details are only known due to the photo’s recovered from rolls of film found, some log diaries, and of course, the forensic evidence.
It was while setting up this camp that one of the last photo’s of the group alive was taken... about 5pm, Feb 1st, 1959.
It is not known for certain what took place next, and it is this that has caused the incident to endure as a mystery.
It took about six days before the groups tent was located, badly damaged, covered in snow. The group was missing, but all their supplies were still in the tent. What's more surprising is that the tent had been torn open from the inside. A series of footprints could be seen trailing from the tent, heading towards the wooded area below.
Investigators headed towards the wood where they discovered a long burnt out fire and two bodies that were identified as being from the missing party. They were dressed only in underwear, and were shoeless. They had died of hypothermia.
The remaining bodies were found months later in a ravine, and it is with these four that some interesting questions start to pop up. Three displayed fatal internal injuries – two with fractures to the chest, and one with a major skull fracture, though none of these bodies displayed surface wounds – cuts, scratches, bruises, that one might expect from such trauma. The fourth body was found lying face-first in a stream and was missing her lips, tongue, eyes and part of the skull. These bodies were also only partially dressed and seemed to have taken clothing from the dead members of the party. What's more, it has been stated that those clothes were found to have traces of radioactivity, as had the area of the camp site. Several of the bodies also had an unnatural tan.
Back at the tent it was determined that something had taken place to terrify the group as they, of their own accord, had ripped through the tent, left their possessions behind, and had waded through the snow to escape.
The investigation closed after determining the deaths were not intentional, and were the result of ‘an unknown elemental force which they were unable to overcome’.
Other people believe that the radiation points to another theory, one involving 'alien' contact. It is noted that several other hiking groups in the area reported seeing strange lights in the sky. These lights were explained away as missile testing by the Russians (it was the cold war era), but not everyone agrees with that explanation.
Another theory is that the military had been using the area as a testing facility for 'something' and that the group had inadvertently wondered into this zone, and had to be 'dealt with' and the sealing/closing of the case documents was a cover up.
The most recent theory concerns infrasound. These ultra low sounds, too low for human hearing, can affect the mind. These waves were created by the wind passing through the mountains; the result was a 'spooked' group of people leaving their tent in the cold to escape an unseen, unknown terror.
Attack by wild animals, yetis, escaped gulag prisoners, indigenous tribes... all sorts of theories have been put forward, but none seem to fit the bill perfectly.
The pass the group travelled through to get to their final camp-site was named 'Dyatlov' after their leader. As for what really happened that night, well we will never know for sure. Was it a simple matter of a small snow slide panicking the group? Or was something more sinister at play here?