In February 1959, ten experienced hikers embarked on a dangerous hike through the northern Urals (a mountain range in the then Soviet Union). None of the adventurers knew what they were getting into when they left for the trek, in fact, no one to this day knows just what they encountered. Theories range from an avalanche to Katabatic wind to the Yeti and even aliens. Whatever they faced brought about their unfortunate demise. This is the story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident and the theories that surround it.
Led by Igor Alekseyevich Dyatlov, the group of 10 hikers graded as grade II hikers, set out to cross the northern Urals in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia. The journey was planned to begin on January 25, 1959, with a scheduled return in mid-February. The journey was through some of the most difficult terrains in Russia and was graded at the highest possible difficulty. The group kept a daily diary and took pictures regularly to document their expedition. These materials helped piece together the events leading up to the disaster. The lone survivor of the expedition, Yuri Yudin, returned home 3 days into the journey due to illness. After failing to receive a telegram on the pre-selected date of February 12th, a search party was dispatched to locate the hikers. The search party was not prepared for what they found.
When the rescue team found the hikers camp they were shocked to find an empty campsite with a tent that was torn open from the inside. Outside the tent was a conglomerate of footprints leading away from the tent. The nature of the footprints in the snow lead the search party to conclude that the hikers had left the area calmly in no sign of a rush. The footprints continue for nearly a mile into a wooded area where the remains of a small fire were found. Huddled around the fire were the bodies of two of the hikers wearing nothing but their underwear. Between the fire and the camp, three more bodies were spread out in a similar barely clothed manner.
The remaining bodies were found buried in snow and wearing the clothing of the other hikers. Notably, this last set of bodies bore burns and other significant injuries that suggested some sort of blunt impact. One was missing a tongue and another was missing both eyes. Multiple hikers had broken limbs and internal bleeding. In the strangest twist of this story, the clothing of some of the hikers bore above-average levels of radiation.
The official causes of death for most of the hikers were determined to be hypothermia. However, three of the hikers were given different causes of death; internal bleeding from severe chest trauma, fatal skull injury, and severe chest trauma. It was a grizzly scene with no discernible cause. Investigators quickly began surveying the area in an attempt to come to a conclusion about the event.
The Two Official Conclusions
As of July 11, 2020, the official explanation of the Dyatlov Pass Incident is an Avalanche. While this is a fair theory given the location of this event and the type of injuries sustained by the hikers there are a few issues with it. The footprints leading from the campsite are still clearly visible. Those footprints also show no sign of hurry or panic. There are also the issues of the stranger aspects of the case such as the burns on some hikers, the radiation in the clothing, and the missing body parts.
Prior to 2020 Dyatlov Pass only had one other official explanation, the Yeti. Yes, the Russian government’s official response to this event was, “The Yeti did it.” Honestly, if you believe in the Yeti this totally checks out, sorta. There is severe trauma and signs of a struggle at least within the camp. There’s also evidence that at least one hiker climbed a tree at one point. However, if this was a Yeti attack one would expect to see more signs of panic and struggle. Also, unless this was a burning and radioactive Yeti, then this explanation still does not explain the burn marks or radiation in the clothing.
Dyatlov Pass Theories
As you might expect, this story has garnered the attention of mystery enthusiasts, armchair detectives, and conspiracy theorists alike. All of which have thrown out a barrage of possible explanations. Let’s take a look at a few of these theories.
Russian Military Experiment and Cover Up
The Dyatlov Pass Incident took place during the height of the Cold War. The U.S. and Soviet Russia were in a race to develop the most devastating weapons. This area was also a known test site for the Soviets. Even more convincingly, when Yuri Yudin visited the scene during the investigation he noted that a few items were present at the camp that did not belong to anyone in the party. Proponents of this theory claim that these items were left by the Russian military after attempting to cover up whatever happened to the group. This theory does good to explain the trauma, the slow movement away from the camp, the burns, and the radiation.
There is a rare form of wind that can happen in mountain ranges like the Urals called Katabatic Wind. These winds are incredibly strong and could have prompted the hikers to abandon their tents in search of more secure shelters. One group’s shelter likely collapsed causing serious injuries.
Obviously, some people think Aliens were responsible for this one. There is, however, a decent bit of evidence for the idea though. During the time of the group’s disappearance, multiple reports of UFOs had come in from across the mountain range. Could these UFO sightings be related to the disappearance of the hikers at the Dyatlov Pass Incident?
There is no real conclusion for this one. Right now, we’re pretty sure we can chalk this up to an Avalanche. Others will disagree with us on that. Let’s be honest, it was aliens.
There is also a very convincing tent fire theory discussed during the video and audio edition of this week’s episode. Watch or listen to this episode of Things I Learned Last Night to learn about the Dyatlov Pass Incident and some of the other theories out there. Give it a watch or listen and let us know what you think by sharing this episode and tagging us in your post. Things I Learned Last Night is an educational comedy podcast where best friends Jaron Myers and Tim Stone talk about random topics and have fun all along the way. If you like learning, and laughing a whole lot while you do, then you’ll love TILLN. Watch or listen to this episode today!
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