The Ural are a mountain range that runs north to south through western Russia. It’s a treacherous wall of snow, ice, and rock, a dangerous trek for even the most experienced climber. At the dead center of this range is a small pass at the base of one of the Ural’s most foreboding mountains called Kholat Syakhl or “Dead Mountain”. On February 2nd, 1959 ten experienced hikers from the Ural Polytechnic Institute set up base camp along the slope. Nine of those hikers were never seen alive again in what would become a very strange and unexplained event that still haunts the region.
The group, consisting of eight men and two women, set out with the intention of scaling Otorten, a mountain six miles north of their base camp. A most difficult climb any time of year, in the middle of a Russian winter it would have been a nearly insane undertaking. But if anyone was up for the task, it would have been these ten highly experienced climbers and cross-country skiers.
They arrived by train in the norther province of Sverdlovsk Oblast on January 25th. Traveling by truck, they reached the last town before embarking the remainder of the way on foot on January 27th. The next day one of the men on the expedition, Yuri Yudin, became extremely ill and was forced to turn back. The rest of the now 9 member expedition continued on.
On January 31st, they reached the base of their intended climb and began making preparations for the ascent. The next day, the group made their way through a pass with the intention of setting up camp on the other side. As snow storms increased, visibility dropped to zero and the hikers found themselves drifting further westerly and away from their intended destination. By the time they realized their mistake, they found themselves making their way up Kholat Syakhl. Instead of back tracking down the mountain and seeking shelter from the storm in a wooded area downhill from their location, the group decided to set up a camp where they were.
The group had intended to send a telegram to their friends back home by February 12th. However, when a few days passed without word, friends began to worry. On February 20th a full rescue party was sent out to look for the missing hikers. On February 26th, rescuers finally reached their campsite. The first thing they found was a half torn down tent covered in snow. The tent had been cut open from the inside with the all the groups belongings, including their boots, still inside. Outside the tent were nine sets of footprints, all made by people who were only wearing their socks and one that was barefoot. The trail led down to the woods below. What caused them to cut their way out of the tent and leave without their boots and gear?
At the edge of the woods, under a large cedar tree, searchers found the remnants of a fire and the first two bodies. The bodies of Yuri Krivonischenko and Yuri Doroshenko were both shoeless and clad only in their underwear. The bodies of Igor Dyatlov, Zinaida Kolmogorova and Rustem Slobodin were found between the tree and camp positioned as though they were returning to camp. It took searchers two more months to find the remaining four bodies. On May 4th, the bodies of Semyon Zolotariov, Lyudmila Dubinina, Alexander Zolevotov, and Nicolai Thibeaux-Brignolles were found deep in the woods in a ravine buried under thirteen feet of snow. These four seemed better equipped to handle the cold and showed signs that two of them, still living, had removed clothing from the dead in order to keep warm until they too succumbed to the elements. Zolotariov was found with his camera still around his neck.
Although the initial investigation listed their death’s as hypothermia related, strange bits of evidence started to emerge, in addition to the fact that they had cut their way out of the safety of the tent, some without any cloths or shoes. The first additional unusual find was a small crack in Slobodin’s skull, although not fatal it was still reason for concern. Further investigation revealed that Thibeaux-Brignolles suffered major head trauma as well, while Dubinina and Zolotarev exhibited major chest fractures that were indicative of a car crash victim. However, most interesting of all was that there were no external injuries. The only victim that showed any sign of external trauma was Dubinina who was missing her tongue, eyes and lips along with some facial tissue and pieces of her skull. In the end the cause of death remained hypothermia, but many other hypotheses began to emerge.
Although avalanche was seen as the most likely culprit, the location did not show signs of avalanche and, as many physicists investigating the location discovered, the area is not geographically prone to avalanches. Another theory revolved around a phenomenon known as infrasound. It was believed by some that the winds blowing through the pass created a sound that can induce violent panic attacks. It was this sound that some investigators believed sent the hikers running form their tents in the middle of a snow storm. One theory alleges that this was a military test of “parachute mines” gone wrong, and there was a subsequent military cover-up. Parachute mines are explosive devices dropped from planes which explode ten feet from the ground. It is thought that the Russian military was testing these mines then suddenly discovered that there were hikers in the path of their test. Still another theory supports a Russian Yeti sent them all running for the woods and may have caused some of the body damage as it attacked the hikers.
But one of the most compelling arguments of all is that this group of Russian hikers crossed paths with a group of aliens who did not want to be discovered. According to eye witness account from the residents of a nearby town, strange orange spheres were seen floating in the sky just above where the remains were found. This theory is fueled by the injuries discovered on Dubinina and Zolotarev. Although chest fractures of the magnitude discovered on their bodies could be attributed by an avalanche, the lack of external injury and the fact that the area was not prone to such activity indicates that some other means or perhaps other-worldly weapon had to be used. And why was Dubinina, missing her eyes, tongue, and lips? Perhaps they were taken as trophies or as part of an extraterrestrial research project. This controversial theory is further fueled by investigators who claim that the hikers skin was unusually tan and that their clothing was found to be highly radioactive. Other reports claim to have found large amounts of unusual scrap metal that has since been removed by the Russian military.
What ever happened that night will likely remain a mystery. However, what is known is that nine fearless hikers set out during a Russian winter to conquer a mountain, but were sent running in fear from their tents in the middle of the night. They ran out with barely enough clothing to survive the elements and were found dead several days later exhibiting not only hypothermia but strange unexplainable injuries. Thousands of people make the same daring trek every year, some to challenge themselves just as Dyatlov’s crew did and some to seek answers to this unexplained mystery. Out of respect for these lost souls, the pass they were found in was renamed the Dyatlov Pass after the expeditions leader, Igor Alekseievich Dyatlov.