The Dyatlov Pass Incident on ‘Expedition Unknown: Uncovered’: What Happened?

Expedition Uknown Dyatlov Pass

Travel Channel

Tonight on Discovery Channel’s Expedition Unknown: Uncovered with Josh Gates, the crew concludes its investigation into what they call Siberia’s coldest case: The Dyatlov Pass Incident.

Nine Russian hikers died in The Dyatlov Pass incident in February 1959 in circumstances that are still not clear. The hikers were all experienced and were on a trip from the Ural Polytechnical Institute at the time of their deaths. They had established a camp on the slopes of Kholat Syakhl, which has since been renamed in honor of Igor Dyatlov, the group’s leader.

In the final episode on the Dyatlov Pass Incident, Josh Gates and two investigators retrace the hikers’ last steps on the Dead Mountain.

Here’s what you should know about the Dyatlov Pass Incident:


1. Nine Hikers Set Out Prior to the Dyatlov Pass Incident

The group consisted of eight men and two women, each of whom was an experienced hiker with ski tour experience; their goal was to reach Gora Otorten, a mountain 6.2 miles north of where their bodies were later discovered.

The group arrived at Ivdel on January 25, 1959 and took a truck to a village to the north. They began their trek two days later. On January 28, Yuri Yudin turned back due to knee and joint pain. The remaining nine members of the group, however, continued.

What we know of what happened on Dyatlov Pass is mostly due to diaries and cameras that were found around the group’s last campsite.

On January 31, the group prepared for climbing and left their surplus food and equipment behind. On February 1, they began to move through the pass, planning to make camp the next night on the opposite side.

They made camp on the slope of the mountain after weather conditions including snowstorms and decreasing visibility stopped their ascent. If they had chosen to go about a mile back downhill, they would have been in a forested area that may have offered some protection from the elements.

The hikers that traveled with the group were Igor Alekseyvich Dyatlov, Yuri Nikolayevich Doroshenko, Lyudmila Alexandrovna Dubinina, Georgiy (Yuri) Alexeyevich Krivonischenko, Alexander Sergeyevich Kolevatov, Zinaida Alekseevna Kolmogorova, Rustem Vladimirovich Slobodin, Nikolai Vladimirovich Thibeaux-Brignolles and Semyon (Alexander) Alekseevich Zolotaryov.


2. The Search For The Hikers Lasted Months

On February 12, Dyatlov was supposed to send a telegram to their sports club saying that they had arrived in Vizhai. When they did not receive a telegram, they assumed that the group just had not made it yet and waited until February 20 to notify authorities.

On February 26, the campsite was found by searchers. It was abandoned, and the tent was heavily damaged. According to the student who found the tent, it “was half torn down and covered with snow. It was empty, and all the group’s belongings and shoes had been left behind.” Investigators later said that the tent had been cut open from the inside, not the outside.

They also found nine sets of footprints, left by people who were wearing only socks or a single shoe or possibly barefoot. Eventually, the bodies of all nine hikers were found. The first, Krivonischenko and Doroshenko, were found dressed only in their underwear near the remains of a small fire. Between there and the camp, the searchers found the bodies of Dyatlov, Kolmogorova and Slobodin.

The remaining remains were not found for over two months, being found on May 4 under 13 feet of snow in a ravine 246 feet further into the woods from the other bodies. Three of the four were more heavily dressed than the others, suggesting they may have taken clothes off of those who died first after they died. Dubinina was wearing Krivonishenko’s torn trousers and her left foot and shin were wrapped in a jacket.


3. The Investigation into the Dyatlov Pass Incident Was Inconclusive

After the bodies were found, investigators began examining the scene and trying to figure out what had happened to the hikers. Medical examiners found no injuries on the first five bodies that would have led to their deaths, eventually concluding that they died of hypothermia. Notably, Slobodin did have a small crack in his skull, but they did not believe it was a fatal wound at the time.

The bodies that were discovered later shifted the narrative away from the group dying from hypothermia. Three of the hikers did have fatal injury, including skull damage and chest fractures. According to investigators, the force required to cause that type of damage is high. They compared the force required to that of a car crash.

None of the bodies, however, had external wounds associated with fractures. All of the hikers that were found in May had soft tissue damage to the head and face including missing tongues, eyes and lips. These injuries were ruled to have happened after their deaths due to the location of the bodies in the streams.


4. Top Theories Include an Avalanche and Katabatic Wind

Top theories for what happened on Dyatlov Pass include an avalanche, which was the original explanation, and Katabatic wind.

Those who believe the avalanche being plausible say the group likely woke up in the tent in a panic and had to cut their way out of the tent because part of it was already covered in snow. According to this theory, the group was poorly clothed because they had been sleeping at the time of the avalanche. In this theory, the group tried to return to the tent but were unable to before freezing to death.

Evidence contradicting the theory says that there was no sign of avalanche at the location and in over 100 expeditions to the region since the incident, no one has reported conditions creating an avalanche. All the footprints leading away from the tent and towards the woods were inconsistent with someone running in panic and instead point toward individuals walking at a normal pace.

Katabatic wind is another explanation sometimes given for the incident. This type of wind is extremely violent and has killed hikers before, specifically in 1978 at Anaris Mountain in Sweden. A sudden katabatic wind would have made it impossible for the hikers to remain in the tent, so they would have had to seek shelter in the trees instead.

There are also other explanations sometimes floating around including paradoxical undressing, military tests and infrasound.

An entire library of photos, explanations, a map and information is available online. The website was most recently updated on June 29, 2020 with a petition to the prosecutor general Dyatlov Case to be taken to Moscow.


5. Family Members Believe They Were The Victims of a Military Experiment

According to the petition filed and signed by the families of those that were killed in the Dyatlov Pass Incident, family members and relatives believe that it could have been a criminal case.

The site says that relatives and activists insist the group was victimized by a man-made disaster during tests of military weapons (missiles).

The petition says it may have been caused by ” negligence on behalf of the rocket engineers who made a mistake in the design of the hull or engine of the aircraft, unsuccessful launch and sabotage.”

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