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Unexplained Mysteries: The Dyatlov Pass Incident (Death of Nine Russian Hikers)

I'm Rachelle, a.k.a "TheMotleyChick," a lover of eclectic but ordinary people, situations, and topics. I love sharing helpful resources.

No Copyright - Part IV of Civil Code No. 230-FZ of the Russian Federation of December 18, 2006.

No Copyright - Part IV of Civil Code No. 230-FZ of the Russian Federation of December 18, 2006.

Scarier Than Fiction

The Dyatlov Pass is located in the Ural Mountains of western Russia.

On February 2, 1959, nine experienced ski hikers died under extremely strange and somewhat frightening circumstances.

At the point of their disappearance, the goal of the ill-fated expedition was to reach Otorten, a mountain that was approximately six miles away.

The unfortunate hikers never reached their destination, and chillingly enough, the word “Otorten,” translated from the Mansi (indigenous peoples in the area) language, means “Mountain of the dead men.”

The Unfortunate Hikers

The expedition originally began with ten hikers, and it was led by a 23-year-old man named Igor Dyatlov. There were eight men and two women.

The two women on the expedition were Zinaida Kolmogorova and Lyudmila Dubinina, and the other men were Alexander Kolevatov, Rusterm Slobodin, Yuri Krivonischenko, Yuri Doroshenko, Nicolai Thibeaux-Brignolle, Alexander Zolotarev, and Yuri Yudin.

The hikers were students or recent graduates of Ural Polytechnic Institute, which has since been renamed Ural State Technical University. Former Russian president Boris Yeltsin is an alumnus of the school.

Publicly Documented Facts That Led up to the Incident

On the morning of January 27th, 1959, the group left Vizhai to begin their trek. Vizhai is the northernmost inhabited settlement in the region.

On January 28th, one of the hikers, Yuri Yudin, fell ill and had to turn back. This turned out to be a life-saving turn of events for Mr. Yudin, as he is the sole survivor of the doomed expedition.

The remaining members of the expedition recorded the days afterwards with diaries and cameras. On January 31st, the group began to climb.

On February 1st, the hikers reached Kholat Syakhl, the mountain pass that has since been renamed “Dyatlov Pass” since the incident occurred.

When they reached the pass, their plan was to cross over and set up camp on the other side.

Weather conditions worsened, a snowstorm ensued, and the hikers lost their direction due to decreasing visibility.

In the confusion of being lost, the group discovered that they had hiked to nearly the top of the mountain pass, so they decided to pitch camp where they were and head out the next day. They never made it past this point.

It was decided beforehand that Igor Dylatov was to send a telegraph on February 12th to the group’s sports club as soon as they reached Vizhai upon their return.

February 12th came and went, with no communication from the hikers.

Most people were not alarmed because delays are not uncommon for expeditions—besides, they were nine experienced and capable hikers…

The families of the hikers became increasingly concerned in the days that followed.

On February 20th, the Ural Polytechnic Institute formed a rescue party consisting of students, and faculty—to no avail.

Eventually, police and army forces mounted a full-scale official search and rescue party for the nine missing hikers.


The Chilling Discovery: A True Horror Not Even Hollywood Could Create

Finally, on February 26th, 1959, the exhibition party was discovered. Their camp was abandoned and their tent had been ripped apart from the inside out.

Some of the bodies of the hikers were found strewn across the slope a short distance away. Others were found farther away, buried beneath the snow in a ravine.

Some of the hikers were found wearing ripped pieces of clothing that were torn off of other hikers who had died before them, some were missing a shoe or a sock, and some of them were shown to have high doses of radioactive contamination on their clothing.

Their bodies showed no visible signs of wounds, yet one of the women was missing her tongue, and autopsies revealed that Nicolai Thibeaux-Brignolle endured fatal skull damage, and the bodies of Alexander Zolotarev, and Lyudmila Dubinina had been fatally struck with a force that can only be compared to a car crash.

The rest of the expedition died of exposure (hypothermia).

The Inquest

The first guess as to what might have happened to the group was perhaps nearby Mansi peoples had attacked them.

However, no footprints except for those of the hikers were found in the snow in and around the camp

The Mansi attack theory, any other human attack theory, was dismissed when it was revealed that the blows to the bodies of the three injured victims had been too strong to be perpetrated by human beings, and there was no soft tissue damage nor any signs of hand-to-hand combat.

The case was officially closed in 1959, the files were secretly archived, and a few photocopies were finally made available more than 30 years later in the early 1990s.

The verdict of the inquest into the mysterious disappearance was that the hikers died of a “compelling unknown force.”

Speculations and the Aftermath

A journalist by the name of Yuri Yarovoi published a fictionalized account inspired by the mysterious events of the Dyatlov Pass Incident.

The book, published in 1967, is called Of the Highest Rank of Complexity.

Yaravoi completed extensive research for his novel, and he attempted to released several previous versions, but they were both declined due to censorship.

Yaravoi died in 1980, and all of his research has since vanished.

Lev Ivanov was one of the police officials who led the case. Ivanov had previously published an article in 1990 where he wrote about receiving reports of strange spherical shapes in the sky during the time of the incident.

Ivanov firmly believed that UFOs and alien technology were responsible for the unexplained mystery.

Journalist Anatoly Guschin published a speculative book called The Price of State Secrets is Nine Lives in 1999. Guschin was one of the firsts to study the original files surrounding the incident.

The book was all about a soviet secret weapon experiment. Lev Ivanov resurfaced and lent credence to Guschin’s theories by stating that he was ordered by police and military officials to bury the case.

In 2000, local writer Anna Matveyeva published a book titled Dyatlov Pass. It is a semi-fictional account of the events.

Around the time Matveyeva published her book, The Dyatlov Foundation was founded with a mission of encouraging Russian officials to reopen the case, and end the speculation.

The foundation also serves as a monument to the memory of the nine dead hikers.

No Copyright - Part IV of Civil Code No. 230-FZ of the Russian Federation of December 18, 2006.

No Copyright - Part IV of Civil Code No. 230-FZ of the Russian Federation of December 18, 2006.

Recent State of Affairs Surrounding the Unexplained Mystery

In 2008, Ural State Technical University organized a conference that consisted of six members of the original search party, 31 independent experts, The Dyatlov Foundation, and several non-government organizations.

The participants concluded that the military was indeed performing tests in the area during the time of the ill-fated expedition, and these experiments were directly responsible for the deaths of the nine hikers.

The participants state that they lack documentation, and they have asked the Defense Ministry, the Russian Space Agency, and the Federal Security Service to assist them in finally ending the speculation surrounding the unexplained mystery of the Dyatlov Pass Incident.

What happened up there?

What happened up there?


© 2011 Rachelle Williams


DarthDominus81 on October 19, 2019:

We may possibly never know the real truth in this lifetime, but ONE thing is most certain:

SOMEBODY out there knows and has the actual truth and the evidence to back it up. Personally, I do not believe in aliens or such silliness, but I do believe in beings of the spiritual realm that are far older than this earth that like to cause and manipulate situations/circumstances to their own perverse satisfaction.

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on April 03, 2018:

I suppose anything is possible... It certainly was a weird case...

Sue Dare on March 13, 2018:

The injuries are similar to those suffered by inexperienced conjurers of the demonic. Could be cryptid or some type of commie weapon which was deemed too cumbersome to utilize. My money is on the demonic or an outright hoax.

TERRY GARRETT on November 29, 2017:

In the Mansi language, Otorten does not translate into Mountain of the dead. it means "Don't Go There" b/c it would be a waste of time hunting the area. Holatchal or Kholat syakl is Mansi for "Dead Mountain" not Mountain of the Dead b/c the slope is barren and devoid of plant life so no game comes to feed thus no game for hunting by the Mansi.

Barbara Chichester on July 23, 2014:

I believe the same UFO mystery behind the mutilations of the cows

and farm animals is responsible for the mutilation of those 9 hikers.

They seem to have the same organs taken from them and the same

horrible disfigurements.

Robot on March 03, 2014:

I have thought of the unfortunate and unexplained deaths of these students for some time and as Spock said in Star Trek – quoted from Sherlock Holmes “… when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the


I originally thought that it may have been the Russian Army with concussion bombs that were dropped on them by accident.

The Army had used this location for secret tests.

Some mention that the Army secretly arrived at the crime scene 1 week before the rescuers found the bodies.

This could answer a few of the mysteries but not all!

Why their tent was on the side of the mountain and not logically down at the tree line for shelter and fire wood?

The Army could have moved the tent up the mountain to change the crime scene.

Why there was radioactive material on some of the clothing and why they were not wearing any protective clothes for the harsh climate?

The Army could have changed their clothes and confiscated clothing which showed being radioactive.

Though all good explanations, I do believe there is only one explanation that holds up to all the facets of this case!

Yeti or Abominable Snow Man - Encounter!

On research I found that the small tent used was not their main tent.

They had left supplies at a base camp and were using this very small tent for an excursion.

What was their purpose for climbing the Ural mountain range?

I googled Russian news broadcast for the past year (1958) and found an interesting account of Yeti encounters on this range. That year a number of local Mansi tribe people disappeared.

After an investigation, the Russian Government banned all further reporting on the Yeti with threats of incarceration.

These students may have been acting as investigating reporters and photographers and needed a cover to conceal their true purpose.

The one person they added to their close group was a guide familiar with the territory.

A note on a printed paper in their possession was scribbled “From now on we know that the snow men exist”.

Although they used guns to protect themselves in the wilderness for previous trips (pictures show), they did not carry any this time in case they were stopped and questioned.

Whatever attacked them in their tent did not bite or claw but had extreme power to crush

A similar attack at Yale BC in the 1800’s by some gold miners who claimed to have captured a baby Sasquatch and in Washington State 1920’s of an attack:

In 1946 Cultus Lake BC a newlywed couple disappeared from their cabin with only large footprints found surrounding the cabin.

Case Scenario

The illogical pitching of their tent in the open rather than down at the tree line may have been due to a scare from the locals at the last settlement.

Towns’ people warned them about reindeer having been found dead in this area.

They may have felt more secure making camp in the open rather than down within the trees.

After setting up camp they would have taken off their boots and put their heavy outer wear outside to dry.

Due to the limited space within the tent they more than likely stored this gear along with their skies and pack sacks in the overhang where the chimney exits.

They then entered the tent using their long johns and tent slippers inside and had supper.

Shortly after supper, two of the men went outside to urinate (documented) with a flashlight, which they left on the roof of the tent (documented) and a lighter and cigarettes to have a smoke.

It was written in their diary that the women did not want them smoking in the hotel rooms or tent.

While outside they were attacked and forced to flee down to the forest for cover.

There they built a fire for warmth, to notify the others and to keep any predators away.

On hearing the commotion outside the tent, 3 of the students with a flashlight went to help and were also attacked.

Unable to reach their outerwear at the back of the tent they too fled down the mountain.

The Yeti then centered their attack on the 4 remaining students left in the tent.

The Yeti being unable to open the tent door or cut through began to pound on the center of the tent while the students inside sliced their knives back through the tent in defense.

It’s been reported that Yeti can use sticks and may have poked through the open slits of the tent with one of the ski poles as it was documented that numerous knife cuts were found on one of the ski poles.

The Yeti attack temporarily stopped when they saw the fire down at the tree line and the 3 students heading towards it with the flashlight (documented and found on this trail still in the on position).

It has been reported that the Yeti are not afraid of fire or light.

The Yeti then caught the 3 students before they could reach the tree line.

Yeti use their large powerful arms to club and then bear hug their quarry until subdued and unconscious, all similar injuries reported on the students.

Forensic Investigators state that when a body is suffocated the blood does not pool back to the organs, but stays at the extremities. The discoloring of the skin seen on the students at their funeral could have been caused by this injury.

Seeing that the fire was attracting the Yeti the 2 students at the tree tried to frantically put it out, it was reported that one of these student’s hands were burnt by this action.

Next they proceeded to climb a tree.

The report claimed they had climbed the tree to observe if their tent was still there to return to.

The problem with this statement is that it was after sunset, in winter, in Russia.

I googled if there was a full moon that night and it shows that there was no moon visible, so it would have been pitch dark.

The only reason to climb a tree at night would be to try and elude a predator.

Sasquatches have been reported with the ability to climb trees.

One of the students was found a few hundred feet from the tree still clutching a branch, as though he had been dragged down from the tree.

When the remaining 4 students of the group did arrive at the tree, they found their companions dead. They proceeded to remove what clothing they could to keep warm rather than return to their tent and what was back there.

They then went to a ravine and dug a snow cave for shelter.

Unfortunately the Yeti were waiting for them in the forest and pursued them, cornering them at the ravine some short distance away.

One problem with the Yeti theory is that no foot prints were ever found.

The explanation is that it was sometime after the encounter, in winter, in a valley known for wind.

The Yeti/Sasquatch have a very large bipedal foot, much like a “Bear Paw Snow Shoe” which leaves a very flat shallow print.

These prints could easily have disappeared with weather conditions.

The final explanation may be the hardest to believe and that is - Why have no further sightings or findings been made of Yeti in this location?

With all of our technologies, these mountains and the world in general have become a lot smaller, but the Universe is immense and unknown.

There were unexplained lights in the sky seen by other observers.

Strange creatures have been reported all over the world with similar globe light occurrences

(Kentucky Goblin Encounter,Chupacabras, Ogopogo, Lochness Monster, and other

such things).

Many documented encounters with Sasquatch have been reported with similar globe lights seen around their vicinity.

Could it be that there are time portals throughout the Universe and these creatures accidentally pass through them?

One such strange occurrence happened in Manila in 1593 where a guard was suddenly transported to Mexico City

Could UFO’s seen in the area be trying to relocate these Yetis back to their rightful locations?

Could a nuclear blast such as the 1957-58 Russian accidental nuclear explosion at Kyshtym ( just a few miles south of Oblast Swerdlowsk where these students were) cause a rip in our universe?

This accident reportedly killed 1000’s of people and contaminated a 100 square kilometer area with high level radiation.

Could the radiation on their clothing have come from physical contact with these entities o

Holly :3 on May 28, 2013:

I'm not entirely sure it was weaponry, otherwise it may have seemed more organized. I doubt it was an animal attack either, as there would have been more blood and gore.

As for the footprints, well if more snow had fallen they may have disappeared.

A large amount of this case was covered up, and it's strange how some research "disappeared", which would lead us to believe that maybe it was weapons, however, I doubt no one apart from those who covered up the case will ever know. It's unfortunate, because it would be awesome to see this mystery solved!

JJ on December 29, 2012:

I hope it is okay for me to place a third comment:

The sort of details that investigators need to discover relating to this case are firstly:

Can it be objectively verified that lights were seen in the sky over the area at the time of the incident and specifically; who exactly saw these lights? Are they prepared to sign witness documents relating to this fact? Did these people who witness this event speak about it to other people at the time, who in turn can verify that they heard this from them? Can these details be made public?

Also with regard to the missing tongue from the Lady in the story; it has been reported that the entire tongue was missing including the very root of the tongue: Can this be verified? In other words who observed this? Can they testify to the fact that the entire tongue was missing? This detail is important because if only a piece of the tongue was missing it could be argued that the tongue had been bitten off by the victim as a result of a fall, however if the entire tongue was missing, then it has to be said that this compelling evidence of a deliberate and malicious act.

I strongly believe that details such as this and verification of statements ect. will determine whether this incident is an ordinary tragic group of fatalities, or whether the incident is beyond conventional explanation. If it turns out to be the latter then this case could prove to be one of the most important casses in the history of paranormal investigation.

JJ on December 28, 2012:

Hello again just to be clear the above is not a criticism of the well written article. There is a need for more information, generally, on this spooky and disturbing story. I believe that it is in the details that we will discover the truth about this incident. thank you for this article. - J.J.

JJ on December 28, 2012:

More information is needed on the details of this incident. Also it needs to be made clear exactly where each piece of information has come from. In mysterious cases like this speculation is often presented as fact, when it is only speculation.

This is a difficult mystery for many reasons, here are three of those reasons:

1 - Because the incident was a long time ago (1959).

2 - Because information in documentaries on this subject, and similar subjects, are often second or third hand accounts.

3 - Because it is probable that much of the information, we require, has been hidden from public view.

That said, if the information that has been presented in documentaries and internet/media reports are accurate, then this case cannot be explained by conventional means. We are left with an unknown and horrific cause for this awful incident.

Brian on November 26, 2012:

I have seen this incident related on the show Dark Matters and on a different show a while back. Your story and Dark Matters did a good job of dealing with multiple theories. I think the most likely and least interesting scenario is the military testing Air burst/Fuel Air bombs in what they thought was an uninhabited area. The hikers panic and flee the tent. Disoriented and in the dark they cut their way out. Some may have slept in their clothing while others did not. At some point they are split up with one group freezing and the other hit by a concussive force which kills them (the exact intent of the bomb being tested). Before the group hit by the blast freezes entirely, a large bird plucks out the eyes of one victim and the tongue of another. This is not uncomon behavior for birds. In the end you are left with one heck of a twisted scene created by fairly ordinary events.

m@ on September 09, 2012:

I believe a meteorite hit the side of the mt. close to where they were camped. This in turn caused an avalanche. The avalanche injured to the climbers. However even with this this thory there are still a lot of unanswered questions. It was worth a guess though.

Katy on May 08, 2012:

I heard about this incident thru a TV program. In addition to the injuries described here, apparently the people suffered radiation burns, the skin had turned orange on several of them, and apparently a couple had grey hairs when found they didn't originally have. I saw some pictures of the victims which were gruesome! Extremely creepy! Thanks for the well written article!

levelhead on April 16, 2012:

Someone has suggested avalanche was the reason for they're fleeing the tent in panic, some bodies buried in snow with strange injuries and the behavior of the ones who died later: climbing the tree, the difficulty returning to the tent, the condition of the camp, etc. The slight radioactivity on two of the men has been attributed to the kind of camp lantern used in the fifties that commenly left traces when used.

silvy on February 18, 2012:


Missing Link from Oregon on February 15, 2012:

Intriguing hub! I think the party was attacked and killed by another group of people.

Dan olson on December 22, 2011:

It was UFOs. I know for a fact. This case is just like aninmal mutilations in the states ie missing tongues,strange lights (UFOs) and raditation. The animals in this case was human- very creepy. The russian military would not let people into a weapons testing area if there was danger. The area would have been rsstricted to all civilian personal. what ever it was it was at random-- the hikers were at the wrong place at .the wrong time. Disturbing to think about; I hike in the woods sometimes. I wiil aways have my gun from now on.

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on September 19, 2011:

Hey Pat! I first learned about this story eons ago when I was a kid watching an old unexplained mystery type TV show called "In Search Of." The TV show was narrated by Leonard Nimoy and it used to scare the crap out of me. I was just checking to see if the mystery had been solved, and I thought it would make a great hub, and the rest is history.

Thanks for the compliment :)

Rob from Oviedo, FL on September 19, 2011:

These unsolved mystery will always haunt us. People are still specuating about the Roanoke colony mystery hundreds of years later.

Very interesting hub.


Patamint on September 19, 2011:

Whatever brought this to your attention? Very interesting and well written.

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on September 19, 2011:

LOL@ 2besure - Yeah, I forgot about him ,the mystery is solved. It was indeed the Abominable Snowman, this hub freaked me out while I was researching it in the wee hours of the morning...

@ Movie Master - it really does sound horrific, doesn't it. Yudin's illness was indeed a lucky break. Thank you so much for the vote up.

Movie Master from United Kingdom on September 19, 2011:

Hello Rachell, what a fasinating read!

Mr Yudin's illness saved his life then, but what kind of death did the others endure, it all sounds horrific.

Excellent writing and voting up, thank you for sharing.

Pamela Lipscomb from Charlotte, North Carolina on September 19, 2011:

Girl you know it was the abominable snowman. Bigfoot! Very good hub. I love mysteries.

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on September 19, 2011:

You're welcome, Stephanie. I always associated this incident with the Donner Pass incident (Donner Party), but I guess it really is more similar to the events that occurred in Roswell.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Stephanie Henkel from USA on September 19, 2011:

I enjoyed your well-written account of this mysterious event! It reminds me a little bit of the Roswell Incident, though the horrific deaths are much more frightening. This is well researched and even more fascinating because it's a true story.