Dyatlov Pass incident

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The Dyatlov Pass incident (Russian: Гибель тургруппы Дятлова) is the death of nine ski hikers in the northern Ural Mountains in the Soviet Union between 1 and 2 February 1959 under unclear circumstances. The experienced trekking group, who were all from the Ural Polytechnical Institute, had established a camp on the slopes of Kholat Syakhl in an area now named in honor of the group’s leader, Igor Dyatlov. During the night, something caused them to tear their way out of their tents and flee the campsite while inadequately dressed for heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures.

The group’s tomb at the Mikhajlov Cemetery in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

After the group’s bodies were discovered, an investigation by Soviet Union authorities determined that six had died from hypothermia while the other three showed signs of physical trauma. One victim had a fractured skull; two others had major chest fractures. Additionally, the body of another team member was missing its tongue and eyes. The investigation concluded that an “unknown compelling force” had caused the deaths. Numerous theories have been put forward to account for the unexplained deaths, including animal attacks, hypothermia, avalanche, infrasound-induced panic, military involvement, or some combination of these.

In 1959, a group was formed for a skiing expedition across the northern Urals in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Soviet Union. Igor Dyatlov, a twenty-three-year-old radio engineering student at the Ural Polytechnical Institute (Уральский политехнический институт, УПИ; now Ural Federal University) was the leader who assembled a group of nine others for the trip, most of whom were fellow students and peers at the university. Each member of the group, which consisted of eight men and two women, were experienced Grade II-hikers with ski tour experience, and would be receiving Grade III certification upon their return. At the time, this was the highest certification available in the Soviet Union, and required candidates to traverse 300 kilometres (190 mi). The goal of the expedition was to reach Otorten (Отортен), a mountain 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) north of the site of the incident. This route, in February, was estimated as Category III, the most difficult.

Name (English)BirthdateAgeGenderNotes
Igor Alekseyevich Dyatlov13 January 193623MaleLeader of group; Hypothermia
Yuri Nikolayevich Doroshenko29 January 193821MaleHypothermia
Lyudmila Alexandrovna Dubinina12 May 193820FemaleSevere chest trauma, eyes missing , tongue missing
Yuri (Georgiy) Alexeyevich Krivonischenko7 February 193523MaleHypothermia
Alexander Sergeyevich Kolevatov16 November 193424MaleHypothermia
Zinaida Alekseevna Kolmogorova12 January 193722FemaleHypothermia
Rustem Vladimirovich Slobodin11 January 193623MaleHypothermia
Nikolai Vladimirovich Thibeaux-Brignolles5 July 193523MaleFatal skull injury
Semyon (Alexander) Alekseevich Zolotaryov2 February 192138MaleSevere chest trauma , eyes missing
Yuri Yefimovich Yudin19 July 193721MaleLeft expedition on 28 January due to illness; died 27 April 2013 at the age of 75

The group arrived by train at Ivdel (Ивдель), a town at the centre of the northern province of Sverdlovsk Oblast in the early morning hours of 25 January 1959. They then took a truck to Vizhai (Вижай) – a lorry village that is the last inhabited settlement to the north. While spending the night in Vizhai, the skiers purchased and ate loaves of bread to keep their energy levels up for the following day’s hike.

On 27 January, they began their trek toward Otorten from Vizhai. On 28 January, one of the members, Yuri Yudin, who suffered from several health ailments (including rheumatism and a congenital heart defect) turned back due to knee and joint pain that made him unable to continue the hike. The remaining group of nine people continued the trek.

Diaries and cameras found around their last campsite made it possible to track the group’s route up to the day preceding the incident. On 31 January, the group arrived at the edge of a highland area and began to prepare for climbing. In a wooded valley they cached surplus food and equipment that would be used for the trip back. The following day (1 February), the hikers started to move through the pass. It seems they planned to get over the pass and make camp for the next night on the opposite side, but because of worsening weather conditions — snowstorms and decreasing visibility — they lost their direction and deviated west, up towards the top of Kholat Syakhl. When they realised their mistake, the group decided to stop and set up camp there on the slope of the mountain, rather than moving 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) downhill to a forested area which would have offered some shelter from the elements. Yudin postulated that “Dyatlov probably did not want to lose the altitude they had gained, or he decided to practice camping on the mountain slope.”

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