The Bizarre Deaths at Dyatlov Pass

Hey, readers. This month’s Mystery Monday post also takes us over the waters of the Atlantic to the continent of Europe and the country of Russia. A little warning if you’re a little squeamish.

In 1959 Igor Dyatlov, a 23-year-old radio engineering student at the Ural Polytechnical Institute assembled a group of nine other hikers for a skiing expedition across the northern Urals in Sverdiovsk Oblast in what was then the Soviet Union.

Each member of the group, eight men and two women were experienced Grade II hikers with ski tour experience. Upon their return, all would receive their Grade III certification, the highest certification level in the Soviet Union at that time.

On January 23, 1959, Dyatlov’s group issued their route book which would take them on a course following the number five trail. They departed Sverdiovsk on the same day. One of the original ten members left the expedition on January 28 due to illness. (Incidentally, he lived until 2013, passing away at the age of seventy-five.)

The remaining nine continued the expedition. Sometime between February 1 and 2, all nine died under mysterious circumstances. On the night of the incident, they had set up camp on the slope of a mountain. They apparently enjoyed dinner and got ready for bed but never returned home.

The group’s tomb at Mikhailovskoe Cemetery (Public Domain)

On February 26 a search party found the hikers’ abandoned tent which had been ripped open from the inside. Footprints left by the group were found nearby. Some of them wore socks, others a single shoe, and others were barefoot.

All the footprints led to the edge of a nearby forest. Searchers found two bodies there, shoeless and wearing only underwear. The remaining seven bodies were discovered in the following months.

The cause of death for six of the group was hypothermia. One victim had major skull damage, two others had severe chest trauma, and another had a small crack in the skull. Four of the bodies were found lying in running water. Three of these had soft tissue damage to the head and face. Two were missing their eyes, another was missing the tongue, and another the eyebrows.

Numerous theories as to the cause of death include animal attacks, hypothermia, avalanche, katabatic winds, and infrasound. Infrasound is a phenomenon in which the wind interacts with the topography to create a barely audible hum. This can induce powerful feelings of nausea, panic, dread, chills, nervousness, increased heart rate, and breathing difficulties.

Some speculate the deaths came about because of an attack by a Yeti. The official investigation concluded that a “compelling natural force” caused the deaths.

Russia opened a new investigation in 2019. In 2020, the conclusion that an avalanche had caused the deaths. Survivors were forced to leave camp in low visibility with inadequate clothing and had died of hypothermia.

Andrey Kuryakov, deputy head of the regional prosecutor’s office, said, “It was a heroic struggle. There was no panic. But they had no chance to save themselves under the circumstances.” A scientific study published in 2021 suggested a “slab avalanche” could explain some of the injuries.

But as you might expect, there are some who wonder what really happened to drive these experienced hikers from their tent inadequately clothed in conditions that would lead to certain death.

A nearby mountain pass was renamed Dyatlov Pass in honor of the group’s leader.

39 thoughts on “The Bizarre Deaths at Dyatlov Pass

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  1. I don’t believe hypothermia was the cause. As experienced hikers, they would have been prepared for that and would have been dressed accordingly. Another head scratcher for sure. We will never know, but the thinkgs we can imagine…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That is definitely a mystery. I am not familiar with this one, but it brought to mind a recent book I read where an alien took humans as a sacrifice. Who the heck knows, but for sure a mystery. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow… I have so many questions about this one, Joan! I haven’t heard this story before but it’s so much more than just strange! Experienced hikers in a decently sized group. It’s hard to believe an avalanche is at fault if you take all the findings into consideration. Thank you so much for sharing this one, Joan! You have my mind in full motion this morning!

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    1. I have lots of unanswered questions on this one, Mar. As you pointed out, they were experience climbers who knew the dangers of venturing outside without adequate clothing. It’s certainly a mystery.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It really is! But honestly, I think those are my favorite stories. At least with these kind of tales. Sometimes, I don’t think we’re supposed to know the full truth. We’re supposed to always have that wondering mind.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This one gets the imagination going. So many interesting clues–the tent ripped open from the INSIDE makes you wonder. No eyes? Birds or animals might do that to a corpse, but no tongue? No eyebrows? Shivers. If there is such a thing as a Yeti, I don’t want to meet one.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m familiar with this story and it always bring new shivers when I read about it. I’ve also heard there was a military base somewhere nearby and another theory involved the deaths being related to military testing or potential radiation. The lack of clothing and the inside of the tent being clawed open make me think of panic and hasty flight. An avalanche could have prompted that, but you have to wonder.

    I’m sure the guy who had to leave due to becoming ill, must have counted his blessings afterward!

    Great post, Joan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not at all, except parts of Russia, including this area, are on the European continent. The Ural Mountains actually form part of the conventional boundary between Europe and Asia. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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