Ramblings of a Tampa engineer
A view of the tent as the rescuers found it on Feb. 26, 1959. (Public Domain)

This week we take a look at an interesting unsolved mystery that occurred in February of 1959. The story starts with nine hikers who were hiking in the northern Ural mountains. This was the Soviet Union in 1959 or modern day Russia. The group was attempting to earn their Category III certification for climbing, which required a 300km travel. All members (8 men, 2 women) had Category II certifications which made them experienced hikers.

The goal was to reach Otorten (Отортен) which was the mountain tip. The group set up camp 10km from the top and would sadly never reach it. There were 9 hikers sleeping on the night of February 1, 1959. The 10th hiker had gotten ill on the climb up (Jan 28, 1959) and left the expedition.

Family and friends weren't expecting the return until February 12. As was common in hiking usually delays were had so it wasn't until February 20 that search and rescue groups were dispatched. On February 26, 1959 the tent and campsite was discovered and the mystery began.

The Discovery

There were no bodies discovered at the campsite. Two bodies were discovered roughly 1.5km from the site, frozen solid in nothing but underwear and socks. Three more bodies were discovered at various lengths (300, 480 and 630 meters) from the tree. Initial reports suspect these individuals were trying to find the makeshift campsite, but succumb to the cold. It took two more months to find the remaining four hikers who were discovered 4 meters below the snow about 75 meters from the other bodies.

The clothing on the remaining four hikers suggest they took the clothing from the clothesless two hikers discovered at the campsite.

The Investigation

While the medical examiner determined that all nine hikers died of hypothermia, but outlying details sparked discussions worldwide.

  • The tent had been cut open from within
  • Footprints show the hikers walked calmly from the tents into forest
  • Dubinina was missing her tongue, eyes and part of her face.
  • Clothing was missing from many hikers
  • Tree branches broken at the makeshift campsite for up to 5 meters high
  • Non fatal skull injuries were discovered on Slobodin
  • Clothing contained high doses of radiation
  • Bright flying spheres spotted in that area throughout February & March of 1959
Baffled investigators said the group died as a result of “a compelling unknown force” — and then abruptly closed the case and filed it as top secret.
sptimes (russia)

So a list of strange discoveries, no witnesses and a top secret file. This is grounds for theories to run wild and they did. Rumors from avalanches, infrasound, military tests, paradoxical freezing, yetis, local tribes, animals.

The Culture

A film using the popular phrase - "Based on true events" produced a film about the incident, but used more fiction than fact.

For this reason, this film is nothing more than an attempt to mainstream an otherwise unknown incident.

The Debunking

An author known as Lemmino produced a video consisting of hired Russian translators to dive into all the public information and draw conclusions from that information.

This video did a great job at breaking down possible explanations for each unknown discovery. So we can explore each point and use the rebuttal from Lemmino.

Claim: The tent had been cut open from within
This is probably because a fire from a stovetop filled the tent with smoke. In a rash moment choice to breath, the hikers slashed the tent to clear the smoke.

Claim: Footprints show the hikers walked calmly away
This is probably due to the fact that they wanted to return to the tent, but the immediate danger (smoke) was preventing it. So they calmly walked to the shelter of the nearby trees.

Claim: Dubinina was missing her tongue, eyes and part of her face.
While used highly in theories, the logical explanation put forward is that Dubinia fell face first into the snow which might have had a tiny stream under the snow. This wet climate with running water could putrefy organic matter and destroy it.

Claim: Clothing was missing from many hikers
Rushed from the original campsite and hikers who passed away first led to clothing harvested from them for the remaining others.

Claim: Tree branches broken at the makeshift campsite
While suggested this was for hiding from something, the real logical suggestion is that a height advantage would allow the hikers to see their tents.

Claim: Non fatal skull injuries were discovered on Slobodin
This can be explained from a small fall, which may have been triggered from a minor avalanche in the forest. This is what led to the four hikers being buried under meters of snow away from the makeshift campsite.

Claim: Clothing contained high doses of radiation
While initially interesting, only three pieces of clothing had radiation and those three belonged to hikers who worked at buildings where radiation was common. This might have led to containment prior to the hike.

Claim: Bright flying spheres spotted in that area throughout the month
There is no way to argue this either direction, but that is the nature of UFOs. These claims stem from the following photo discovered on a camera.

Photo from Krivonischenko’s camera.

I think this claim is just reaching. I just took my camera and zoomed in a photo on a black battery pack.

Taken by me, 8:36am EST - November 25, 2018

As you can see from my test photo, there are plenty of little circles that could be used to claim UFO.

The Conclusion

While no official explanation exists, there are plenty of unofficial theories and ideas to keep this incident alive for decades to come. Now should anyone mention the Dyatlov Pass Incident - you should know.

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