In February of 1959 nine hikers set out on a fatal journey in the Ural Mountains of central Russia. These nine were not amateurs but experienced hikers. All were from the Ural Polytechnical Institute. They were young, intelligent, and energetic. They were aware of the pleasures of hiking and skiing and they were also aware of the dangers and potential dangers. But, despite their intelligence, experience, and preparedness they were not prepared for their fate. That fate would happen as they established their camp on the slopes of Kholat Syahl which means “Dead Mountain.” Native Mansi people in the region gave the mountain this name long ago because there was little game there for Mansi hunters. The hikers would establish their camp on the eastern slope of this mountain as this was the spot chosen by their group leader Igor Dyatlov after whom the incident was named after along with pass in which they encamped.
The group of hikers consisted of 2 women and 7 men all in exceptional physical condition. The expedition was planned to last 14 days so that the hiking team could reach its goal identified as Otortem which was another mountain 10 kilometers north of Dead Mountain. At the beginning of the journey the group arrived by train in the Siberian town of Ivdel in the northern province of Sverdlovsk Oblast on 25 January 1959. After disembarking they took a truck to Vizhay on 27 January. This was the final inhabited settlement that far north at the time. From Vizhay they started their trek towards Mt. Otortem. At this point in time there were actually 10 hikers. The tenth hiker was a male named Yuri Yudin but he was forced to return home due to his becoming sick. Prior to leaving the group he gave some of the group members some of his equipment and clothing to help them keep warm and prepared on their journey. We know the path that the group took to Dead Mountain because it is documented in their diaries and cameras. At least, we know their route up to the day preceding the day they met their horrible fate. The route they took was rated as a Category III meaning the “most difficult” trek during that season.
The hikers started out late on Feb 1 and on that day they only progressed 2.5 miles. They stored excess gear and food on a platform in the forest known as a “labaz” (Camp Base) often used by Mansi hunters. Around 5 pm they set up camp on a slope of Dead Mountain. At this point they were only 10 miles from their goal Mt Otorten. Between 6 pm and 7 pm the group had dinner at their campsite. One or two members of the group went outside to relieve themselves and investigators believe those two were group members Semyon Zolotarev and Nicolai Thibeaux-Brignolle. The reason the original investigators believed it was these two men is because these two men’s remains were found to have been dressed warmer that the remains of the other group members.
NOTE: Keep this pic of Seymon in mind as it is a clue to the final pic taken by the group prior to their final demise!!
Nikolai Thibeaux-Brignolles (aka: Kolya)
Prior to setting out on their mountainous trek the group had agreed that their leader Igor Dyatlov would send a telegram back to their sports club as soon as the hikers returned to Vizhay after their trek. This was expected to be no latter than 12 Feb. However, Dyatlov told Yudin (the hiker who got sick and returned home) that he expected the trek to take a bit longer which was no big deal as such hikes often did not run on schedule so being a few days late was nothing to be alarmed about. Problem was that telegraph never came! And it wasn’t until relatives of the hikers began demanding a search effort be launched that searchers went out and began looking for the overly-late hikers on 20 Feb 1959! This first search group was made up of students and instructors from the Institute. It was only after this that police and finally the Russian military became involved in the search effort along with military helicopters and planes.
Search efforts found nothing until 26 Feb. On that day searchers found the tent used by the hikers badly damaged and empty! One of the student members of the search team named Mikhail Sharavin was the first to discover the abandoned tent on the mountain slope. He told later investigators:
“The tent was half torn down and covered with snow. It was empty! And all of the groups belongings and shoes had been left behind.” (statement made by student searcher Mikhail Sharavin to investigators)
Investigators concluded that the tent had been cut open from the inside out and that the hikers had fled for some unknown reason in their socks or barefeet! Human footprints were discovered in a chain of 8 or 9 sets apparently being left by people wearing socks or a single shoe or barefooted. Investigators were able to follow these tracks in the snow down towards the edge of the nearby woods on the opposite side of the pass 1.5 km (about 0.9 miles) away. Sadly, however, only 500 meters (about 1640 feet) along the tracks were covered by fresh snow.
The remains of a campfire were found by investigators at the forest edge under an old and large ceder tree. And it was here also that investigators found the first bodies! They were the bodies of group members Yuri Krivoshenko and Yuri Doroshenko. Both of these young men were had no shoes on and both were dressed only in their underwear. Up to about 5 meters high on the cedar tree investigators noticed the tree branches were broken suggesting that perhaps the hikers had climbed the tree to look for someone or something! Perhaps, the investigators concluded, they had climbed the tree in an effort to see their camp. FORENSIC TESTS would later find traces of human skin embedded in the tree’s bark indicating that both Krivoshenko and Doroshenko had frantically tried to climb the tree snapping the branches until their hands were bloody and raw.
During autopsies of the bodies medical examiners would note that SOME of the corpses had “livor mortis” on the front of their bodies. Such markings typically appear on the side of a deceased body that has been pressed against the ground. But, Krivoshenko nd Doroshenko were found face up! This indicated to examiners that someone or something had turned the bodies over AFTER DEATH!!
Investigators found the deceased body of group leader Igor Dyatlov on 27 February laying between the ceder tree at the forest edge and the tent. It was 300 meters (984 feet) from the cedar tree, in fact. The deceased body of one of the women, Zinaida Kolmogorova, was found in the same area about 630 meters (2066 feet) from the cedar tree. On 5 March 1959 searchers found the deceased body of Rustem Slobodin 480 meters (1574 feet) from the ceder tree. Dyatlov, Kolmogorova, and Slobodin appeared to investigators to have died in positions that indicated they were attempting to return to the tent campsite. Medical examiners found no signs of injuries on these three victims that may have caused their deaths. They concluded that these three hikers had died of hypothermia. Slobodin, it was noted by examiners, had a small crack in his skull but it was not big enough to cause his death. After finding the first five bodies an inquest was convened. Remains of the other 4 hikers would not be found for more than 2 months later!
To be continued…………………….
Part 2: https://sonoranorte.wordpress.com/2016/08/06/dyatlov-pass-incident-pt-2-under-the-cedar-tree-and-between/