The Mysterious Dyatlov Pass Incident

It should be no surprise to learn that there are persisting mysteries in Russia, a notoriously secretive country since its founding. One of the most fascinating and best studied, is the Dyatlov Pass incident from 65 years ago.  Early reports said that “Nine people disappeared in February, 1959, and no one knows exactly what happened to them.” In fact, they did not disappear. Nine highly experienced hikers and survivalists were all found mutilated and dead on a very remote Ural mountain at or near the site of their last camp under highly mysterious circumstances.

In what became an infamous Cold War cold case–the Dyatlov Pass incident–for over 65 years authorities and amateurs, scientists and conspiracy theorists, have been trying to figure out what happened, in a place that’s been called “Russia’s Area 51. The mystery that has confounded investigators and inspired conspiracy theories about corruption and spies, rocket programs and forest monsters, romantic rivalries and U.F.O.s, Yetis, radiation, military experiments, an animal attack, a mythical or paranormal creature encounter, an avalanche, and even a cold-induced panic. Over time, the tragic incident has snow-balled into a mystery wrapped inside an enigma. Remem-ber, this happened in 1959, before mobile phones or locator beacons.  

What we know for sure:
In 1959, a group from the Ural Polytechnical Institute–led by Igor Dyatlov–had established a camp on the eastern slopes of Kholat Syakhl in the Russian SFSR of the Soviet Union. The experienced group formed for a skiing expedition across the northern Urals in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Soviet Union. Each member of the group was an experienced Grade II-hiker with ski tour experience and would be receiving Grade III certification upon their return. At the time, Grade III was the highest certification available in the Soviet Union and required candidates to traverse 190 miles. 

The route was designed by Dyatlov’s group to reach the far northern regions of the Sverdlovsk Oblast and the upper streams of the Lozva river. On January 23, 1959, the Dyatlov group was issued their route book by the Sverdlovsk city [today Yekaterinburg], which listed their course as following the No.5 trail. Initially, the route was approved for 11 people–the 11th being Semyon Zolotaryov. The Dyatlov group left on the day they received the route book. The goal of the expedition was to reach Otorten–a mountain 6.2 miles north of the site where the incident occurred. This route–estimated as Category III–was undertaken in February, the most difficult time to traverse.
The experienced trekking group from the Ural Polytechnical Institute made a carefully planned camp.

Documents that were found in the remains of the tent suggest that the expedition was named for the 21st Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and was dispatched by the local Komsomol organization. Nine Soviet hikers died in the northern under uncertain mysterious circumstances. Rescuers who discovered the bodies of the explorers were shocked to find that–at some point over February 1 and 2, 1959–the team had fled their tents, with the bodies scattered through the snow as far away from the tents as .6 miles. Four of the bodies were found in a creek; three had soft tissue damage to the face; and most disturbingly, two had their eyes missing and another lost her tongue. The final body was found with missing eyebrows.
The tent was cut from the inside, suggesting that there was a desperate attempt to escape towards a forest–more than half a mile downslope–without appropriate clothes, under extremely low temperatures (below -13° F.), and in the presence of strong katabatic winds [katabatic winds/fall winds carry high-density air from a higher elevation down a slope under the force of gravity. Such winds can rush down elevated slopes at hurricane speeds; but most are not that intense; and many are 12 mph or less. They are induced by the passing of an arctic cold front.]
Overnight, something caused them to cut their way out of their tent and flee the campsite while inadequately dressed for the heavy snowfall and subzero temperatures.
After the group’s bodies were discovered, an investigation by Soviet authorities deter-mined that six of them had died from hypothermia while the other three had been killed by physical trauma. One victim had major skull damage; two had severe chest trauma; and another had a small crack in his skull. Four of the bodies were found lying in running water in a creek, and three of these four had damaged soft tissue of the head and face. The investigation concluded that a “compelling natural force” had caused the deaths. The observations were correct but incomplete, and the conclusion was vague and uncompelling; it may have been self-serving for the apparatchiks of the Soviet Union.

A mountain pass in the area was later named “Dyatlov Pass” in memory of the group. In many languages, the incident is now referred to as the “Dyatlov Pass incident
The group arrived by train at Ivdel–a town in the center of the Sverdlovsk Oblast–in the early morning hours of January 25. They then took a truck to Vizhai, a lorry village that is the last inhabited settlement in the north. On January 27, they began their trek toward Gora Otorten. On January 28, one member, Yuri Yudin, who had 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 nine hikers 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 January 31, they 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 next day, the hikers started to move through the pass. All indications are that they planned to get over the pass and make camp for the next night on the opposite side. However, because of worsening weather conditions—snowstorms and decreasing visibility—they lost their direction and deviated west, toward the top of Kholat Syakhl.

When they realized their mistake, the group decided to set up camp on the slope of the mountain, rather than move ~ a mile downhill to a forested area that would have offered some shelter from the weather. Yuri Yudin speculated, “Dyatlov probably did not want to lose the altitude they had gained, or he decided to practice camping on the mountain slope.”
Before leaving, Dyatlov had agreed he would send a telegram to their sports club as soon as the group returned to Vizhai. It was expected that this would happen no later than February 12. When the 12th passed and no messages had been received, there was no immediate reaction, since delays of a few days or even more were common with such expeditions. 
However, on February 20, the hikers’ relatives demanded a rescue operation, and the head of the institute sent the first rescue groups, consisting of volunteer students and teachers. Later, the army and militsiya (police) forces became involved, with planes and helicopters ordered to join the operation. On February 26, the searchers found the group’s abandoned and badly damaged tent on Kholat Syakhl. 

The campsite baffled the search party. Mikhail Sharavin–the student who found the tent– said “the tent was half torn down and covered with snow. It was empty, and all the group’s belongings and shoes had been left behind.” Investigators said the tent had been cut open from inside. Nine sets of footprints, left by people wearing only socks or a single shoe or even barefoot, could be followed, leading down to the edge of a nearby wood, on the opposite side of the pass, ~a mile to the north-east. After 1,600 feet, those tracks were covered with snow. 
At the forest’s edge–under a large Siberian pine–the searchers found the visible remains of a small fire. There, they found the first two bodies, those of Krivonishenko and Doroshenko, shoeless and dressed only in underwear. The branches on the tree were broken up to five meters high, suggesting that one of the skiers had climbed up to look for something, perhaps the camp. Between the pine and the camp, the searchers found three more corpses: Dyatlov, Kolmogorova, and Slobodin, who all died in poses suggesting that they were attempting to return to the tent. They were found at distances of 980, 1,570, and 2,070 feet from the tree.

Finding the remaining four hikers took more than two months. They were finally found on May 4 under 13 feet of snow in a ravine 246 feet further into the woods from the pine tree. Three of the four were better dressed than the others, and there were signs that some clothing of those who had died first had been removed for use by the others. Dubinina was wearing Krivonishenko’s burned, torn trousers, and her left foot and shin were wrapped in a torn jacket. Most of the skiers had fled in socks or barefoot. It was obvious that some skier/hikers had survived longer than others.

A legal inquest started immediately after the first five bodies were found. A medical examination found no injuries that might have led to their deaths, and it was concluded that they had all died of hypothermia. Slobodin had a small crack in his skull, but it was not thought to be a fatal wound. 
An examination of the four bodies found in May shifted the narrative of the incident.  It was concluded that three of the hikers had fatal injuries: Thibeaux-Brignolles had major skull damage, and Dubinina and Zolotaryov had major chest fractures. Examiner Boris Vozrozhdenny, said that the force required to cause such damage would have been extremely high, comparable to that of a car crash. Notably, the bodies had no external wounds associated with the bone fractures, as if they had been subjected to a high level of pressure. The injuries found were consequential, but causation remained enigmatic.

All four bodies found at the bottom of the creek in a running stream of water had soft tissue damage to their head and face. For example, Dubinina was missing her tongue, eyes, part of the lips, as well as facial tissue and a fragment of skull bone; Zolotaryov had his eyeballs missing; and Aleksander Kolevatov had lost his eyebrows. V. A. Vozrozhdenny–the forensic expert performing the post-mortem examination–judged that these injuries happened post-mortem due to the location of the bodies in a stream.
There was initial speculation that the indigenous Mansi people, reindeer herders local to the area, had attacked and murdered the group for encroaching upon their lands. Several Mansi were interrogated, but the investigation indicated that the nature of the deaths did not support this hypothesis: only the hikers’ footprints walking in a straight line were visible, and they showed no sign of hand-to-hand struggle.
Although the temperature was very low, around −25 to −30 °C (−13 to −22 °F) with a storm blowing, the dead were only partially dressed. Some had only one shoe, while others wore only socks. Some were found wrapped in snips of ripped clothes that seemed to have been cut from those who were already dead. The conclusions of the May autopsies and investigations were that  six of the group members died of hypothermia and three of fatal injuries. There were no indications of other people nearby on Kholat Syakhl apart from the nine travelers. The tent had been ripped open from within. The victims had died six to eight hours after their last meal, and there were no survivors.

Traces from the camp showed that all group members left the campsite of their own accord, on foot. Strangely, some levels of radiation were found on one victim’s clothing. Dr. Vozrozhdenny stated that the fatal injuries of the three bodies could not have been caused by human beings, dispelled the hypothesis of an attack by the indigenous Mansi people. The documents released to the public and recorded by journalists contained no information about the condition of the hiker/skiers’ internal organs. That report’s official conclusion was that the group members had died because of a compelling natural force. Hmmh. The inquest was officially terminated at the end of May, 1959 as a result of the absence of a guilty party. The files were sent to a secret archive.

There has never been a bona fide explanation for the tragedy and what happened on that fateful night, setting conspiracy theorists tongues wagging. In the aftermath of the discovery of the wrecked campsite and the bodies, numerous hypotheses have been put forward to account for the unexplained deaths, some reasonable; some a bit far out, and some outright bizarre: including animal attacks, hypothermia, an avalanche, katabatic winds, infrasound induced panic, military involvement, or some combination of these factors.
The Hypotheses:
First a note on definitions: Hypothesis versus Theory. An hypothesis is a statement of natural causation unaccompanied by factual evidence. A theory is a set of statements about natural occurrences backed up by a scientifically established set of verifiable facts which had stood the tests of time and investigation, overcoming doubt, and never having been found to be incorrect in any provable aspect. For example, antiEvolutionists deride Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution of Species as a result of natural selection as “just a theory”. By correct definition, they are saying that his theory is “just an hypothesis”, i.e. it is unsupported by proved facts. That is far from correct, since natural selection for evolution has never been found in any component to be untrue for the past 165 years, and is backed by an accumulation of facts that fills libraries. It is not an hypothesis, and the theory is now treated as fact, a law of biology, in universities around the world.

No combination of testable and verifiable facts—and there are a slew of attempts—has stood the test of time or scientific substantiation in the Mysterious Dyatlov Pass Incident. Here are a few of the attempts:
Animal attacks–
Katabatic winds–
Infrasound induced panic—
Military involvement, including experiments—
Attacks by indigenous Mansi people, reindeer herders local to the area.
Attacks by extraterrestrial aliens—
Attacks by UFOs–
Attacks by forest monsters, like Yetis—
A mythical or paranormal creature encounter–
Romantic rivalries—
Exposure to radiation–
Corruption and spies—
Slab avalanche—
Some combination of these factors—

The following is a very brief accounting of the contradictory evidence for each of the possible explanations, with the exception of the truly bizarre and supernatural ones:

●Animal attacks–The hikers found in the stream were not discovered for weeks, and wild animals could have fed on then causing the missing eyes and tongue. That seems to best fit the evidence, but not definitively. Wildlife in that area did not hibernate except bears, and very few possible predators lived there; Jack Frost Moose and caribou are not carnivorous, and bears would have been hibernating at that time. Wolves or ravens would be likely scavengers, but wolves would have eaten more than their tongues and eyes. Finally, there were no animal tracks found in the area.

●Hypothermia—conclusions were presented in July 2020: that an avalanche had led to the deaths. Survivors of the avalanche had been forced to suddenly leave their camp in low-visibility conditions with inadequate clothing and the proximate cause of death for the majority was hypothermia. Hypothermia can induce a behavior known as paradoxical undressing in which hypothermic subjects remove their clothes in response to perceived feelings of burning warmth. It is undisputed that six of the nine hikers died of hypothermia. However, others in the group appear to have acquired additional clothing–from those who had already died–which suggests that they were of a sound enough mind to try to add layers.

●Attacks by criminal groups, gangs or military excursions in the vicinity—there is not a scintilla of evidence for any of those things. There was no track evidence of anyone—including Mansi people–approaching the tent. Four of the hiker/skiers suffered horrific traumatic injuries, none of which suggested fights, tortures, or sadism. They had almost nothing of value for a thief. It is too cold; conditions are too extreme; and the only people who live anywhere in the area are a peaceful tribe of indigenous Russians [see below]. The traumatic injuries suffered by three of the victims were the result of their stumbling over the edge of a ravine in the darkness and landing on the rocks at the bottom.

●Attacks by indigenous Mansi people, reindeer herders local to the area attacked and murdered the group for encroaching upon their lands. There is no positive evidence of such occurring, and there is negative evidence. Several Mansi were interrogated, but the investigation indicated that the nature of the deaths did not support this hypothesis: only the hikers’ footprints walking in a straight line were visible, and they showed no sign of hand-to-hand struggle. There is no history for violence by the Mansi People and no evidence that they had offensive weaponry.

●Katabatic winds–katabatic winds/fall winds carry high-density air from a higher elevation down a slope under the force of gravity. Such winds can rush down elevated slopes at hurricane speeds; but most are not that intense; and many are 12 mph or less. Three expeditions with experts in all manner of climatic conditions and consequences found no evidence that such a wind event took place. A sudden katabatic wind would have made it impossible to remain in the tent, and the most rational course of action would have been for the hikers to cover the tent with snow and seek shelter behind the tree line. On top of the tent, there was also a flashlight left turned on, possibly left there intentionally so that the hikers could find their way back to the tent once the winds subsided. The investigative expedition proposed that the group of hikers constructed two bivouac shelters, one of which collapsed, leaving four of the hikers buried with the severe injuries observed.

●Infrasound induced panic—this is as far afield as the present author will stretch. The hypothesis was briefly popularized by Donnie Eichars 2013 book Dead Mountain The idea is that wind going around Kholat Syakal created a Kármán vortex street, which can produce infrasound capable of inducing panic attacks in humans. In one speculation, the campsite fell within the path of a Soviet parachute mine exercise. The hypothesis alleges that the hikers–awakened by loud explosions, fled the tent in a shoeless panic and found themselves unable to return for supply retrieval. After some members froze to death attempting to endure the ultrasonic bombardment, others commandeered their clothing only to be fatally injured by subsequent parachute mine concussions.
There are reports alleging that parachute mines were being tested by the Soviet military in the area around the time the hikers were there. Parachute mines produce signature injuries similar to those experienced by the hikers: heavy internal damage with relatively little external trauma. That hypothesis coincides with reported sightings of glowing, orange orbs floating or falling in the sky within the general vicinity of the hikers and allegedly photographed by them. None of the purported photographs survive. The hypothesis requires more: This theory requires uses scavenging animals to explain Dubinina’s injuries, and others speculate that the bodies were unnaturally manipulated, on the basis of characteristic livor mortis markings discovered during an autopsy, as well as burns to hair and skin. 
According to the unsupported hypothesis, the infrasound generated by the wind as it passed over the top of the Holatchahl mountain caused physical discomfort and mental distress in the hikers. The claim was that because of their panic, the hikers were driven to leave the tent by whatever means necessary and fled down the slope. By the time they were further down the hill, they went out of the infrasound’s path and regained their composure, but in the darkness would have been unable to return to their shelter.  
The location of the tent near the ridge was found to be too close to the spur of the ridge for any significant buildup of snow to cause an avalanche. Furthermore, the prevailing wind blowing over the ridge had the effect of blowing snow away from the edge of the ridge on the side where the tent was. This further reduced any buildup of snow to cause an avalanche. 
Another theory somewhat like the infrasound one was put forward: the wind and drifting snow could have collapsed part of the tent, forcing the hikers outside to avoid suffocation.
Put diplomatically: evidence is lacking for any of that.

●Could a group of young people be so brash or inexperienced as to take psychedelics or smoke or ingest cannabis on such a perilous journey, leading one to have a psychotic break or hallucinations and the others unable to respond effectively? Possible, until one looks for evidence. It does not exist.

●Military tests—especially given the penchant for the Soviet government to be hypersecretive, and even to lie, there is no historical, whistleblower, or physical evidence. The idea took flight because of the finding of some levels of radiation being found on one victim’s clothing. There was no evidence of radiation fallout from secret weapons tests. The government denied such, and the physical evidence was all but nonexistent. This radioactivity on the clothes was likely explained by the fact that two years before, there had been a nuclear incident known as the Kyshtym disaster. One of the hikers on the trip had lived in the contaminated zone, and another had helped with the clean-up.
●Romantic rivalries—on argument suggests that there was possibly a romantic encounter that left some of them only partially clothed, leading to a violent dispute. Evaluation of the hikers’ diaries, interrogation of fellow students and school authorities, and police records, yield no evidence. Most investigators concluded that this hypothesis was highly implausible. By all indications, the group was largely harmonious, and sexual tension was confined to platonic flirtation and crushes. There were no drugs present; and the only alcohol was a small flask of medicinal alcohol, found intact at the scene. The group had even sworn off cigarettes for the expedition. Furthermore, a fight could not have left the massive injuries that one body had suffered. The horrendous nature of the findings in the vicinity of the camp and on the hikers’ bodies gives the lie to such an hypothesis.

●Corruption and spies—same as above.

●Slab avalanche—this is the most likely of all to be given the title of “theory”. A new investigation into the incident in 2019, and its leader, Andrey Kuryakov, deputy head of the regional prosecutor’s office, said, “It could have been caused by and avalanche, a snow slab, or a hurricane. It was a heroic struggle. There was no panic. But they had no chance to save themselves under the circumstances.” A further study led by scientists from EPFL and ETH Zürich, published in 2021, suggested that a slab type of avalanche known as a slab avalanche could explain some of the hiker/skiers’ injuries.
The hikers’ unexplained injuries have been exhaustively evaluated. One serious investigative team sought advice from Disney’s 2013 film Frozen. They used Disney’s simulation tool, coupled with data from cadaver tests conducted by General Motors in the 1970s, to determine what happened to the human body when struck at different speeds. The simulation revealed to those investigators that heavy blocks of solid snow could have landed on the hikers as they slept, crushing their bones and causing injuries not typically associated with avalanches. If this was the case, those who had sustained less serious blows likely dragged their injured companions out of the tent in hopes of saving their lives. That evidence is less than circumstantial; it is clever and complex speculation.

A prime example of that observation comes from a medical examiner who later noted that Krivonishchenko had burns on his body and a piece of flesh in his mouth that he had bitten off his own hand. It would require considerable clever reconstruction to fit that into the slab avalanche hypothesis. For three of the bodies found in a makeshift snow hut, the cause of death did not seem to be hypothermia of an avalanche. Thibeaux-Brignolle had a skull fracture so severe there were pieces of bone in his brain; Zolotaryov and Dubinina had crushed chests. Both Zolotaryov and Dubinina’s eye sockets were empty, and Dubinina was missing her tongue.
“What they’re describing is possible,” said Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. “Is it likely? That’s pretty hard to tell.” Indeed.
Critics of the slab hypothesis point out that the slabs of snow would have had to be incredibly stiff, and moving at a significant speed, to inflict such violent injuries. A leading scientist said that the Frozen research, “doesn’t explain why these people–after being hit by an avalanche–ran off without their clothes on into the snow.”
Furthermore, “As far as I know, no one has ever seen one [an avalanche] on these mountains,” Valery Anyamov–a representative of the Indigenous Mansi people who live in the region–said in a new documentary, “The Dyatlov Mystery.”
Also contradictory is the preserved photograph of the tent. The picture shows skis stuck in the snow pointing straight up. It is common to poke skis into the snow like that when snow camping, but an avalanche would have easily toppled the skis, and if big enough to kill people, it would have likely broken the skis.
The latest investigation took note of the fact that the hikers /skiers had dug out a section of snow and hillside to make their camp. The chief investigator said, “If they hadn’t made a cut in the slope, nothing would have happened. That was the initial trigger, but that alone wouldn’t have been enough. The katabatic wind probably drifted the snow and allowed an extra load to build up slowly.

At a certain point, a crack could have formed and propagated, causing the snow slab to release.
The state-owned RIA news agency reported in July 2020 that the official findings suggested that a torrent of snow slabs surprised the sleeping victims and pushed them to seek shelter at a nearby ridge. Unable to see more than 50 feet ahead, the hikers froze to death as they attempted to make their way back to their tent. Given the official findings’ lack of “key scientific details,” as well as the Russian government’s notorious lack of transparency, however; this explanation failed to quell the public’s curiosity.
Critics of the slab avalanche theory cite four main counterarguments: the lack of physical traces of an avalanche found by rescuers; the more than nine-hour gap between the hikers building their camp—a process that required cutting into the mountain to form a barrier against the wind—and their panicked departure; the shallow slope of the campsite; and the traumatic injuries sustained by the group. Asphyxiation is a more common cause of death for avalanche victims.
ETH Zürich used historical records to recreate the mountain’s environment on the night of the Dyatlov incident and attempted to address these seeming inconsistencies. They simulated a slab avalanche, drawing on snow friction data and local topography–which revealed that the slope wasn’t actually as shallow as it had seemed–to prove that a small snowslide could have swept through the area while leaving few traces behind.

On July 11, 2020, Andrey Kuryakov, deputy head of the Urals Federal District directorate of the Prosecutor-General’s Office, announced an avalanche to be the “official cause of death”. Later independent computer simulation and analysis by Swiss researchers also suggest avalanche as the cause. 
However, in a summary of  Kuryakov’s report in The New Yorker, the reporter wrote:  “The most appealing aspect of Kuryakov’s scenario is that the Dyatlov party’s actions no longer seem irrational. The snow slab… would probably have made loud cracks and rumbles as it fell across the tent, making an avalanche seem imminent. Kuryakov noted that although the skiers made an error in the placement of their tent, everything they did subsequently was textbook: they conducted an emergency evacuation to ground that would be safe from an avalanche, they took shelter in the woods, they started a fire, they dug a snow cave. Had they been less experienced, they might have remained near the tent, dug it out, and survived. But avalanches are by far the biggest risk in the mountains in winter, and the more experience you have, the more you fear them. The skiers’ expertise doomed them.”
The location of the incident did not have any obvious signs of an avalanche having taken place. Avalanches leave certain patterns and debris distributed over a wide area. The bodies found within a month of the event were covered with a very shallow layer of snow; and had there been an avalanche of sufficient strength to sweep away the second party, the bodies would have been swept away as well. Also, this would have caused more serious and different injuries in the process and would have damaged the tree line.
Over 100 expeditions to the region had been held since the incident, and none of them ever reported conditions that might create an avalanche. A study of the area using up-to-date terrain-related physics revealed that the location was entirely unlikely for a slab avalanche to have occurred. The “dangerous conditions” attributed to the campsite and the slope, were actually found in another nearby area–which had significantly steeper slopes and cornices. In addition, the observations were made in April and May when the snowfalls of winter were melting. During February, when the incident occurred, there were no such conditions.
Finally, an analysis of the terrain and the slope showed that even if there could have been a very specific avalanche that found its way into the area, its path would have gone past the tent. The tent had collapsed from the side but not in a horizontal direction.

●Some combination of these factors—take your pick.
“We do not claim to have solved the Dyatlov Pass mystery, as no one survived to tell the story,” lead author Johan Gaume–head of the Snow and Avalanche Simulation Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology–said… “But we show the plausibility of the avalanche hypothesis [for the first time].”
The chief proponent said of his own slab avalanche concept, “The truth, of course, is that no one really knows what happened that night. But we do provide strong quantitative evidence that the avalanche theory is plausible.
In 1997, it was revealed that the negatives from Krivonishenko’s camera were kept in the private archive of one of the investigators. The diaries of the hiking party fell into Russia’s public domain in 2009. On April 12, 2018, Zolotaryov’s remains were exhumed, and contradictory results were obtained: one of the experts said that the character of the injuries resembled a person knocked down by a car, and the DNA analysis did not reveal any similarity to the DNA of living relatives. In addition, it turned out that Zolotaryov’s name was not on the list of those buried at the Ivanovskoye Cemetery. Nevertheless, the reconstruction of the face from the exhumed skull matched postwar photographs of Zolotaryov, although journalists expressed suspicions that another person was hiding under Zolotaryov’s name after World War II.
After the most recent expedition, Swiss film maker Mr. Born said he was “really excited” about the documented evidence of an avalanche, but said that mysteries would always remain about the case. “At some point with this Dyatlov mystery,” he said, “you have to be open-minded about the fact that there are some things you will never understand.”
  Thirty years after the incident, and three years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, one of the early investigators, former police officer, Lev Nikitich Ivanov, published an article that included his admission that the investigation team had no rational explanation for the incident. He also stated that, after his team reported that they had seen flying spheres. He then received direct orders from high-ranking regional officials to dismiss this claim.
Avalanche?: Plausible, but plausible is not a scientific hypothesis, let alone the evidence of a good theory. Historical science is not as amenable to falsifying by experimental testing as an a priori hypothesis testing of predictions. For the hikers, it may be impossible to determine the true nature of the cause.

And that is as good as it gets. The incident remains cloaked in mystery.

I chose to use a pseudonym for personal reasons. I’m a retired neurosurgeon living in a rural paradise and am at rest from the turbulent life of my profession. I lived in an era when resident trainees worked 120 hours a week–a form of bondage no longer permitted by law. I served as a Navy Seabee general surgeon during the unpleasantness in Viet Nam, and spent the remainder of my ten-year service as a neurosurgeon in a major naval regional medical center. I’ve lived in every section of the country, saw all the inhumanity of man to man, practiced in private settings large and small, the military, academia, and as a medical humanitarian in the Third World.