Expedition findings shed new light on Dyatlov Pass mystery
By T.K. Randall
March 25, 2022 · 18 comments
It now seems very likely that an avalanche was responsible. Image Credit: Soviet investigators
The findings bolster one particular explanation to one of the 20th-Century's most enduring mysteries.
Considered to be one of the most chilling unsolved cases ever to come out of Russia, the Dyatlov Pass incident involved a group of nine students who went missing after going for a trek in the Ural Mountains. Led by 23-year-old Igor Dyatlov, they departed on January 23th, 1959 and were never seen alive again.
When rescue teams went to look for them they found the group's tent, which appeared to have been sliced open from the inside with a sharp instrument, on the slopes of Mount Kholat Syakhl.
The hikers' belongings were all strewn around the campsite and a trail of footprints indicated that they had got up and left in a hurry, some of them without any shoes or socks.
After following the trail for 1.5km the rescuers discovered five bodies, many exhibiting signs of physical trauma such as a cracked skull and broken ribs.
No sign of the other four members of the group could be found, however after an extensive search covering two months, rescuers eventually located their remains in nearby woodland.
A criminal investigation later blamed their deaths on an "unknown compelling force".
Several decades later, however, a new study published in the journal Communications Earth and Environment put forward the theory that the hikers had died from an unusual form of small-scale 'delayed' avalanche.
Now a number of recent expeditions to the region have added further evidence in support of the avalanche theory - potentially enough to consider the mystery solved once and for all.
Alexander Puzrin of ETH Zurich and Johan Gaume Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne had first pinpointed the avalanche theory back in 2021.
"In the year since publication of our article, we helped them to organize three successful expeditions to the Dyatlov Pass," the pair wrote.
"The direct evidence from the Dyatlov Pass area obtained in those expeditions confirms that the region is avalanche prone and that slopes above the location where Igor Dyatlov and his group pitched their tent are steep enough for avalanches to release."
"Independent research by Russian snow and climate scientists supported assumptions and the main results of our slab avalanche modeling."
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