The Dyatlov Pass Incident

The content below is from Episode 120 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast


  • Back in December of 2021 I published episode #88 “James Webb Space Telescope” where I talked about the exciting new era of scientific discovery brought about by a MASSIVE project taken on by NASA, Canada, and European space agencies
  • Then I touched back on Webb in episode #94 “DART, Webb, And Other STEM Updates.”
  • Well, as I write this episode I am watching NASA’s live broadcast of the first images collected by the James Webb Space Telescope. By the time you hear this, the images will have been made public.
  • The broadcast was filled with technical issues which was not surprising because they were coordinating live streams all across the world. But the science was great and the images are breathtaking.


  • This week I recommend you watch Vinland Saga on Netflix.
    • I think I have recommended this show before when it was available on Amazon video but only with Japanese dialogue and English subtitles.
    • Now the show is on Netflix with English dubbed audio which typically appeals to a wider audience over here in the states.
    • The show follows the story of Thorfinn, a young Viking boy in the 11th century. During the time of the Viking occupation of England, Leif Erickson, and the Norse mass conversion to Christianity you follow young Thorfinn’s journey of vengeance.
    • The show has tons of brutal fight scenes, gore, and complex combat, but the underlying theme of the entire show is humanity’s struggle between violence and pacifism. During this time in history the Norse world was struggling between two philosophies: Rage against the world, go out with a fight! – OR – embrace peace and live in harmony with the world.
    • This show sucked me in with its fantastical fight scenes but kept me watching with the thought-provoking philosophical dialogue.


  • I’m watching The UnXplained with William Shatner and the first episode is titled “Evil Places.” They talk about Japan’s suicide forest and a couple other spooky places. The main theme is that “oh no, lots of people died here and/or were buried here. It must be haunted… Then a thought occurred to me: I bet almost ALL places on Earth have had people die onsite or near it. So I went to mathematics to help:
    • 488,648,294,112 (square feet of land on Earth, roughly) / 110,000,000,000 (people who have died on Earth, roughly) = 4.4 (the number of square feet away you are from a spot where someone died, roughly).
      • 488,648,294,112 / 110,000,000,000 = 4.4422572192
    • Of course, that would imply that every death that has ever occurred happened at an equally spread out distance… which is preposterous. There are some places that humans frequent more often than others. Many more people have strolled along the Mediterranean sea than have visited the summit of Mount Everest. And where people are more likely to be is where more people have died, because as far as we know, every person has and will die.
    • But even the idea that someone has died within 4.4 square feet of wherever you are on Earth’s land surface is almost certainly wrong… doesn’t that mean that all the lava fields, icy mountain peaks, deserts, and all the other inhospitable places just decrease the average distance that someone has died near you?
    • Think about it, that 488,648,294,112 square feet number would be noticeably smaller if we took out all the inhospitable places. That would decrease the 4.4 square feet number. And again, this is all based on the idea that all deaths happened equally far away from each other… which they almost certainly have not… Wow, what a tangent. What I’m getting at is… if you are currently in a relatively pleasant environment right now then you are probably standing/sitting/or laying in the exact spot where someone has died… and that is all the time.
    • So the notion that a place becomes more haunted the more people who die there is founded on paranoid crappy thinking. If that were the case then everywhere is haunted all the time and only becomes more haunted the more humans are born and eventually die on this planet.
    • Now, one could make the argument that some deaths are more “evil” or “tragic” than others, but I would argue all deaths are tragic and what Evil is… that not something that can be defined in a tangible way. It is a concept of morality.
  • So anyway… after realizing the show got me to think that deeply about it I thought “why not do an episode on one of the subjects.”
    • So this episode of Who’d a Thunk It? is about the Dyatlov Pass Incident, a topic covered in episode 1 of the William Shatners UnXplained.
  • The Dyatlov Pass incident was about 9 hikers in the Soviet Union that tragically and mysteriously died in the Ural Mountains in February of 1959.
    • The group was made up of a bunch of students from the Ural Polytechnical Institute and the man leading the trek was 23-year-old hiker named Igor Alekseyevich Dyatlov. Before he left, Dyatlov had told his sports club that he and his team would send them a telegram as soon as they returned. Sometime during the beginning of their journey, they made camp on the eastern slope of Kholat Syakhl.
    • For no obvious reason, the group decided to cut their way OUT of their tents and run away from their campsite in the middle of the night. Remember this was the northern Ural Mountains in Soviet Russia. It was subzero temperatures and the group was still in their pajamas.
    • The Soviets launched an investigation and were shocked to find that only 6 out of the 9 that went on the journey had died from hypothermia. The other 3 students had perished from some sort of physical trauma.
      • One of the victims died from a massive skull fracture.
      • Two had severe physical trauma to the chest.
      • Another victim did have a small crack in his skull
      • Four of the bodies were found lying in a creek of running water, not frozen by the Russian winter
        • Three of the bodies found in the creek had soft-tissue damage specifically to the head and face
      • Two bodies had missing eyes
      • One body was missing its tongue
      • One victim had no eyebrows
      • Some of these victims looked as if they had been hit by a speeding motor vehicle.
    • One of the most notable quotes from the Soviet’s investigation was that these trekkers died from a “compelling natural force.” Which is bureaucrat for “we don’t know what happened.”
    • This of course has led to many theories coming out, some more outlandish than others.
      • Over the decades people have guessed that animal attacks, hypothermia, an avalanchekatabatic windsinfrasound-induced panic, military involvement, or some combination of these factors.
      • Others have thought Yetis, satanic rituals, and of course… aliens are to blame.
  • The group did keep journals and numerous cameras. You can look at the images HERE.
    • These journals and images have allowed amateur sleuths to piece together the trek to Otorten a little bit better than the Soviet investigation that seemed to only want a quick cover-up.
    • On February 1st the group set out on an unnamed pass to Otorten.
      • Since this incident, the pass has been deemed the Dyatlov Pass.
    • The 9 hikers or trekkers willingly set out into this cold harsh weather toward the base of Otorten Mountain. They were hit hard by blinding snowstorms. The intensity of these storms was only amplified by the narrow valley pass. The bad weather was being funneled toward them.
    • The visibility was so sparse that the group lost their sense of direction. Instead of heading towards Otorten mountain, they had deviated to the west. Off course, they found themselves on the slope of a different mountain, Kholat Syakhl which means “Dead Mountain” in the native Mansi language.
    • For an unknown reason, Dyatlov chose to make camp on this mountain’s slope. Many have questioned the choice to camp on this slope because it is inherently more difficult.
      • Nearby was flat ground with tree cover, a perfect camping site. So why did they choose the more difficult campsite?
      • There are theories like they didn’t want to lose the altitude they had gained, they wanted to practice camping on a slope, or perhaps the visibility was so bad they didn’t know where else to go.
    • Regardless of the reasoning, this campsite would be their grave.
  • After about 20 days with no word from Dyatlov, a search party made up of volunteers was deployed. They found the campsite, but none of their friends.
    • That’s when the military and cops got involved with their investigation. One of the first observations made by officials was that even though this group was relatively experienced in trekking across Russia’s terrain, they had chosen a VERY difficult path. They expected the worst. Especially when they considered the amount of time since they went missing (20 days in far below freezing temperatures), the official search and rescue party was looking for bodies… not living people. They expected an open-shut case.
    • We know they found bodies, but it was the state they were in that made this a more complicated case.
  • They found the tent completely destroyed and were able to prove that it had been cut from the inside with many of the hikers’ shoes still left inside.
    • There were about 9 sets of footprints leading from camp to the edge of the nearby woods (1 mile from camp). These footprints were made with bare feet, socks-only, or even one-shoed feet.
    • At the forest’s edge, under a large cedar, the investigators found the remains of a small fire and the first two bodies: Yuri Krivonischenko, 23, and Yuri Doroshenko, 21. Despite temperatures of −13 to −22°F on the night of their deaths, both men’s bodies were found shoeless and wearing only underwear.
      • This is when things began to point towards madness
  • Then they found the next 3 bodies. They found the leader of the group Dyatlov, Zinaida Kolmogorova (22 years old), and Rustem Slobodin (23 years old). They appeared to have died on their way back to camp from the cedar trees.
  • These 5 bodies died from hypothermia. The investigators admitted the placement of their bodies was odd, the circumstances in which they were found. But the cause of death was typical.
    • But what about the circumstances?
    • Doroshenko’s body was a brownish-purple color and he had gray foam and liquid coming from his mouth.
    • The two bodies found under the cedar tree had their hands scraped so badly that the skin was gone from their palms. The branches in the tree above them were ripped from the tree.
      • This leads many to think they were trying to climb the tree frantically or possibly something was up in the tree.
    • Slobodin’s head was battered similar to someone who had hit their head from a fall… but many times over.
    • Kolmogorova had a rod shaped bruise on her side.
    • And why were they all underdressed wearing clothes that didn’t necessarily belong to them?
      • This led investigators to believe the group left in a hurry. They weren’t inexperienced, they knew how dangerous the cold was, and yet something made them flee into the freezing cold in their underwear and without shoes.
  • Months later the other 4 bodies were found… and thats’ when things really got crazy.
    • The other 4 were found buried in the snow down in a ravine about 250 feet farther into the woods than the cedar tree. This ravine is now known as the Dyatlov Pass den.
    • One of the hikers by the name Nikolai Thibeaux-Brignolles (age 23) had severe skull damage right before his death.
    • Lyudmila Dubinina (age 20) and Semyon Zolotaryov (age 38) had injuries to their chests that were comparable to a being hit by a car.
    • The most terrifying body was that of poor Dubinina who was missing her tongue, eyes, and part of her lips. Entire parts of her facial tissue and skull were missing.
Dubinina on her knees up against a rock in the Dyatlov Pass den
  • The bodies found in the den told a more complex story than those found nearer the camp.
    • Alexander Kolevatov (age 24) was in the den, yet he seemed to not suffer any of the wounds found on the others in the den.
    • There was evidence to suggest the victims in the den died at different times because the clothing was stripped from those who died first.
    • Krivonischenko’s wool pants were used to wrap Dubinina’s foot.
    • Zolotaryov’s body had Dubinina’s fur coat and hat on it at the time of death
    • Then there is the fact that there were trace amounts of harmful radiation on their clothing!
Kolevatov, Zolotaryov, and Thibeaux-Brignolles in the Dyatlov Pass den
  • The officials tasked with providing an explanation, the Soviets, just sort of gave a vague answer and suggested it was the hikers’ fault for not understanding the climate they were in… but they were experienced hikers.
    • Some Russian citizens thought maybe the local Mansi tribesmen attacked the group. But that didn’t stick for long. The Mansi are a peaceful group and there was no evidence that other people had attacked them. No additional footprints and the force needed to cause some of the damage exceeded what a human could inflict on another.
    • They thought maybe an avalanche was to blame. Perhaps the loud noise that precedes an avalanche was what caused the group to flee from their camp. And an avalanche would be enough force to cause the horrific injuries.
      • But there was no evidence of an avalanche. No debris, no broken trees, and no avalanches were recorded in that area before or since the Dyatlov Pass incident.
The Mansi people
Kolevatov and Zolotaryov.
  • So what theories have been proposed in the decades since the incident in 1959?
    • Some think that hypothermia is to blame for the lack of clothing on the victims. Hypothermia decreases critical thinking and in many cases causes the victim to think they are burning hot when they are actually freezing to death.
      • But why would they flee from their warm tent in the first place?
    • The injuries on the bodies in the ravine are from a terrible fall into the very same ravine.
    • Perhaps there was an argument that got out of hand? There was a bit of a romantic love quarrel going on in the group of young adults.
      • But many of the group’s friends said they got along well.
      • Plus, we already said the damage done to the bodies exceeded what another human could inflict
    • That’s when people started to suggest a menk, or a Russian Yeti was to blame.
      • Yetis or Menks are largely considered to not be real and more like folklore. But the creatures are said to be insanely strong and savage. This is why some conspiracy theorists think the Menk is to blame.
      • I would argue that the missing tissue from Dubinina’s face could have been done by a small scavenger animal or even the running water in which her face is found.
  • Others think it was the result of some top secret Soviet radiation weapon. People thought this would explain the radioactive clothing and the fact that at their funerals the corpses had a slightly orange, withered cast on them.
    • But if they died from radiation, there would have been more radiation found than trace amounts on some of the clothing. And the orange skin was because the bodies had partially mummified from the cold. Similar orange skin is found on victims from other hypothermic deaths on hikes all the time.
    • From the website :
      • “The secret weapon explanation is popular because it is partially supported by the testimony of another hiking group, one camping 50 kilometers from the Dyatlov Pass team on the same night. This other group spoke of strange orange orbs floating in the sky around Kholat Syakhl — a sight proponents of this theory interpret as distant explosions.
      • The hypothesis goes that the sound of the weapon drove the hikers from their tents in a panic. Half-clothed, the first group died of hypothermia while attempting to take shelter from the blasts by waiting near the tree line.
      • The second group, having seen the first group freeze, determined to go back for their belongings but fell victim to hypothermia too, while the third group got caught in a fresh blast further into the forest and died from their injuries.
      • Lev Ivanov, the chief investigator of the Dyatlov Pass Incident, said, “I suspected at the time and am almost sure now that these bright flying spheres had a direct connection to the group’s death” when he was interviewed by a small Kazakh newspaper in 1990. Censorship and secrecy in the USSR forced him to abandon this line of inquiry.
      • Other explanations include drug testing that caused violent behavior in the hikers and an unusual weather event known as infrasound, caused by particular wind patterns that can lead to panic attacks in humans because the low-frequency sound waves create a kind of earthquake inside the body.
      • In the end, the hikers’ deaths were officially attributed to “a compelling natural force,” and the case was closed.”
    • While writing this episode I too thought that maybe drug use was to blame. They may have gotten all hopped up on psychadelics and uppers and then run out of the tent in a blind panic.
  • The Russian Government decided to launch another investigation in 2019. Their conclusion was that it was either an avalanche, snow slab slide, or a hurricane… Ultimately the most recent investigation shined NO more light on the incident other than the Russian government was willing to spend money on this thing again for some reason.
Last known image of the group. I feel for these people… but this was a hobby to them… That looks absolutely miserable
  • In the end, the only ones who will know what happened that night are the people who perished in the Dyatlov Pass.
  • A memorial was erected with pictures of each of the hikers.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s