When it comes to Dyatlov Pass, there are more theories out there than can readily be digested into a summary like this. As we always do, we’ll close with the Wet Blanket Revue, in which I’ll suggest a few of the most realistic options. There are other realistic options as well, but they require a bit more of a stretch, and this is the one section when I really try to rain on the paranormal parade. Then we’ll move on to the Venusian Conclusion and I’ll tell you all about how these poor bastards were crushed by aliens.
THE WET BLANKET REVUE: DYATLOV PASS
Among the most salient options in terms of a non-paranormal explanation for the Dyatlov Pass Incident, I personally narrow it down to three. These are: the threat of an avalanche, a fire in the tent, or a stupid and tragic accident caused by a fight.
Regarding the avalanche theory: it should be said right off the bat that there was no avalanche. Many have chalked up the massive chest trauma experienced by some of the party as clear evidence of an avalanche, which also explains why they would have rushed from the tent. However, it was independently confirmed that no avalanche took place that night. The bodies that were buried in the snow had been in a depression or ‘den’, which was covered over by regular snow drifting- certainly not enough to crush a ribcage.
However, even without an avalanche, a panic could have been set off by the idea that there was going to be an avalanche. While Igor Dyatlov was an experienced mountaineer who would never set a camp in an area at risk for avalanches, he does mention in his entries in the diary that there are heavy winds which often blow large masses of snow off the trees in one big whump. Maybe the tent was hit by one of these in the night, causing the group to wake up in a panic at what they imagined to be the first few seconds of an avalanche. Fearing that they would be buried alive, they cut their way out of the tent and ran to ‘safety.’ When they realized their mistake, it was too late; they never found their way back.
Another possibility is a fire in the tent. The improvised stove built by Dyatlov was notoriously hot, causing the group to argue over who would have to sleep nearest to it. It vented its smoke through a chimney that ran half the length of the tent before poking through a hole in the fabric at one end. Nobody on earth would camp like that today, it’s ludicrously dangerous. Doroshenko had half of his hair burned off and Kolevatov had burns on his clothing. Other members of the group had burns on their hands. Perhaps Doroshenko woke up in a panic, understandably freaking out because his head was on fire, and in the course of trying to put him out (and receiving burns themselves) the group made the sudden collective decision to get as far as possible from this demon stove lest they all burn to a crisp. The tent itself never caught fire, and the stove would have blown out quickly after the tent came down, but again, by that point the deal was sealed, and the hikers never found their way back to camp. In this case or the above, injuries could have been sustained normally as the hikers stumbled around in the night or fell from trees as they climbed for firewood or to look for the tent (radiation and missing tongues are another story.)
Another possibility is that there was a fight between two (or more) of the hikers and that things quickly turned sour. Dyatlov and Slobodim both had bruises on the first joint of all of their fingers; if you make a fist, that’s the part you punch with. Some of the group members had been previously related romantically, and there seemed to be a slight erotic undercurrent to the whole expedition. Maybe things got out of hand. It’s possible that an argument (similar to the one recorded by Dubinina in the diary) got physical and turned into a wrestling match in the tent. Maybe the tent was partially pulled down in the process, and the group cut themselves out quickly before it could catch fire. Given that some of the injuries appear to be blunt object trauma, it’s possible the fighting got more violent outside the tent.
But I’d rather not believe that. These guys were clearly good buds.
THE VENUSIAN CONCLUSION: DYATLOV PASS
SO THEY WERE OBVIOUSLY MURDERED BY ALIENS!
YEAH I’M GOING THERE!
My theory here hinges on one guy, and one guy alone: Semyon Zolotaryov. He’s the most enigmatic of the group; he joined practically at the last minute, nobody really knew him, and let’s face it, he looks sneaky as hell.
What’s this guy’s angle? He’s at least a decade older than everybody else, he quit the army for no apparent reason, proceeding to move around the country, not able to be pinned down anywhere. Then, just before the expedition leaves he enters the picture, asking everybody to call him by some name that’s not actually his name. And he’s got a secret camera he doesn’t tell anybody about. What was his plan with that camera? Obviously, after the expedition was over, he didn’t want to make excuses for why he wouldn’t send his film for development with the rest of the group’s negatives. He was going to take pictures of something he didn’t want anybody else in the group to know about.
It’s not at all unusual, then or now, for the military to pretend to discharge someone and quietly put them to work gathering information. Maybe this Dr. Smith-esque enigma was a secret agent, with an inside bead on the mysterious lights that people were seeing over Otorten. Maybe the Dyatlov group was just his ticket to get there without dying along the way. His real goal was to sneak away from the group and photograph some UFO’s on behalf of the good old USSR. After all, he was the most well-equipped of the group on the night of the incident, and the only one wearing shoes. Almost as if he were outside the tent when it started.
In the end, Zolotaryov got it just as bad as everybody else, when the aliens landed, zapped out some eyeballs, tore out a tongue, crushed ribcages and smashed one guy really, really hard in the head with a tree branch. Then they dipped out, leaving nothing but some bizarre photos on Zolotaryov’s camera, and some residual radiation from their antigravity drive.
Again, the above theories only scratch the surface. You can get lost in this stuff for days, and I hope you do. I’ve compiled some further resources for you to check out. I really hope you’ll check out Teddy’s site (it’s not for the faint-hearted, though; there are some postmortem photos I tastefully did not include here).
Thanks for sharing this trip with me.
The simply-named dyatlov-pass.com website by ‘Teddy’ is the foremost resource.
Writer Donnie Eichar has a book called Dead Mountain, which I confess I have not read, but if the website for said book is anything to go by, it’s well-informed and well-written. The site alone is a great resource. I stole his nicely-designed map for the intro to section two of this project.
The Atlas Obscura entry is a good summation.
In 2016, another person died at Dyatlov Pass.
There’s much more out there, too. This is a well you can return to time and again. Until next time!