The “Death Mountain”

Disclaimer: This article contains information that might trigger some people.

Thrills are feelings that make humans feel alive. Many like to push their limits to experience those thrills. Unfortunately, mixed with a lack of judgement, it can become fatal to anybody. This is what happened to a group of nine Russian hikers in 1959.


The leader of the expedition group was Igor Dyatlov. He was a radio engineering student at the Ural Polytechnical Institute, and he was 23 years old at the time of the accident. His group was composed of eight men and two women who were all experienced Grade 2 hikers with ski tour experience. The majority of them were Dyatlov’s fellow students, and they would have all been certified Grade 3 hikers at their return from Mount Otorten.

A Normal Journey

On the 27th of January of 1959, the ten hikers began a ski trip towards the Gora Otorten mountain, which literally means “don’t go there.” On the 28th of January, a member of the group, Yuri Yudin, had to suddenly stop his journey due to his health. He did not realize that this decision would save his life. The rest of the group then continued their hike. On February 1st, due to snowstorms, they slowly deviated towards the top of Kholat Syakhl, or the “Death Mountain.” As soon as they realized their mistake, Dyatlov decided to camp on the mountain’s slopes for the night. That was the last entry of their journals.

Search Party

Before Dyatlov left with his group, he promised to send a telegram to their sports club at their return, which should have been the 12th of February. But when Yudin left at the beginning of their journey, Igor warned him that his telegram would arrive later on. That is why people were not alerted when Igor’s telegram did not meet his previous deadline. On the 20th of February, a request from the hikers’ relatives for a search party was made. A small group of voluntary students and teachers first left for the site. Then, later on, the police forces and the army were involved.

The Campsite and its Victims

On February 26th, the campsite was found, and the investigators swiftly noted many odd details. First, the camp was deserted and completely destroyed. The tent had been cut open, and the hypothesis of an animal attack was suggested. With further investigation, they discovered that the tent had not been cut from the outside but from the inside, as if the campers were in such a hurry to get out, that they would rather tear up their tent than use its entrance. Then, nine sets of footprints were found in the snow. Oddly, it seemed like the campers also had left wearing only their socks or even left barefoot. What could have provoked such a terror? 

At the edge of a forest nearby, under a large Siberian pine, the corpses of Krivonischenko and Doroshenko were found beside the remains of a fire. The searches pointed out that the pine’s branches were broken up to a couple of meters high. Perhaps, they had tried to climb it up in order to have a better point of view on something, or they were maybe trying to run from something.

Between the tree and the camp, the bodies of Dyatlov, Kolmogorova and Slobodin were found. Their positions suggested that they were trying to reach the campsite. After discovering the five bodies, a medical examination was done, and it concluded that they had all died from hypothermia.

On May 4th, the corpses of Dubinina, Thibeaux-Brignolles, Zolotargov and Kolevatov were recovered in a ravine under four meters of snow into the forest. With this discovery, the conclusion of the accident shifted.

Unusual injuries and circumstances

Even though there was a snowstorm blowing, the corpses were found wearing few clothes. They were mostly in underwear, wearing a shoe or some socks. A few wore more clothing, such as ripped clothes taken from the ones who were already dead. Moreover, they all died six to eight hours after they had last eaten and in the middle of the night. 

The first five victims did not have as many injuries as the ones found two months later. Krivonischenko’s knuckle had been bitten off, and Slobodin had a small non-fatal crack in his skull. The three other hikers only had apparent injuries related to hypothermia and frostbites.

Three of the four hikers found in May had fatal injuries. Oddly, many of the victims’ bone fractures would have required a car crash’s force impact. They also had no visible wounds associated with those injuries, almost as if their bodies would have been highly pressurized. The four of them also had soft tissue damage, which would have happened post-mortem. More specifically, Dubina was wearing the burned trousers of Krivonischenko. Although she was missing her tongue, eyes, a part of her lips, facial tissue, and a fragment of her skullbone, broken ribs is what killed her. Thibeaux-Brignolles had a fractured skull, which was fatal. Zolotargov died because of significant chest fractures, and he also had a wound on his skull exposing the bone, and he was missing his eyes. Kolevatov had a wound behind one of his ears, a twisted neck, and his eyebrows were missing.


Including the lack of indications proving the presence of other people near the site of the incident, murder by another party was excluded. Witnessed by another group of hikers hiking 50 kilometres from the site, reported seeing “strange orange spheres” in the sky during that night. They were also witnessed by Mansi villages nearby. Moreover, radiation was found on one of the victims’ clothing. Therefore, a theory about an army site trying new weapons nearby was formulated, but it remained a theory. Of course, some conspiracy theories were formulated too, such as possession, aliens, the Yeti, etc. 

In the end, the final verdict stated that the nine hikers died because of an avalanche. As far as it is plausible, this verdict does not correspond to every detail concerning the case. For example, the site’s location did not have any signs of an avalanche, and there were no other reports of avalanches nearby over the years. This location does not correspond to the conditions leading to such wrath. At this date, what truly happened remains a mystery to all. 


Ash, Lucy. “Dyatlov Pass.”, 2019,

Arnaud P. “Hiver 1959: le mystère des neufs victimes du Col Dyatlov.”, 2020,

If you want more information, the book The Price of State Secrets Is Nine Lives and the documentary film The Mystery of Dyatlov Pass were published about that incident.

By Mérika Béland


You May Also Like