February 17, 2021

Dyatlov Pass Conspiracy Theories Laid to Rest... Or Not?



Dyatlov Pass Conspiracy Theories Laid to Rest... Or Not?
This statue in Yekaterinburg honors the nine victims of the mysterious Dyatlov Pass incident. Wikimedia Commons user Dmitry Nikishin.

The mystery of what happened to the nine Dyatlov Pass hikers remains popular despite happening over 60 years ago – in 1959. Russians love a good conspiracy theory and have proposed that the group was killed by yetis, UFOs, or Soviet nuclear experiments. But a paper released in the journal Communications Earth & Environment supports authorities' 2020 conclusion that it was probably just an avalanche.

First, why do Russians doubt it was an avalanche? When authorities first arrived on the scene, there was no evidence of one. The mountainside the group camped on had a slope of less than 30°; most experts agree that bunny hills do not have avalanches. Injuries were inconsistent with avalanche: missing eyeballs, eyebrows, and tongues, and radiation on clothing. Locals reported seeing "glowing orange spheres" over the site.

Scientists Johan Gaume and Alexander M. Puzrin concluded that a slab avalanche likely led to the hikers' demise. The group carved out a place for their campsite in the snow, and higher snow could have weakened enough to slide over snow below it, especially in high winds. The researchers modeled 400 kilos (880 pounds) dropping on the sleeping campers.

Lucy Ash of the BBC contacted hikers' family members to discuss these findings – none of whom accepted them. They are convinced that the hikers were so skilled that they would not have set up camp so irresponsibly.

Something tells us that we have not heard the end of the Dyatlov Pass mystery.

Just in case the researchers are correct, if you are ever stuck on a snowy mountain and need to make camp, make yourself a "snow cave" rather than cutting into the slope.

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