Why The Families Of The Dyatlov Pass Incident Don't Buy The Official Explanation

It's one of those subjects that's talked about in the same breath as the D.B. Cooper hijacking and the Kennedy assassination. It's an incident in which something happened, but what exactly happened and how and why it happened is up for debate. We're talking about the Dyatlov Pass incident, a tragedy during which, as National Geographic reports, nine hikers died under circumstances that can best be described as mysterious. Specifically, on or around February 1, 1959, the hikers made camp in the Dyatlov Pass (above) in the Ural mountains and were never seen alive again. When a search party found their bodies a few weeks later, they showed injuries that were not consistent with, well, just about anything that could reasonably be expected to happen on that mountain (more on those injuries in a moment) and were far more gruesome than what any type of mountaineering accident could produce.

Unfortunately for the victims' families, the Russian authorities' explanation for the incident is unsatisfactory, to put it mildly. But considering that Russia isn't exactly known for its openness about what happens within its borders, and particularly what happened during the Soviet Era, it's unlikely that we'll ever know for certain what actually happened to those hikers.

What We Know

In January 1959, according to National Geographic, ten hikers (or cross-country skiers, as theĀ Daily Mail describes them) went on an adventure in the Ural mountains. However, one person was having health issues and turned back. The hikers that went on forward were never heard from again.

A few weeks later, an expedition found them, and the discoveries prompted more questions than answers. As The New Yorker reports, the tent in which the hikers would have slept looked like it had been slashed in places though food and firewood inside were undisturbed. The hikers' footprints lead away from the tent. Some of the footprints indicated that the hikers were wearing not their boots but their socks, and one set of prints seemed to indicate that the owner was wearing one boot.

The discoveries only got worse. When all of the bodies were found, some had bizarre injuries. One had severe burns and a chunk of his own flesh in his mouth. The others had bruises and abrasions. One victim had a skull fracture, one lacked a tongue, and some had eyes missing. What's more, it would later come out that the slices in the tent appeared to have been made from the inside. The entire scene suggested that the tent's occupants fled in a hurry, only to meet some unspecified gruesome fate.

Was It A Soviet Rocket?

So what happened? Nearly seven decades on, the mystery remains conclusively unsolved. But as theĀ Daily Mail reports, yetis, aliens, and the Soviet Secret Police (KGB) have all been discussed as being reasons for the incident. Needless to say, outlandish theories such as aliens or snow monsters are going to be difficult to verify with science.

In 2021, National Geographic reported that a team of scientists concluded that it was a small (as these things go) avalanche that killed the hikers. The comparatively small size of the event would possibly explain why there was none of the evidence that would traditionally suggest an avalanche. Regardless, according to the Daily Mail, the Russian government has concluded that it was an avalanche.

The victims' families aren't buying the explanation. Lawyer Yevgeny Chernousov believes that the Soviets were testing a rocket and that the hikers were too close. "They were poisoned [by rocket fuel and gasses]. It was impossible to breathe, so they panicked, half-blind, and fled down away from the focus of the incident," he said (via the Daily Mail). Meanwhile, a forensics expert doesn't see how an avalanche could have led to severe burns.

Meanwhile, the Russians consider the matter closed, meaning that the families of the victims are unlikely to get any satisfaction, at least from their government.