Dyatlov Pass Incident: A Frightening Russian Mystery -- Solved?

By | January 31, 2021

test article image
A view of the tent as the rescuers found it on Feb. 26, 1959. The tent had been cut open from inside, and most of the campers had fled in socks or barefoot. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Mass psychosis, ice slabs, nuclear fallout, UFOs and a Yeti, the Dyatlov Pass Incident, named for the 23-year-old leader of this failed camping trip, remains one of the 20th century's deepest mysteries. The mystery concerns nine friends who traveled into the Russian wilderness to reach Mount Ortorten in 1959 and never came back. Sleuths have obsessed over the details -- such as they were -- of the incident for decades, without ever reaching a consensus explanation, but in 2021 we may have our best one yet, thanks to Disney's Frozen and Ford crash test data.

In 2020, the Russian government released a report with substantial evidence pointing towards avalanche as the culprit in the deaths of these hikers, but an avalanche doesn't really explain all of the strange facts surrounding this story. And let's be honest -- Russian officials saying "We investigated it and this is what happened" isn't the most satisfying announcement. If sweeping inconvenient details under the rug were an Olympic event, the Russians (and their Soviet predecessors) would take the gold medal every time.

But then came Frozen, and the Ford crash test data.

A simple hiking trip became a nightmare

test article image
source: Teodora Hadjiyska

On January 23, 1959, Igor Dyatlov led nine friends on a trip through rough terrain of Kholat Syakhl in the Ural Mountains. Their destination was Mount Ortorten, simply known as "don't go there" to the Mansi, the indigenous people of the area. The group was made up of eight men and two women. Most of the members of the party were in their early 20s, but Semyon Zolotaryov was a 38-year-old sports instructor who fought in World War II.

For most of the journey the friends were in high spirits. None of their diary entries show any issues with the travel beyond mentioning the cold, but that's hiking through the mountains for you. The group was having such a good time that they even mocked up a faux newspaper about their travels that read: "According to the latest information, abominable snowmen live in the northern Urals."

What was lighthearted fun at the time has sense taken on an eerie tone. Conspiracy theorists have pointed to the newspaper as proof that the group had entered the realm of the supernatural on trip, a claim that seems ridiculous until the fates the members of Dyatlov's group are laid bare.