After the hikers heard about the group that died there 60 years ago and were left with eyes and tongues missing, they decided that they wanted to make the trek there too.
A group of tourists recently vanished without a trace at the infamous Dyatlov Pass, the same stretch of Russia’s Ural Mountains where nine hikers mysteriously died in February 1959.
The injuries of the original nine were so bizarre that investigators and amateur sleuths alike have attributed their deaths to everything from aliens to the Yeti. And this week, more than 60 years later, the Dyatlov Pass was once again at the center of a disturbing mystery.
The recently missing tourists, largely from Moscow, learned of the strange circumstances surrounding the Dyatlov Pass incident and set out to see the area for themselves and pay their respects to the fallen hikers.
However, they were supposed to return from their outing on Feb. 10, but failed to check in. “They have not returned yet and there is no contact with them,” a local source told Russian media on the day they were due to return, according to Newsweek.
The confusion and panic over the missing hikers was only heightened by the fact that they reportedly failed to officially register their movements in the area with the proper authorities. According to The Ministry of Emergency Situations in the Sverdlovsk Region, there were only three registered groups in the Dyatlov Pass area at the time, leaving the missing group unaccounted for.
“If the group is not registered, then there have been no reports of missing people,” the Ministry stated.
However, a day after the first reports surfaced, a correspondent for one Russian media outlet stated that the group had been tracked down and safely made their exit from the area. Reportedly, they had encountered difficulties due largely to severe weather that delayed their check-in and set off the panic.
While these reports are limited and not widely circulated as of now, it appears that the hikers may have avoided a grim fate like the nine who perished at the Dyatlov Pass more than 60 years before.
The original nine hikers set out to reach the peak of Otorten, a mountain in the Northern Urals of Soviet Russia, at the end of January 1959. They were led by 23-year-old hiker Igor Alekseyevich Dyatlov, for whom the mountain pass has since been named. The other eight were largely also experienced hikers, many from the Ural Polytechnical Institute.
Dyatlov had told his sports team that he would send them a telegram as soon as he returned — but they received no word. Soon, after weeks passed, friends and loved ones began to worry. On Feb. 20, a search party was launched to try to find Dyatlov and the eight others.
Here, the investigation would take a bizarre and shocking turn.
Investigators soon found the hikers’ tent — but it was destroyed. Even more disturbing was the fact that it seemed like someone had cut the tent open from the inside. This was a bizarre discovery on its own, but only became more bizarre considering that the temperatures at night could plunge to −22°F.
Meanwhile, investigators found pairs of shoes at the scene and footprints made by bare feet leading away from the campsite and into the frigid wilderness. This raised the chilling question: Why would experienced hikers be so desperate to leave their own tent in the middle of a Russian winter’s night that they’d cut their way out and flee into the forest without even getting dressed?
From here, investigators came upon a series of strange and grisly clues, each more baffling than the next.
Next, they found the bodies of two hikers, wearing nothing but underwear. One hiker had a strange, brown-purple complexion and gray liquid coming from his mouth. Other bodies found next had cuts on their hands and branches around their bodies as if they’d desperately tried to climb the nearby trees. The bodies were undressed or wearing mismatched clothing — and some had injuries that hinted at inexplicably gruesome violence.
It took investigators another two months to find the rest of the party. The remaining bodies only deepened the mystery, as one of the hikers was missing her tongue, eyes, part of her lips, as well as facial tissue and a fragment of her skull bone.
Despite such baffling and macabre evidence, Soviet authorities swiftly closed the investigation. Officially, the hikers’ deaths were chalked up to an “unknown natural force” — a conclusion that only fanned the flames of conspiracy theories in the decades to come.
An early theory suggested that the nine hikers had been killed by an avalanche. The disarray of their campsite, their mismatched clothing, and the blunt force trauma injuries supported this theory, although victims of an avalanche usually die of asphyxiation.
But there was no physical evidence of an avalanche nor any precedent of avalanche activity in the area. Another theory posited that the hikers had been attacked by the native Mansi people. But this too withered under scrutiny, as the Mansi were largely peaceful and there was no evidence of an attack.
Stranger theories suggested that the hikers had died in a Yeti attack, or perhaps aliens were involved. Possibly, the hikers had been victims of a Soviet experiment or maybe someone in the group had lost their mind and murdered the others. But, in 60 years, no theory has been proven true conclusively.
In 2019, Russia released the results of a new, four-year investigation. Authorities stuck with the original conclusion: that the hikers had been killed in an avalanche. But that hasn’t stopped the surge of theories about the case.
“People don’t want it to be an avalanche,” said Johan Gaume, a Swiss researcher who studied the Dyatlov Pass incident. “It’s too normal.” He believes that the hikers died in a slab-avalanche. In this case, a small slow slide may have crushed the tent, prompting the hikers to cut their way out.
Without any living witnesses — at least, known witnesses — it’s impossible to say with total certainty what happened.
Fortunately, in the recent incident at the Dyatlov Pass, all involved seemed to have made it home. “We got stuck on the lake [and] the satellite dish broke,” one of the tourists reportedly said. “Because of this we did not get in touch in the morning … That is why they lost us, sparked a little panic.”
But when it comes to the Dyatlov Pass, anything even a little bit strange will surely set off a panic for decades more to come.