In 1959 a group of nine hikers were found dead under mysterious circumstances in a remote area of Russia’s Ural Mountains. They were camped on the slopes of Kholat Syakhl on the night they died — a name which translates to “Dead Mountain” in the local Mansi language. Now, almost 60 years later, another hiker has been found dead in the same region, with the weather conditions too poor to allow emergency services to retrieve the body and ascertain exactly what happened.
All images via Wikimedia Commons
The Dyatlov Pass incident has become the subject of multiple films, documentaries and investigations over the years, even forming the basis for a recent horror game. It’s also a favourite of online discussion boards, being one of the creepiest cases of unexplained death since the discovery of the Somerton Man.
The name Dyatlov’s Pass refers to Igor Dyatlov, the leader of the group of hikers who were found dead in that area in 1959. When the group didn’t return on the date they were expected, it took search teams almost a week before they found the remains of the campers’ tent on the slopes of Kholat Syakhl. The first mystery was discovered here — the tent was cut open from the inside out, as if whoever was inside had needed to get out in a great hurry. All the hikers’ belongings — even their shoes — had been left inside.
Following barefoot tracks left in the snow, searchers found the first two bodies around the remains of a campfire, dressed only in their underwear. The branches on nearby trees were broken, suggesting the hikers had tried to climb them. Between this spot and the camp, the searchers found the next three corpses, having died in poses suggesting they were trying to return to their tent. The last four hikers weren’t found until more than two months later when they were located further into the forest, buried in a ravine under four meters of snow.
The subsequent autopsies cemented the Dyatlov Pass incident’s place as one of the world’s creepiest unexplained mysteries, given that no one could determine an exact cause of death. Three of the hikers had fatal injuries — one with major skull damage and two with chest fractures — requiring great force to inflict, comparable to that of a car crash according to the doctor who examined them. The strangest thing about these brutal internal injuries was the fact that none of them suffered any soft tissue damage, nor any visible external injuries. The eventual verdict was that the hikers had died from a “a compelling natural force,” and the notes were then sent to a secret file, where they weren’t made available again until 1990.
One of the most common theories is that the hikers were victims of secret government weapons testing, with one witness at the hikers’ funerals claiming the bodies had ‘a deep brown tan’ and some reports claimed that some of the hikers’ clothes turned up high doses of radioactive contamination. Other theories about what caused the hikers’ demise include an avalanche, local wildlife (or even crypto-wildlife like the Yeti), group hysteria or other, more implausible supernatural causes. However, nothing can be confirmed, especially since parts of the case files went missing. This new death is likely to get people talking about the mystery of Dyatlov pass again, however.
Russian news site v-kurse.ru has speculated that the recent body is that of a hermit named Oleg, a 46-year-old man who is known to have been staying in a small shepherd’s hut in the Urals. However emergency services have yet to be able to retrieve the body thanks to extreme weather conditions, so a conclusive identification has yet to be made.
While subsequent news has suggested that the hiking group who found the man’s corpse has since disappeared as well, the official statement clarifies that they have simply continued on the rest of their journey, which they are expected to return from on the 18th of January.