The Dyatlov Pass Incident - Part 2 - Theories



In part one we told the story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident, now in part 2, we take a look at some of the main theories put forward to explain what happened on the night of the hikers’ deaths on the Dyatlov Pass.

Using legit research materials from both English and Russian sources, this is the full story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident.



Primary Russian source material – Really a one stop shop when you want to look deeply at the Dyatlov case.


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The Dyatlov Pass Incident – Part 2 – Theories

In the previous episode, we told the story of the Dyatlov pass incident, a mysterious event that claimed the lives of 9 Russian ski tourists on the slopes of the Ural mountains, back in Soviet Russia, during the winter of 1959. We now take a look at some of the theories regarding what actually unfolded on that night, some contemporary theories, some strange, some logical and finally one of the most modern and technologically researched theories. This is dark histories where the facts are worse than fiction.


One of the most obvious theories is that the pass suffered an avalanche, capturing the victims of the group in its wake. The avalanche caused injuries and panic amongst the victims and with the tents covered in Snow, explains why the tents were cut from the inside. It could also explain why the group retreated away from the tents, perhaps they moved in fear of a second avalanche. However, whilst almost the first logical step when considering the Dyatlov pass incident, an avalanche is not as likely as can be first assumed. The slope that the group camped on was not very steep, nor was it very tall. Modern analysis has shown that the location is not conducive to conditions that would lead to an avalanche. Furthermore, the footprints leading away from the tents suggest that the injuries suffered by the victims happened away from the camp, not in it. There are photos which show items of the group’s gear stuck into the snow which are still standing 4 weeks later when the camp was discovered by the search team, along with the front of the tents. The group was also experienced and would likely have known that fleeing the tents, leaving all their clothing would have been far more dangerous than the threat of a second avalanche. All of this evidence, plus the fact that no snow drifts were noted mean that an avalanche was quite an unlikely culprit.


The local indigenous Mansi tribes form the basis for one theory that was common at the time of the event. There was a Mansi encampment to the northeast of the pass and a Mansi trail led past the Dyatlovs groups camp, just 200 metres away. Many people suggested that the Mansi were well versed in the mountains and would have known how to hunt and then cover their tracks in the mountains. Some claimed that the Mansi would not have taken lightly to people encroaching on to their territory, whilst others claimed that the mountains were a spiritual ground and the group camping on the slope would have caused offence, leading to conflict. Much of this, however, has been put down to the misunderstanding of the Mansi people, the mountain, in fact, was not a spiritual ground at all and the Mansi religion did not hold ground like this sacred in the first place, nor did the Mansi have any problem with people trekking through the mountains. One Mansi testified during the investigation that

“Everyone goes to this mountain: Russian men and women and Mansi. There is no special prohibition to hike the mountain.”

There are other factors that go against this theory, the Mansi actually volunteered and helped in the search and rescue teams. There was a considerable sum of money found amongst the possessions as well as alcohol, which was often used as currency amongst the Mansi and was perhaps even more valuable than the money itself. If it was a Mansi attack, why would they have left such valuables? In fact, the Mansi did not even have any precedent of attacking people. There was one story of a Mansi attacking a Russian woman during the 1930s, but it was akin to that of urban legend and may well be attributed to suspicion of indigenous tribes people by some Russians of the time.

Military testing

One of the longest standing and often touted theories is that the expedition fell victim to secret military testing of some sort, either rockets, chemical weapons or developmental weaponry that either exploded and caused the injuries from force or could have poisoned them or scared them sufficiently to induce panic. Yuri Yudin himself was commonly a proponent of this theory, who saw evidence amongst the recovered possessions that there were items of clothing that he didn’t think belonged to the group. Foremost were items used to wrap around the feet that were common military issue and he stated none of the team owned them. Many of the items of clothing found were noted to have been tested for radiation, an unusual test to have been made in the first place, however, it was found that they were in fact radiated, showing they had come into contact with some form of radiation. There were rumours that there was a secret military base nearby to the pass and the Soviets had tested rockets in the Northern Ural mountains before. Furthermore, there were reports from geologists staying in Ivdel that on the night of the incident, lights were observed in the sky over the direction of the pass. One fascinating aspect of this theory pertains to the camera found on Alexander Zolotaryovs body. Though the film was water damaged, the images were processed and seem to show what some speculate were lights in the sky. Possibly of planes and possibly of an explosion. Lev Ivanov, the man in charge of the investigation also claimed later on that during the search, they noticed that the tops of many trees had been burnt and that he was forced by the KGB to remove any mention of lights in the sky from the report given by various Mansi witnesses.

This theory, however, doesn’t explain why only some of the members had such forceful injuries. The radiation on the clothing, though present, was later found to be inconsequential and there were no positive results from toxicology testing on the bodies. Further, there is no evidence that shows testing of weapons over the pass, though naturally, this doesn’t discount secret tests that might have taken place.


Following on from the military testing theory, the logical leap for some is that UFOs or aliens could have been the cause. Much of the same evidence for the military testing is sighted as proof, the burnt trees, the reports of lights in the sky, Zolotaryovs photos etc. However, one other piece of information used to bolster the theory comes from testimony of Lev Ivanov, the leader of the investigation. As we heard in the previous theory, he was the man who testified that the tops of the trees had been burnt and that he was forced to remove mentions of light in the sky from the reports. Shortly after the incident, he became unusually fascinated by UFO phenomena. Throughout the 1960s, he made several requests to the KGB archives for information on UFO sightings. This is peculiar in itself, given that this man held a high legal position and at the time, UFO phenomena were regarded as a pseudo-religious interest in an ideologically atheist Soviet Russia. Was it all just one mans leap in curious logic, or was he onto something with this theory, did he know more than others, given his position in the investigation? The obvious flaw with this theory is that is is all speculation, there is, of course, no solid evidence that UFOs or aliens were to blame for the incident, but the testimonies from Ivanov are fascinating.


One of the more bizarre theories involves a Yeti coming across the groups camp and frightening them out of their tents, where it then savaged them. The severity of the injuries and the doctors claim that they could not have been caused by another human are used to bolster this theory. There is perhaps, one other piece of evidence and that is in Frame 17 of the photos taken from Nikolay Thibault-Brignoles camera. The image shows a figure in the background that many have claimed was a yeti stalking the group. In reality, it is likely that it was simply another member of the group. There is no other evidence that any animal attacked them, let alone a yeti, such as prints in the snow or any other animal tracks. This also doesn’t explain why only some of the members had such injuries whilst others closer to the camp were relatively unscathed in comparison.

KGB agents

Theorised by Alexei Ratikin, it is posited that one or more of the team could have been KGB agents looking to meet with CIA agents to deliver samples of radioactive clothing to the spies and take photos of them. This theory suggests that the expedition was cover for their mission, however, the meeting went wrong and fighting ensued. Evidence put forward to bolster the theory is mainly centred around the backgrounds of certain members who had worked in secret Soviet institutes prior to the trip. Alexander Zolotaryov is the main contender for KGB spy, being that he was considerably older than the rest of the group, unknown to them and had a military career as well as a secret Soviet posting prior to the trip. He also had a camera that was found on his body which Yuri Yedin stated was not known to the group. It’s also known that at least one camera that the group was using later went missing. Whilst this all sounds far-fetched, remember that this was the height of the cold war and certainly we now have evidence and concrete proof of much more bizarre events that happened between the KGB and CIA during this era. However, this theory has been roundly debunked by family and friends of members of the expedition, as well as many research groups who flatly deny any evidence to support it.


New research suggests that a rare weather phenomenon may have caused the Expedition members to flee in irrational fear. The general theory goes that in certain circumstances, wind can hit certain elements of terrain creating a series of vortices, known as a Karman Vortex Street. This would create infrasound, vibrations which produce sound below the range of human hearing that is known to create panic, anxiety, difficulties with breathing and nausea. Perhaps its feasible that this panic would have driven the expedition out of their tent and into the cold night. These phenomena are widely reported in similar conditions to those of Dyatlov pass, amongst many other peaks and it has been suggested that the peak of the mountain could have created such vortices, the sound then carrying down through the pass.

The main proponent of this theory was Donnie Eichar, who spent five years researching the incident and came to the conclusion of infrasound causing the event, stating that it is the only logical explanation for the events.


Despite all the theories, we are still left with something of an unexplained mystery. Much can be explained, but we are still left with many unanswered questions. No one theory can wrap up all events that took place and due to lack of any witnesses, it will likely stay that way, barring any great future revelations or undiscovered documents coming to light. Many of the ‘concrete’ theories have sensationalised certain aspects of the evidence that were simply not true and the reality is, that we are left with a genuine unsolved mystery, one which will probably unlikely ever be solved.

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