Saturday, May 11, 2013

The mystery of Dyatlov Pass

I already have mentioned this incident in one of my earlier posts, but I think I shall give this story more coverage, because it's a major source of inspiration for many metal and dark ambient projects from the ex-USSR. In the recent few months, I saw a surge of interest in the Dyatlov Group story among the mainstream public as well; there were 9 TV documentaries about it in last 3 months, not to mention numerous books on the subject.

The Dyatlov Pass incident remains to be one of the world's most bizarre unsolved mysteries, on par with the disappearance of the Norfolk regiment, the 1966 Lead Masks case in Brazil, the Voynich manuscript, and the story of Kaspar Hauser. Unfortunately there's not much reliable info about it in English, not least because of the difficulties of translation (as someone said, "to have the case files translated adequately, we should have a native speaker of Russian that's fluent in English and competent in forensic medicine, sitting next to a native speaker of English that's fluent in Russian"). That's all I could find on youtube:

The article in English wikipedia is pretty bad too. I personally would recommend this article, which was approved by the researchers of the Dyatlov Foundation in Ekaterinburg for telling the truth about the case to the English-speaking audience. And of course this page, which has the most complete English translation of the case files and the group diaries up to date, and a very decent collection of photos. And if you aren't in the mood for reading long texts, you can try this multimedia site. There also are some German and Spanish translations, although I have no idea about its accuracy.

Of course, deaths of alpinist and other extreme tourism groups aren't something uncommon, and the exact circumstances of such incidents very often remain unclear. However, the Dyatlov Pass case really stands out for many reasons:
  • It's still unknown what exactly forced 9 very well-trained and experienced men and women to run from the tent into the cold night without proper clothes and footwear;
  • The tent had been ripped open from within;
  • Traces from the camp showed that all group members left the camp of their own accord, on foot. Their retreat seems to be organized, not caused by a sudden bout of panic;
  • There were only 8 pairs of tracks, not 9. It can suggest that someone of them was badly injured at the very time of the accident and couldn't go on his own feet... or that one of 9 was outside the tent and gave the others an alarm;
  • There were no indications of other people nearby apart from the nine travelers on Kholat Syakhl, nor anyone in the surrounding areas;
  • The name "Kholat-Syakhl" means "The Dead Mountain" or "Mountain of the Dead" in Mansi language, which is close to old Hungarian (in modern Hungarian it's something like "Halott Szikla"). The name "Otorten" ("Vot-Tartan") means "don't go there" (in fact, it originally was a name of an another mountain several miles away from the pass). This could indicate that the whole area is a source of some unknown persistent danger;
  • According to some sources, there's a Mansi legend about a group of 9 hunters that died mysteriously at the very same place. Can't confirm it, because I known very little about their religion and mythology;
  • There's some evidence (very dubious, though) that the tent was searched by someone after the incident;
  • All the diaries of the group were found, except for Kolevatov's one. It's known that he kept his notes in secrecy and never had shown it to anyone;
  • Almost all the experienced outdoorsmen rule out a possibility of an internal conflict or any other kind of unsportive behaviour by the members of Dyatlov group;
  • The nature of injuries found on some bodies is very unusual and resembles those of cattle mutilations. It's actually possible that some of them were caused by a fall into the ravine, but the forensic evidence generally rules out the possibility that it was caused by an another human being;
  • Lyudmila Dubinina's missing tongue - probably the strangest part of the story. It's very unlikely that she had bitten it by herself (because of an avalanche damage, for example). Unfortunately, the forensic report contains only a very brief mention of that detail, and no clues as to how exactly the tongue could be removed from the oral cavity;
  •  Forensic radiation tests had shown the clothes of a few victims to be MILDLY radioactive (not "highly", as it was incorrectly stated by the wiki article), caused by a contamination by some unknown beta emitter (its exact nature and origin remained unknown due to the lack of adequate equipment);
  • There were reports of strange aerial phenomena in 2-4 weeks after the incident (later identified as R-7 rockets);
  • There's one "mysterious" photo found on the group's tapes, presumably taken during the night of the incident. However, it could very well be just an accidental shot, not related to the incident at all:
Currently there are 64 various proposed solutions to the mystery, ranging from completely rational to paranormal/mystical ones. Some of of the most popular ones are:
  • E.Buyanov "avalanche" theory, a very elaborate one, though a lot of facts still suggest against it;
  • S.Ivlev's theory, an enhancement of Buyanov's one. According to him, the tourists were forced out of the tent not by an avalanche, but by a sudden heavy snowstorm, and later some of them fell into the ravine. One of the best explanations so far, but some facts still doesn't fit it;
  • A.Rakitin's "controlled delivery" theory: the trip was actually a part of a covert KGB operation which went wrong, and the group was killed by some foreign spies as a result. It's remarkable because it logically explains ALL the facts present in the case, but in general it's hardly believable and looks more like a plot of an action movie than a real world event;
  • Various conspiracy theories involving military/weapon testings. Way too politicized and highly unlikely in general.
I'm not going to convince you that one or another of these versions is "true". Read the links and decide for yourself. And remember that it's a mystery that is far from solved, so don't go around saying "Well I totally know what happened, it's so simple!" after reading some incomplete info on the subject - it isn't simple at all. However, if you need a translation of some material that's not available in English (only short phrases and texts, not whole books) - ask me, and I'll try to help you.

"The nine victims of the event died miserable, scared and desperate. Regardless of our interest in this mystery – spare a thought for their suffering" (c) 

P.S. Here's an album by Velehentor, a well-known dark ambient project from the Urals, inspired by the Dyatlov Pass tragedy:


  1. Interesting article,man, I will check it out later.


  2. Any other bands, inspired by the tragedy?

    1. Are you crustcore_bg on Ulfortunately it looks like I can't send any messages on there neither to you, nor to anyone else :( Don't know the reason, probably just some bug. Anyway, here's the message I tried to send you:

      "Hello. I tried to answer you in your shoutbox, but looks like my message was identified of spam because of the links, so I'll try to answer here. I guess you already have checked out Velehentor, and there's another similar dark ambient project called "Morbid Silence". Search for their album "Минуя перевал Дятлова" (2010). Another dark ambient artist, this time not Russian - Maybe this will be of interest for you too: (even though I'm not a big fan of modern metalcore, or nintendocore for that matter). - this is more traditional heavy metal, AFAIK (haven't listened to it yet). "1079" refers to the altitude of Kholat Syakhl. There are some more acoustic, screamo and rap tracks which I won't really recommend, so I hope it'd be enough..."