The Col Dyatlov case has been raging passions for 62 years now, and it may have just come to a conclusion thanks to a computer simulation carried out by a scientific team .
This case dates back to the late 1950s. A group of experienced hikers came up with the idea to train and travel through the northern Urals, Russia, to wait for Otorten, a mountain known to be very difficult to access. The path to take was in fact classified category III at this time of year, a difficult category for hiking.
The hikers arrived in Ivdel by train on January 25 and then took a truck to Vijai, the last village in the northern oblast.
A case that dates back to the 1950s
After a brief stopover, they started walking in the direction of the coveted mountain. There were ten of them, but one of them was forced to cancel the day after leaving due to illness. The hikers then found themselves at nine.
According to the newspaper found after the events, the group managed to reach the foot of the mountain on January 31 and its members then prepared for the climb. They thus relieved themselves of superfluous equipment, but also of their food reserves. Reserves they were supposed to find on the way back down the mountain.
Unfortunately, this never happened.
On February 1, the hikers started to cross the pass and then encountered a severe storm. A blizzard which caused a loss of visibility and which unfortunately made them deviate towards the west. After realizing their mistake, they therefore showed a camp to spend the night. Then nothing.
A sudden disappearance
The group has not given any further news. On February 12, when their return was scheduled, their family notified local authorities. Without the slightest reaction, delays are frequent.
It was not until February 20, eight days later, that a search team was formed. It took six days to find the abandoned camp, a camp on Mount Kholat Syakhi, where the hikers had lost their way.
It was then that the case took a whole new turn. While searching the scene, the rescue team was surprised to discover that the tent had been cut from the inside. Even more surprisingly, the hikers' shoes and equipment were still there, suggesting an emergency evacuation.
Rescuers then spotted footprints on the ground, footprints leading to a wood 1.5 km to the northeast. It was then that they discovered the remains of a fire … and two bodies: that of Krivonishchenko and Doroshenko. Bodies barefoot, in underwear. The team then continued to explore the surroundings, which allowed them to discover two other bodies, that of Dyatlov and Kolmogorova. Bodies whose position suggested that the two men were returning to the camp at the time of their death.
Extremely serious injuries
On March 5, nearly a month after the hikers disappeared, a fifth body was found, that of Slobodin. He was close to the others and his position suggested that the man was once again trying to return to camp.
Rescuers then took two months to discover the remaining four bodies. Bodies lying under more than four meters of snow, in a valley ravine. Bodies better dressed and wearing the clothes of other hikers, but showing signs of significant trauma, such as broken ribs, torn eyes and tongues.
The investigation was long and difficult. Police concluded that all of the hikers had died of hypothermia, but they also realized that many bodies showed signs of beatings, or worse. Zolotariov's body, for example, was in such condition that it could not even be identified by the family.
But that's not the most surprising. By analyzing the clothing of the hikers, the investigators detected strong traces of radiation, traces which they could never explain.
A series of controversies
Then, very quickly, the first controversies began to erupt, in particular concerning the dating of the file. Dating back to February 6, 1959, well before the investigation started. Same story with the families, who have reported a strange coloring of the skin of the missing.
Over the years, several theories have been formulated. If many put the death of the hikers on the backs of the Mansis, the natives living in the region, the latter were quickly cleared. The only footprints recorded belonged to hikers.
Others spoke of bad weather conditions, as well as a snow flow that would have forced hikers to leave their first camp. But again, this theory was challenged by the fact that the tent poles had not moved.
And then, of course, there were all these somewhat fantasized theories, against the backdrop of military and extraterrestrial experiences.
A new survey in 2019, with the same conclusions
Pushed by the family, the Russian government then decided to reopen the investigation on February 1, 2019. The identity of Zolotariov, whom some had suspected of having passed himself off as dead, has been confirmed. The same goes for the causes of death.
But the investigation also helped piece together what investigators believed were the hikers' last days.
According to their conclusions, therefore, Zolotariov and Tibeaux-Brignolles are outside the tent of the first camp when they spot the signs of an impending avalanche. They warn their friends who tear up the tent to evacuate the place more easily, without having time to get dressed.
Following a first flow, the hikers decide to take refuge on a stone ridge located 50 meters further. No longer able to find their camp, the hikers set off towards the edge of a wood visible below. Arriving under a large pine tree, they make a campfire, a fire not powerful enough to provide them with heat. Krivonishchenko and Doroshenko are freezing to death.
A reconstruction of the facts that did not convince everyone
The seven survivors then decide to split into two groups. The first, made up of three members, turns back to try to find the camp. The cold ends up getting the better of them. The last four survivors on their side try to dig a shelter with tree branches, which causes another avalanche and kills them.
These explanations, although quite logical, did not convince everyone, however, and the affair of Col Dyatlov subsequently gave life to numerous documentaries and a few books. As well as several studies.
The most recent, carried out by researchers working for the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and for the ETH in Zurich, is original in that it is based on a computer simulation. Simulation which aimed to prove the theory of the Russian authorities.
The theory of the authorities partly validated by a computer simulation
However, thanks to this simulation, Johan Gaume and Alexander Purzin came to the conclusion that a slab avalanche-type snowfall could explain the seriousness of the injuries discovered on the victims' bodies. According to their simulation, even a small plate can weigh more than 100 kg and cause serious injuries to the head and face.
However, and this is arguably the most important, the researchers do not think that the mystery of the Dyatlov Pass has been solved.
Their work does not actually explain how eyes and tongues could have been torn out, nor even the radioactivity detected at the time.