A group of tourists have gone missing in an infamous Russian mountain pass where nine people died under mysterious circumstances more than 60 years ago.
Eight tourists from Moscow who ventured into the Dyatlov Pass in the Ural region had not returned by Wednesday morning as expected, a local resident told E1.RU.
The source said: “They were supposed to leave at eight o’clock this morning. But they have not returned yet and there is no contact with them.”
The tourists came to visit the pass to pay tribute to the nine people who died there in February 1959, the source reportedly added.
The Ministry of Emergency Situations in the Sverdlovsk Region told the outlet Izvestia that there are three registered groups at the pass, and they were in contact with all of them.
“If the group is not registered, then there have been no reports of missing people either,” the department said.
Newsweek has contacted the ministry for comment.
The Dyatlov Pass mystery
On January 23, 1959, 10 members of the Urals Polytechnic Institute in Yekaterinburg, who were all experienced mountaineers, went on a 200-mile hiking trip, according to the BBC.
One of the students turned back due to joint pain but the other nine—seven men and two women—ventured further into the wilderness led by 23-year-old engineering student Igor Dyatlov.
Investigators reportedly found camera film and personal diaries on the scene when they arrived a few weeks later. These showed that the group had set up camp on February 1 on the slopes of the mountain Kholat Saykhl, meaning “Dead Mountain” in the local Mansi language.
The search team also found a tent barely standing in the snow that seemed to have been cut open from the inside.
The first body was found near a cedar tree the next day while the rest were discovered over the next few months as the snow melted. But all nine bodies were found scattered in a bizarre state of undress.
Some had their skulls and chest smashed open while two had missing eyes and one had a missing tongue. Some were ruled to have died from their injuries while others died of hypothermia.
The Soviets reportedly kept the criminal investigation hushed up with the cause of deaths being ruled as an “unknown natural force,” according to the National Geographic.
Many have since explored different theories and conspiracy theories involving aliens, katabatic winds, a romantic dispute, Yeti attacks, slaughter by local tribesmen, infrasound-induced panic and Soviet military experiments.
In 2019, Russian authorities released the results of their inquiry after reexamining the case for four years, concluding that an avalanche caused the nine deaths.
Many have argued that the avalanche theory, which was initially proposed as far back as 1959, does not quite add up.
This is because of reasons like the search team reporting no obvious signs of an avalanche or debris. The average slope angle above the tent was also apparently not steep enough, the snow would unlikely have slid hours after the cut was made in the slope to pitch the tent and their injuries were atypical for avalanche victims, who usually die of asphyxiation.
But last month, Swiss researchers presented data that shows how a small, delayed avalanche could address these discrepancies and explain the cause of the hikers’ injuries and death.
In an article published in the journal Communications Earth and Environment, Johan Gaume and Alexander Puzrin came up with the theory that the deaths were caused by “a slab avalanche caused by progressive wind-blown snow accumulation on the slope above the hikers’ tent.”
The pair suggest that a small snow slide was possible and could have crushed the group.
The hikers, who weren’t severely injured, could have cut their way out of the tent and tried to save the wounded by dragging them outside. Then, after trying to head towards the tree-line for shelter, they would have then died from hypothermia while the others died from their injuries, the researchers said.
The pair also suggests that scavenger animals may be the reason why some of the victims were missing eyes and a tongue although they cannot be certain of this.
Jordy Hendrikx, the director of the Snow and Avalanche Lab at Montana State University, who was not involved in the current research, told the National Geographic that he has long suspected the Dyatlov Pass incident was caused by an avalanche.
Praising Guame and Puzrin’s work, he said: “The way they’ve shown that empirically in their equations seems perfectly robust. It’s exciting how new science developments in the avalanche world can shed new light on these historic puzzles.”
But Gaume told the publication that he fears this explanation is too straightforward to be publicly accepted. He said: “People don’t want it to be an avalanche. It’s too normal.”