This was the strangest unsolved mystery of the 20th century which happened in the Ural mountains.

There are a whole lot of incidence that has happened in our world, or to say the least, leave a mystery behind to resolve. However, finding out the main course or culprit behind said incidents is what detectives go about picking up evidence. At The Factionary, that’s not our job, though, our goal is to try as much as possible to explain the unexplainable, or at least, easier to understand. But every now and then, we come across a story that’s just too strange to explain, and too terrifying to forget. The Dyatlov Pass incident which happened in the Ural mountains, Russia, is probably the most strangest unsolved mystery in history.


Related media: The Dyatlov Pass Mystery


The Journey Of No Return

On January 28, 1959, ten grad students of the Ural State Technical University, in the then Soviet Union, (present day Russian Federation), embarked on an ill-fated backcountry hike into the Ural Mountains. They were all experienced mountaineers, and were hoping to reach their destination by February 12. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), one of the hikers, Yury Yudin, a 21-year-old economics and geology student, fell ill right before the mountaineers got into the actual backcountry, so he had to stay behind, and was the crew’s lone survivor.

The crew were now left with nine mountaineers, they head into the woods and never returned. This sad yet mysterious journey of no return is also one of the risks of wandering in the wilderness, right? Here’s the backstory: the search-and-rescue team that was dispatched to find them found a terrifying and frankly inexplicable scene. First and foremost, the tent that all the nine hikers shared had apparently been cut open from the inside, and was full of the party’s rations, warm clothing, and other personal utilities.

The search-and-rescue team later found five of the missing hikers about 1,600 meters (a mile) away from their camp. They also found two of the hikers beside the remains of their campfire, with their hands thoroughly burned. The other three bodies were found lying down about 30 meters (100 feet) apart, which apparently seemed like they were headed back to their camp. These five bodies were all found undressed — some were barefoot whiles others had only their socks. One of the hikers, Rustem Slobodin, a 23-year-old mechanical engineer, had a small fracture in his skull, and Nikolai Thibeaux-Bribnolles, a 23-year-old civil engineer, had a major fracture, though investigations confirmed that they died from exposure, not injury.

The other four hikers were found roughly three months later. Instead of clarifying the situation at hand, their discovery even made the whole story way more bizarre than it was. They were found wearing the clothes of the other hikers found earlier around the campfire, indicating that they had scavenged those bodies in order to stay warm in the freezing -34 degrees Celsius (-30 degrees Fahrenheit) weather. But it seemed like all four hikers apparently tumbled into a ravine and died. One of these four hikers, Semyon Zolotaryov, a 38-years-old ski instructor and World War II veteran, had suffered a chest injury which doctors likened to a car crash, and another, Lyuda Dubinina, a 20-year-old engineering and economics student, was found with a missing body parts like her tongue, eyes and a bit of her lips.

Now comes the weirdest part of the story. The hikers’ clothing were all highly radioactive, but other than the injuries they suffered, and at such freezing temperatures, there were no obvious signs of struggle or the presence of any other creatures in that area. Zolotaryov apparently grabbed his camera before leaving the camp, but left his clothes behind. (What really did he hoped to photograph?) And speaking of cameras, Yuri Krivonischenko, a 23-year-old construction and hydraulics student, had taken a blurry picture of a glowing … “something” before the incident. Oh, and the place they all died is called Kholat Syakhl, which literally translates to English as “Mountain of the Dead.”



The Mystery Unfolds

So what on Earth in the weird name of mystery could have killed these hikers? Short story: we have no idea. There are a few theories that tend to come up, though. There’s one theory that claims they were attacked by someone or a creature in the woods, but there aren’t enough evidence to verify such claims. The search-and-rescue teams found nine sets of footprints matching all nine victims — but there were no others, neither human nor creature.

So maybe it wasn’t an intruder. One theory suggests maybe it was a misunderstanding between the hikers which caused them to turn on each other, or caused one of them to become extremely violent; but there’s no solid evidence to prove that, either. The diaries of the hikers found back at the camp didn’t show any evidence of such kind of rising tension, nor did anyone who knew these nine believe they would have allowed their emotions to interfere in a survival situation. 

Local residents reported seeing “orange” lights in the sky, leading to some people theorizing that Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) might have been involved, and others suggests that they might have been the accidental victims of some sort of Soviet weapons test — at least that would explain the radiation. This could also explain why the official investigation into the incident closed almost as quickly as it opened — investigators were satisfied to list “a compelling natural force” as the cause of death.



The Rising Theories

The most compelling theory is that the hikers were the unfortunate victims of infrasound. This idea basically states that the wind that night had resonance in the valley where they pitched their camp, and this created a low-level frequency enough to have caused rumbling sounds that’s audible for human hearing. That might have sparked a panic in the tent — perhaps a fear of an avalanche — and sent them all running into the night without their essential gear. 

But what about the mysterious injuries? It seems they didn’t sustained soft tissue injuries, only their bones, so it might have been a result of snowpack over the bodies after death — although that wouldn’t be the case for the first bodies found, since there wasn’t even enough snow at that point to cover their footprints. And the missing tongue? It might have just been a too-good-to-pass-up snack for a Siberian husky. And finally, the radiation might be explained by the fact that their candles would have contained thorium — a radioactive metal of the actinide series.

However you try to analyze the mystery, you’ll run back having no clear-cut evidence to explain what really happened. Here at The Factionary, we’re only interested in getting the facts of the whole story, no investigations. So we’ll never know for sure what really happened, but what we can be sure of is, we’ll never go hiking into the Ural mountains, ever.


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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Thu, Feb 21, 2019.

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