The Dyatlov Pass incident
– new theory and our 2019 expedition

Dyatlov Pass new theory

Dyatlov Pass - chain of events in 13 points
February 1-2, 1959

Dyatlov Pass new theory

1. Tense skiing uphill from the Auspiya valley for a prolonged period in bad visibility followed by a rushed pitching of the tent on Kholat Syakhl around 5 pm. Clothes became wet from snowfall and some in the group likely got damp garments due to the sweaty challenge. 

Dyatlov Pass new theory

2. Removal of wet and/or change to dry clothes that were orderly spread in the tent. Wind and outside temperature were controllable with a stable presence in the tent. Stove was never assembled due to absence of firewood above the tree line.  

3. In the early evening, after some food consumption, an abrupt and unexpected change in the strength of the wind occurred. Extremely cold falling winds grips the tent with severe fluttering or damage to the canvas. 

4. The already mended tent, aside from being two tents stitched together and poor anchoring, added to an awareness of a vulnerable canvas. This led to the immediate decision to swiftly evacuate and save the tent at all cost - this before it dispersed in the wind with the loss of all equipment - we talk about a few seconds. The wind furthermore created a severe cooling effect with temperatures well below minus 50 degrees Celsius. Staying under the canvas or on the slope would have caused severe hypothermia.
The devastating falling wind (katabatic) of the Anaris accident in Sweden in 1978, is illuminating in understanding the sudden forces possibly released in the Dyatlov Pass. Although the two scenarios differ in some significant points, such as the lack of a tent, the Anaris case shows how extreme winds with a subsequent cooling effect can generate disastrous consequences. See also entry number 13 below.    


5. In order to swiftly secure the tent, adjacent snow was quickly shoveled over the central part of the canvas by hand. The combination of this swift judgement aside from the chaotic situation in limited light, left no time to locate important outfit and equipment. The applied snow cover made all gear inaccessible and with the cooling situation, time on the slope became extremely critical. The evacuation followed by a rapid retreat was a logical decision given the explosive event. The tent was considered to be secured if collapsed and sheltered under the snow - this aside from being shielded behind the initially dugout low snow shelf. A flashlight was likely positioned on the snow cover behind the shelf, facing the valley below in order to retrieve any equipment as soon as the falling wind had subsided. 

Dyatlov Pass new theory

6. The group walked tightly together in a controlled pace while the wind was battering their shoulders. Footprints are preserved in non-exposed areas, other prints are erased. Socks (or valenki) without boots were not enough but temporarily sufficient considering the option of losing valuable time on the slope. Some segments of the distance to the sheltering forest may have been accomlished in a less controlled manner – causing bruises and minor injuries over the stone belt and in the darker forest below. 
Thus, the hikers were never affected by any sliding or tumbling snow masses from atop, as it would be illogical for them to move in the path of any such avalanche-like scenario. Nor was the accumulated snow found on top of the tent in any way sufficient to suggest such an event - which also the preserved footprints can attest for. The slope furthermore lacks the angle to set any snow in motion, let alone with any momentum. I base this on my own inspection of the slope - a trait that has also been proven beyond doubt by for example Vladimir Borzenkov in his meticulous on-site investigations of 2014 and 2019.


Dyatlov pass
Dyatlov Pass new theory

7. Making a fire was of high priority but difficult - although possible in the forest due to the fact that falling winds are much stronger along a slope. All but Krivonoshenko and Doroshenko engaged in the scooping out of two bivouacs, nos. 1 and 2, that could shelter 5 and 4 persons each. This is important because theories before 2019 have speculated in why four of the bodies were found outside the empty and nearby located bivouac (here named no. 2). Rather, the bodies were in fact positioned snuggly behind each other to keep warm - this in a later collapsed snow shelter no. 1 (see points 8-10). The protected digging and constant movement kept all but the men at the fire warmer and shielded from the wind. 

8. The two men at the fireplace desperately fails to keep a sufficient fire alive. Their last attempt to revitalize their numb limbs was by keeping their extremities into the fading fire. During this time Doroshenko (perhaps assisted by someone else) attempted to climb the cedar in order to get a sight of the tent (beacon) and the condition on the slope (and/or to get superior firewood). After a while they became unconscious.  

9. The rest of the group of seven managed to finish the snow shelters, nos. 1 and 2. These were of substandard and rapidly shaped. Discovering that their friends had succumbed to the cold around the fire, they used some of their clothes and retreated to their bivouacs. At this point it is likely that the most wounded and exhausted, four people, crawled into shelter no. 1. 

10. They were now all intentionally divided into two groups with Dyatlov, Slobodin and Kolmogorova planning to stay in bivouac no. 2 – that is, the den that was retrieved empty by the search team many weeks later. 

Dyatlov Pass new theory

11. Bivouac no. 1 collapsed and trapped Dubudina, Kolevatov, Tibaux-Brignolle and Zolotarev inside. The collapsed bivouac was never identified as a shelter months later - this due to its collapsed nature over the brook. This den was probably dug out from within the depression of the ravine - this in order to constitute a warmer cavern-structure rather than being exposed under the sky. The entrance was made in a hurry, facing downstream. It is here that the already fractured chests on two of the victims got their symptomatic compression over time under heavy and wet snow. Dubudina and Zolotarev’s chest wounds where likely not that severe during the time of positioning inside the shelter - which is explained by their activities until their moments of deaths - Dubudina using Krivonoshenkos clothes and Zolotarev with his alleged pen and notebook in his hands. Such injuries are more understandable in terms of misinterpreted post- and antemortem indicators (see item 12 below). The collapse of bivouac no. 1 forced the three persons to vacate or never enter the nearby and obviously insecure bivouac no. 2 - this in order to retrieve the tent. Likely bivouac no. 1 had already crumbled before the last attempt to reach the tent - otherwise we could expect the last three to have used essential footwear from the others.    

A visualization of the Dyatlov Pass bivouac no. 1, before collapsing. It was here that  Zolotarev and three of his friends were sheltering.
A visualization of the Dyatlov Pass bivouac no. 1, before collapsing. It was here that Zolotarev and three of his friends were sheltering.

12. Traces of radioactivity (beta radiation) in two of the members clothes can be explained by earlier exposure to industry pollution. Missing eyes is false and was the result of decomposition – as well as the missing tongue. Any blood in the stomach is a natural cause of hypothermia, where bruises and fractures were likely a result of the chaotic situation that appeared during survival procedures and/or when escaping the extreme falling wind on a dark slope and in the forest.
In the case of Anaris in 1978, the rescue force described the scenario around the bodies as the bloodiest ever encountered - this due to survival procedures with numb extremities. 
The compressed chests of Dubudina and Zolotarev can be explained by gradual and long exposure under heavy and eventually wet snow (the collapsed snow shelter no. 1). Severe fractures on skulls should be evaluated in the light of falls and/or damage to the bodies as the rescue team probed the snow - such as in the case of Dubudina and her damaged neck when locating her body.


Dyatlov Pass new theory

13. The tent was retrieved with clear patterns of heavily wind-swept snow from a northwestern direction. The dating of these can be debated but adds to the overall hint to very strong winds around the actual time - which was also brought up by the rescuers. The stratigraphical layers surrounding for example Slobodin are thin and compacted as deposited by wind.  
Any gradual build-up of wind wouldn’t have forced the group to act hastily and therefore a sudden change with a violent wind scenario is advocated - such as in the case of the Anaris accident. The lingering question has always been why they left the tent in panic - this without gathering the essential equipment – and why they couldn’t return in time before succumbing. A gravity- or falling wind wouldn’t let you.    

/Richard Holmgren, 2019


Dyatlov Pass

The two most common objections to the falling wind theory are the following:
Statement: They had time to collapse and bury the tent, leave a flashlight on top, but no time to put extra clothes and boots on?
ANSWER: Correct. From the time a falling wind grabs the tent followed by the slicing of the canvas to get out, only some seconds passed. You have no time to collect your gear and put on footwear. Everything is dark and chaotic. When outside you immediately need to prevent the canvas from flying. If the group pushes down the tent after exiting, stands on top of it while scooping snow over it, then it can be saved. At this moment you have buried most of the things you need and the cooling effect is murderous - consequently one needs to leave the slope promptly. Thus, staying inside the tent in order to weight it down is neither an option - leading to hypothermia and a certian death. 
After having saved the canvas you can return when the wind has subsided – even though frostbites are unescapable. A positioned flashlight may help you relocating the tent and putting it atop takes no time.

Statement: Would the weight of a collapsed bivouac be enough to equal the force required for injuries that were compared to a car crash?
ANSWER: If a ribcage already contains fractures, the thorax will easier compress under heavy weights of snow. Fractures could have occurred before the collapse of bivouac no. 1, during survival practices such as climbing/falling etc. The longer a corpse is positioned under heavy snow, the easier it gets compressed during putrefaction – especially since wet snow is getting heavier during thawing in May.  


Photos: Dyatlov Foundation in Yekaterinburg and Richard Holmgren