The Dyatlov Pass Incident
In January of 1959, nine Soviet college students embarked on a journey to reach the peak of Otorten, a mountain in the Northern Urals of Russia. They left as prepared as anyone could have been but none of the hikers were ever seen alive again in what we now know as the Dyatlov Pass Incident.
In 1959, Igor Dyatlov was a 23 year old radio engineering student at the Ural Polytechnical Institute. He assembled a group of 9 others for a skiing expedition across the Northern Urals in the Soviet Union. This group consisted of 8 men and 2 women, all roughly the same age, and students or alumni of UPI. Every one of them were experienced Grade II-hikers with ski tour experience, and would be receiving Grade III certification upon their return. At the time, this was the highest certification available in the Soviet Union and required candidates to traverse 300 kilometers (190 miles).
The goal of this 14 day expedition was to reach Otorten mountain, a route that, in February conditions, was labeled a Category III, the most difficult.
On January 27th, they began their trek toward Otorten from Vizhai. This consisted of a train, a bus, and skiing through mountain side communities. But, only one day into the journey, one of the members, Yuri Yudin, knew he’d be unable to finish the expedition due to knee and joint pain. So he turned back while the remaining group of nine continued the trek.
Because the hikers kept diaries and cameras, we know that on January 31st, the group reached the edge of the highland area and prepared to begin the climbing portion of the journey. On February 1st, the hikers started their hike through the pass, which was unnamed at that point. Now, I don’t want the name “pass” to be misleading because they were in really harsh conditions. The pass is a slope that they’re trying to reach the other side of before setting up camp for the night.
They planned to get over the pass and make camp for the next night on the opposite side, but because of the snowstorms and lack of visibility, they lost their direction and deviated west. This mountain they ended up on is named Kholat Syakhl, which means “dead mountain” in the language of the indigenous Mansi people.