Nearly 60 years later the Dyatlov Pass still holds a dark secret
Warning: This article contains images that some readers may find disturbing
In the northern part of the Ural Mountains in Russia there is a location that the locals call "Kholat Syakhl" meaning "Mountain of Death." And it's more than earned its name.
In January of 1959, a group of nine students set out on a skiing trip in the Ural Mountains. They were all experienced mountaineers and all were in good shape. The leader of the group was Igor Dyatlov.
Diaries and photos that were later found showed that everyone in the group appeared to be relaxed and in a good mood. They were enjoying their tour despite temperatures of -22 degrees Fahrenheit. The pictures are filled with happy, optimistic faces.
The plan was to reach the next settlement, Vizhai, by February 12, 1959, and join up with another group of skiers. But, for reasons that are still a mystery, they never arrived. A few days after their disappearance, their relatives alerted the authorities. On February 20, a volunteer rescue team finally found tracks made by Dyatlov's group.
On February 26, the rescue team found Dyatlov's tent at the peak of the Mountain of Death. They were astonished to find almost all of the group's packs in the tent including cameras, identification cards, money, diaries, food... and even all of their warmest clothes.
The tent itself had been damaged and it was clear that someone had cut it with a knife to get out of it. But why would someone run out into the cold with no boots or warm clothing on? The only footprints found were those of the skiers. The rescue team followed them hoping to find survivors, but instead they made a horrible discovery.
Approximately a mile from the tent the rescue team found a fire pit and the bodies of two men. Both of them were wearing only their underwear and it appeared that they had frozen to death. Later they also found the bodies of Igor Dyatlov and two other members of the group. Judging by how the bodies were lying, it looked as though they'd been attempting to make their way back to the tent.
The other four students were only found months later in May of 1959 when the melting snow revealed their bodies. When these four were autopsied, the medical examiners made a bizarre discovery.
Unlike the first bodies found, the bodies of these members of the group showed clear signs of deadly injuries. They had fractured skulls and broken ribs — they were in such bad shape that it appeared as if they had been in a horrible car crash. But the strangest thing was, they had no visible injuries on the outside of their bodies — all of the damage was completely internal. The rescue team had also not seen any signs of an altercation in the area where the bodies were found.
The results of the autopsies were kept strictly confidential. Authorities later spoke of "unknown forces" when asked about the cause of death.
The most obvious explanation seemed to be that an avalanche had killed the students. However, experts say that the evidence does not match a typical avalanche scenario.
Another strange fact was that the student's clothing and their bodies showed signs of exposure to radiation. Considering that the official case files are still top secret, many have speculated that the testing of a secret weapon may have killed the group.
Others have brought up the possibility that the students may have been attacked by the local Mansis, even though they are considered a very peaceful people. Some of the these locals had even warned the students not to go near the mountain, retelling an ancient story of a curse that had supposedly claimed the lives of nine warriors, centuries ago.
Over the years, authors, journalists, and filmmakers have created their own versions of what really happened on that mountain nearly six decades ago. But the fact is, to this very day it still remains one of the most strangest mysteries of modern times.
It's no wonder that adventurers still seek out this mountain pass that is so shrouded in mystery. Every year in January adrenalin junkies from around the world meet on the Mountain of Death to explore its many hidden secrets. And almost every year the mountain claims more lives — in January 2016 the body of yet another, this time local, hiker was found there. To this very day the Mountain of Death continues to live up to its name.