Theories Discussion > Avalanche

A version of the "avalanche" theory I could actually believe


When I first got really interested in the the Dyatlov Pass Incident in the Summer of 2020, I contemptuously dismissed "avalanche" theories out-of-hand.  In January 2021, Puzrin & Gaume's scientific paper persuaded me that a "slab-slide" avalanche was indeed possible on that slope of Kholat Syakhl, and I acknowledged slightly more respect for avalanche theories than I did before.  However, I find the Puzrin-Gaume article more informative about what future visitors to Kholat Syakhl ought to do (i.e., do NOT camp on the slope, since slab avalanches are actually possible there) than about what happened to the Dyatlov Nine.

Whilst I cannot gainsay Puzrin & Gaume's science concerning the possibility of slab avalanches at the Dyatlovites' campsite, I am quite confident in dismissing the whole idea of a slab avalanche that both (1) happened at the campsite, AND (2) crushed the most seriously injured of the Dyatlovites.  IF we accept the premise that the Dyatlovites pitched their tent on the slope of Kholat Syakhl on February 1st, 1959 (and I am not sure that I do), then the possibility of a slab avalanche crushing people in the tent does not fit with the rest of the known facts.  Eight or nine pairs of footprints were observed descending the hill from the campsite.  If Thibeaux-Brignolles and Dubinina sustained their injuries in the tent, they sure as hell weren't walking down the hill (or anywhere); if Zolotaryov sustained his injuries in the tent, he could probably only walk down the hill with assistance.

Now, having said (written?) all that...consider that perhaps the mere word "avalanche" greatly overstates how much snow actually moved during the event that triggered the Incident.  In other words, perhaps what happened was indeed some kind of "avalanche", except that "avalanche" connotes movement of far more snow than that which factually did move to trigger the Incident.

Although I do not agree with every factual assertion it makes, I submit for consideration this post, which I quote here in pertinent part:

--- Quote ---Basically, the avalanche theory is that there was a very small avalanche right in the vicinity of the tent.

When they pitched their tent, they dug down into the snow to get to a level place to build the tent (you can see this in the pics from when they were setting up camp) which destabilized the mountainside, because then right were the tent was, there's nothing supporting the snow above. Winds picked up after dark, shifting the snow into drifts, and the destabilized snow slid down, but just a few feet, landing on their tent and partially collapsing it, but stopping before it went further down the mountain.

They dig their way out of the tent, cutting their own exit (which, by the way, was started with a knife, but the long vertical damages are tears, to they basically ripped their way out, which might make sense if the canvas is literally laying on top of them), but can't manage to unbury it in the dark because the more they dig, the more snow slides down hill to replace what they just dug, and they don't have any tools.

If you look at the diagram of the tent, some of the key supplies - like shoes - are on the uphill side of the tent, so that might explain why they couldn't get to them.

This would have been mostly minor injuries. So, it really only explains why they left the tent. The things like the crushed rib cages would have had a different explanation. Perhaps them digging into the side of the ravine to make a snow cave destabilized the slope, bringing enough weight down on them to break ribs, so, basically, a second avalanche right in the vicinity of the ravine. Or, perhaps the water below had created a void in the snow that broke under their weight, and they fell bringing a bunch of snow down that landed on top of them.

Those people weren't moved after they died, and they died very rapidly, so they had to have been injured in the ravine itself.

--- End quote ---


Edit: grammar

A good post RMK and appreciated.

The word avalanche provokes in our minds a a larch mass of snow , destroying everything in its path. I do not think  the word avalanche suits the proposed argument in our mind set.

A snow slip may have been enough to stimulate the DP9 to leave with haste. The slope futher above their tent is steeper, they may not have known exactly where they pitched their tent at the time due to the Visibility. Any minor snow slip may have put doubt in their minds, and they decided to move to the woods. It is plausible given what their perspective might have been at that moment in time.

I certainly don't think they sustained the injuries of the ribs at that point. The foot prints as recorded do not support it. As complex as this case is with all the variables, making a fire, a den, the bodies under a different consistency of snow with the rib fractures, along with the activity at the ceder to build the den , fire, for branches etc , looks like a sensible sequence for survival.

If we assume they chose to camp on the slope ( which I'm starting to think they may not have) . Then they  should have taken wood with them. They had lightened there back packs at the labaz , a few logs would have been no hardship. The distance to their goal was only 6 miles and the shelter of the wood was only a mile away, down hill. In my mind it's such a short distance and what was their plans for the following day/ night? To move 3 miles, pitch the tent again. Go to the top of the mountain and leave their written post at the top whilst retrieving  the previous hikers  bookmark? I understand their equipment was heavy but on skis they could do the last bit quickly . It's such a short distance. 

Yes,  they made their way above the tree line. it was for a practical reason. I believe it was to make up for lost time.getting to and from Ortoten.  It was probably a very good tactic. I recall that they were forced to use a relay technique during the hike to plow though deep snow. They couldn't go over the frozen tributaries like they wanted to. It was slow, hungry going. Offloading at the labaz was certainly beneficial in terms of load. While camped at 880 on 1079, they could survey the land and decide if keeping to the high ground would be in their best interest. I believe it was. They could loop Ortoten in a day and even bring back firewood for a comfortable evening. It did not work out that way. I believe they abandoned their tent because when the slab slip happened, they were in no position to do anything about it just then. Better to hide out in the woods and come back in daylight for damage control. I believe they felt that the trip could be salvaged, even if they lost another day repairing the tent and clearing their camp. It seems to not have worked that way. Below, the fire at the cedar was insufficient. The group split up. The clock was running, sapping their strength every minute. Mistakes were made, the price was paid. In the end they had exhausted themselves and had no one to turn to. Heroically, they tried to regain the tent, but all perished.


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