We are told that the tent was actually two tents,supported in the middle by a taut rope The rope would be tied to a tree at either end No trees were at elevation 880. The tent was poorly supported on poles and collapsed.. This is a suffocation hazard. Multiply that by 7 to 9 people and the situation becomes urgent. Snow covered the unsupported middle and one end of the tent. If the rescue photos are to be believed, then yes, a ski or pole could remain upright in a slab slip.
The hikers obviously did not make any repairs. They left in an orderly way as shown by prints in the snow. If they waited to clear the overburden of snow from the collapsed tent, the conditions could worsen. It evidently was better for the hikers to go to the woods for shelter and return later.
Prints in the snow indicate after the hikers dispersed, they reunite and walk, not run to the trees. No trace of injured foot dragging is noted. This is a deliberate walk to the woods, not panic. The decision to leave the tent and return the next day was logical and prudent. They may have escaped the tent in a hurry, but they left the camp in an orderly way. A second threat forced their retreat down the slope. That threat was exposure to snow, cold and wind in some combination.
The ice found below Rustem's body and his position indicate he and the other two hikers tried to return to the tent. Therefore, the tent was there at 880 and nowhere else. Conspirators, on the other hand, staging a disaster would have an involved set of tasks to do. That defys common sense.Too, if the tent were in the woods, where is a tree that could crush all of the hikers at that altitude? Were they not in a scrubby alpine forest? Was not the biggest tree in the area the lone cedar? In all subsequent investigations, has anyone found a site that works for a fallen branch theory? Given Our Understanding, Kruschev Ran An Intense News Editing regime.
I think accumulated snow brought by wind and the instability of the snow pack were the cause.. There was no an avalanche, but a slab did move. The tent was weak in the middle and collapsed. They all left to get warm at the tree line and restore the tent the following day. Nobody had a saw, nor axe so they resorted to trying to break branches by pulling, stomping and hacking with a long bladed knife. It was not enough to sustain a proper fire. A series of misfortunes cascaded into perhaps hostilities, certainly fatalities.
The reason this explanation is unsatisfying to relatives and conspiracy buffs is because the hikers weakened the snow by digging a ledge into it. In short, they are partly to blame for their disaster.