I hadn't really given much thought to the poisoning/mushroom/ergot possibility. It seemed to unlikely, too easy
of an explanation. It's impossible to think that 9 people all had a shared delusion and left the tent with scant clothing in search of a common foolish goal.
But just yesterday I was reading about the plant henbane (Hyoscyamus niger). It's from the nightshade family, and has been used medicinally and recreationally for a long time. It can also kill you.
It grows in much of the world, including in the Urals. It's anticholinergic
, and can have the following side effects
- dialated pupils (mydriasis)
- increased body temperature (hyperpyrexia)
- lack of muscle control/coordination (ataxia)
- farsightedness (difficulty seeing)
- afraid of light (photophobia)
- urinary retention (much like hypothermia)
- decreased intestinal transit (food slows in GI tract)
and, delirium, of course.
A medical trauma pneumonic
for anticholinergic plant poisoning:
- Blind as a bat (ciliary muscle paralysis)
- Dry as a bone (anhidrosis [no sweating])
- Red as a beet (peripheral vasodilation)
- Fast as a fiddle (tachycardia [fast heartbeat])
- Hot as Hades (hyperthermia [overheated])
- Mad as a hatter (delirium, coma)
It's probably nothing, but I just hadn't seen it mentioned on the forum as a possibility. A few of the side effects were interesting with respect to the DPI, but again, how/why would this happen? How could henbane be accidentally eaten? Belladonna kissel (it could be any anticholinergic plant)?
Hyperthermia could explain why most hikers decided to venture down the mountain without boots and hats... I've camped on plenty cold mountains (and by no means Urals cold!), and I'd never, EVER leave the tent without proper clothing. If my tent was somehow buried in snow but I was able to get out (couldn't have been that deep, then), I'd dig for my clothing and boots, and possibly die digging, before I walked away to certain death. The first step out of the tent into cold snow and biting wind with only socks on... you'd know death would come quickly. Unless you weren't cold. But again, everyone had the same symptoms? It seems like from the trauma pneumonic that some of these side effects are common amongst all who take it, which makes it different from, say, a shared delusion.
Anyway, food for thought.
Henbane seeds on dried plant in snow