Theories Discussion > Avalanche

Can anyone explain the official explanation of a few months back?

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There is no evidence of an avalanche yet they claim it's an avalanche?  Or do they actually cite something as being indicative of an avalanche?  To me, this is perhaps the worst of the nature-oriented explanations.  Now fear of an avalanche is different.  It certainly seemed like the group, or at least Igor, wanted to secure the "tent" quickly, but considering that the two tents were ripping open during much better weather conditions (and with the stove being used), and seeing how the wind comes down that mountainside like an avalanche of wind, I consider it really bad investigating not to try and recreate that situation, to see if the wind patterns there alone would be more than enough to explain the danger they faced by choosing that site to pitch the tent/tents.  If the wind was how I have seen it in documentaries and descriptions, their second huge mistake was spending so much time ripping branches off trees and trying to start and maintain a fire (I have read a large number of used matches were found around the area of the fire).  The "den" may have worked but those four walked off course then fell into a depression and onto the rocks that lined a creek or into the creek.  Doing a lot of work in light clothing means that when you stop you sweat, and if you sit next to a fire, the snow that is on your clothes or in your hair melts.  If the wind is still present or if the fire goes out, you are in deep trouble in terms of hypothermia, and some people are significantly more prone to hypothermia than others.  I know when I shoveled snow for a while, and then went inside, at normal room temperature, it felt like being in an oven and I couldn't take my jacket, gloves, etc. off too quickly (sweating started right away).  Instead, it may have been a lot better to take their blankets (if their heavy boots and coats were frozen up) and find a place that was protected from the wind, or dig one out, as some eventually tried, but falling into a depression/crevace is a major problem for mountain  climbers, though I can understand why they didn't think that would be an issue on a mountainside with a gentle slope.  They could have sat on some branches while huddling together and holding the blankets as a kind of makeshift tent.  One lone guy in a similar situation found a toboggan and some blankets and was able to survive using them, for example (in the book, "Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite").  The two Yuris may have died first because they sat down to start/tend fire, or one may have fallen off the large cedar and could not move much, so that's when core temperature can fall substantially within seconds (and some are much more prone to a quick drop than others, it has been learned since then).  This is the documentary; you can fast forward to 25:40 and then 42:00, but the rest is quite interesting too:

When new to this tragedy you are corrupted into accepting a set of assumptions about what happened at the tent as though they were known facts. This despite much of it not making any sense, and some of it even defying the laws of time and physics.

Once programmed with this it then requires unlikely natural events or complex theories to explain what happened, and all that followed, including persistent, motiveless, superhuman attackers who leave no footprints, to yetis and UFOs. None of these theories ever explain everything; they uncover as many questions as they do answers, and all the while, the elephant-in-the-room, hypothermia, the cause of the demise of just about all other missing hikers in sub zero temperatures, or climbers who did not directly die from falls, is dismissed or ignored - because where's the 'mystery' in that.

Through a thousand copycat web sites, Youtube videos, blogs and articles, the sensationalistic journalese goes like this: "They cut their way out in panic and fled into sub zero temperatures dressed only in their underwear. Later bodies were found with horrific, unexplainable injuries, including broken rib cages, missing eyes and tongue, and some clothing was found to be highly radioactive".

The official story doesn't seem prepared to budge from that 61-year-old starting point. It continues to imagine there was some real or imminently perceived danger (the fear of an avalanche) which caused 9 hikers to cut/tear their way out of their tent in panic and run away, so much so they lost sight of their tent, in visibility they now claim to have calculated was down to a very precise 16m.

It's easy, or should be, to debunk it. Because regardless of line-of-sight visibility it should still have been possible for hikers to simply retrace their own footprints to relocate their tent, and an experienced group, had they run away, would know if they had travelled up or downhill, enough to have a stab at finding the tent, and yet they made no effort - no footprint evidence showed this.

The official story claims they set up their tent at 5pm, yet 2 photo's showed them digging a trench in daylight, and it was sundown at that time of year at 4:29pm - significant as this places them high on an exposed ridge without a source of heating (stove wasn't unpacked, tent ridge ropes not completed) or means of getting dry (chill from sweating) for far longer.

It's suggested snow collected on the tent and collapsed it before the recovery team arrived.  But snow cannot possibly collect on a cut open tent side, defying gravity, and we know windscour should blow freshly fallen snow off the other side at that exposed altitude. Igor's torch was found on top of 10cms of snow, on the tent, with only a few centimetres on top of the torch. The only logical conclusion to make is he placed it there, on top of snow placed on a tent they felled and covered with snow, the same clumpy-looking snow shown in the recovery photo which looks identical to the trench spoil around it, and being compacted this would not blow away.

I have seen you post about the tent/snow, but disagree with your otherwise logical conclusion that the hikers placed it there simply to pin down their tent overnight. Taken in isolation that works fine, but along with many other theories it becomes Whack-a-Mole when you then have to consider why they didn't first retrieve what they needed to survive, not just clothing, but one of the three axes when deciding to head to the woods to start a fire.

That is why I have them felling their tent and covering it with snow to stage it as abandoned, when seen by a helicopter Semyon appears to have photographed, and while laid down inside their trench, hiding away, they develop hypothermia, and this also then explains their bizarre method of egress.

9 hikers, or 7 inside if preferred, surely do not kneel inline and cut their way out in an emergency like that, if wishing to leave in the fastest way possible, if, for example, hearing loud expansion cracks in the ridge above them as night temperatures plummeted and believing an ice slip was imminent. It would be elbows everywhere, and surely the person nearest the flap, which rescuers did not confirm was found closed, would be better served cutting there. They'd all de-tension the canvas for the person next to them, slowing down their collective escape. All it required was one or two vertical cuts for 7 or 9 people to pile out of an 8ft long tent in seconds. Instead they made all manner of horizontal and vertical cuts and a series of stabbings at one end. 

This is why I have them laid down, canvas and snow above, in the dark, hypothermic brain fog/confusion setting in among the trench diggers who had stripped off some clothing to get dry, and then their means of leaving in order to get up and stand is more explainable, as does setting off without what they need. They would likely have already cut breather and observation holes and would expand upon these.

Even if they did all hack at an erect tent in a panic you'd still anticipate they'd be able to grab some survival gear on the way out, this being a compact space with everything inside highly organised. Things were literally 'to hand'. Even a man leaving a sinking ship can grab a life vest.

Finally we have this equally bizarre assembly of 'panicked' people 50 yards away. This is highly contradictory. If they are otherwise okay, not affected by hypothermia yet playing follow-my-leader down the pass, then they should do one of two things, either continue leaving in a disorganised manner if the perceived danger has not passed, or if the perceived danger has passed (or is then considered a false alarm) make some effort to return to the tent to retrieve what they needed to survive. There's no point fearing for your life enough to flee your source of shelter and warmth if you do not then take clothing for warmth and tools for preparing shelter/wood cutting elsewhere in outdoor temperatures which will otherwise kill you. You don't save your life and then commit suicide.

To me everything points to hypothermia developing on the ridge. All the bizarre behaviour and the forgetfulness. The better dressed were less affected, so took control. They did not flee in panic, it was the exact opposite, slowed down by the effects of the cold, including brain function. Igor waltzed off without his coat, his hat, his gloves, his shoes and his torch. And the moment nobody remembered to take an axe they were all near certainly dead, because without it they had to climb trees to cut thinner branches with knives, or tear them off at the growing point, and this could not sustain a big enough fire, led to exhaustion (critical in sub zero temperatures), and injuries. They'd only have knives, and matches, because they were already in their pockets.

The cracked ribs at the den are likely to be attempts at chest compression resuscitation. It just so happens the same ribs, 2 to 7, are the multiple fracture sites typical of just about every chest resus atttempt, as shown on numerous studies of cadavers at autopsy dating back 60 years, and women of any age (Lyuda) and older men (Semyon) are most prone due to osteoporosis. They would be attempting to restart the hearts, when people collapsed into Stage 3 hypothermia.

Please forgive me but I am still of the opinion that the flail chest fractures acquired by Semyon and Lyuda would take much more force than falling 3-4 meters. The X-rays show a very wide impact area on both of them. You would need a 20mph (or more) of a hard flat impact. Semyon had a flail chest and then another set of fractured ribs further laterally to his right torso and this is quite a force.

Let us become more serious about the impacts necessary to cause flail chest.

I'll reply to flail chest being mentioned...

The most common cause of flail chest, away from mountains, is a road traffic accident, accounting for around 74% of cases. But up on the mountains falls and CPR would overwhelmingly be the major causes. It can also happen if kicked by an animal.

I am not someone who thinks a fall into the ravine could explain it alone, you'd anticipate broken clavicles as they put their hands out to break their falls, and the snow level was only half as high when they died as when their bodies were dug out months later.

Unless in some dead drop onto rocks, such as during a faint, I cannot see it.  There were certainly sufficient rocks in the ravine to do some damage, it's just a question of the dropping height and hiker weight needed to produce enough impact force, and to explain why the chest was the only fracture site in 2 falling individuals.

I personally think the bodies were placed in the ravine, and that explains their non-random arrangement, heads all to one end. It's possible some of the fractures, such as the single set on Lyuda's left side, were caused by her body being dropped or rolled into the ravine, the body falling onto its left side, but I think the double fractures to both her and Semyon's right sides are likely the result of resuscitation.

I read how a US court case once suggested, as evidence from an 'expert' witness, that flail chest did not occur in CPR. Multiple fractures, including bilateral, are the norm in chest compression resus (see graphic), but flail chest, two or more fractures on the same rib, was called into question.

It then required reseach into the veracity of this statement, and it was discovered, when referencing archives of numerous studies worldwide, that in fact the incidence of CPR causing flail chest is as high at 14.8%, though admittedly mainly in the elderly.

Graphic to show the incidence of bilateral rib fractures from CPR:

Semyon didn't have bilateral fractures. His fractures were confined to his right side (flail chest). His sternal fractures, perfectly centralised, are ideally placed for resus fractures, and especially on a man of his age, effectively generationally a lot 'older' than his 38 years circa 1959.

Once the sternal fractures have opened up and the CPR pressure continues the stress would travel down the longer part of the broken rib, and the stress would cause a bend fracture at the sides. The fractured end of bones would then be pushed into the internal organs, causing death. He then dies a "violent" death, but this is through the frantic efforts of his comrades to revive him, and he is otherwise already dead, or soon to be, from hypothermic collapse due to heart failure.

Lyuda had bilateral fractures. A single set of anterolateral fractures on her left side, and then the same as Semyon on her right side, though her sternal fractures were more away from the centre. Sternal fracture sites depend on where the hands are placed, and again, the stress would then travel to her right side and snap the same bones there.

Both their bodies should have displayed bruising from CPR, but because they were partly decomposed at the point of recovery there may not have been enough visible evidence - in Lyuda's case much of her chest skin tissues had sloughed away in running meltwater.

You mean the supposed official explanation. Well what is there to explain. The explanation is self evident.


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