Nigel, the clumsiness may be explained by the cold. I remember the time I was skiing and made the mistake of not putting my gloves on before I got the chair lift. My gloves were clipped together and by the time I got off at the top of the mountain I couldn't unclip them, because My hands were so cold I had no dexterity or strength left in my fingers. Also it was quite windy. That might explain why it took so many matches to light fire.Well it's one of the many ambiguous details of the DPI that could be made to suit different narratives but i just get a feeling that it points at untypical foolish behaviour. Nicolai had gloves so he could have used the matches, why light a fire in the wind? Why not find better shelter or build a barrier even out of snow to shelter starting the fire? Why climb a tree anyway?
Imo the "nitrous oxide theory" puts the Otorten News thing in a new light. This is believed to be the last thing they wrote on the evening they died :-
From the Otorten Evening News, Issue 1, 1 February 1959: SCIENCE Lately in scientific circles there has been a very lively debate about the existence of Yeti. According to the latest data, the snowmen live in the northern Urals, in the area of the Otorten Mountain. PHILOSOPHY Ski hikers and love. Philosophical seminar every day in the tent main building, and these lectures will be given by Dr Tibeaux Ph.D., and Dubinina (MA in love science). TECHNICAL NEWS Hiking sledge – very good for riding in trains, in the car, and on a horse. But not really any good for transportation of loads over the snow. For further information please turn to the main constructor Kolevatov. Fun puzzles. Is it possible to warm nine ski hikers with one blanket? SPORTS The team of radio experts, consisting of Doroshenko and Kolmogorova, set a new world record in contesting how fast they could put together pieces of the stove. The record is one hour, two minutes, and 27 seconds.
The diaries display a completely different style of recording the day, very factual statements, recording the terrain, group interaction, arguments or disagreements. The day before Igor says :-We started fire with logs, too tired to dig a fire pit. We had supper right in the tent. It's warm. It is hard to imagine such a comfort somewhere on the ridge, with a piercing wind, hundreds kilometers away from human settlements.But on the following evening on a ridge in piercing winds without a warm stove and probably in damp clothes they're in a party mood having fun, perhaps even being silly...Apparently they hadn't touched the vodka.