After doing quite a bit, although not nearly as much as a lot of other people, of research, I have decided to my own satisfaction what happened. Of course, very few will agree with it and that's just fine as well because we don't know and most likely never will.
Igor was very vague about his planned route and I think that started some suspicion on the part of the authorities. When he hadn't filed a final route, they pulled Slavaka out of the party and inserted Zolotaryov.
Lyudia's diary: At first nobody wanted this Zolotaryov, for he is a stranger, but then we all agreed, because you can't refuse. Thus, as we were ten, and remained ten, for Slavka was not released by the faculty bureau.
I think they did it for a few reasons. Aleksander was being groomed by the KGB, or higher, and the powers that be wanted Zolotaryov to both keep an eye on him to see how he handled himself and to protect him if it came down to it.
I believe the tent was folded up when warm and carried on skis behind them, which worked just fine on flat, hard snow
Jan 28 Yuri Yudin goes back with the sled due to poor health (sciatica), the group now consist of 9 members
they spend the night on the banks of Lozva river
Morning of Jan 29, they realize they can't fold the tent up that small, being frozen, heavy canvas and its too heavy for one person to carry and the ski sled doesn't work in deep snow. (which is why sleds are off the ground to carry stuff, a big heavy tent on skis would be like pulling a snowplow.
So the group decided to just stay there, fake their diaries and pretend the trip had happened. I believe they took a few trips skiing around that area, no way they would just sit there and took some photos to try to fake the trip.
Because it was a sensitive military area and there were worries about people escaping Russia over the borders I think there was an incident with the military attacking them with a explosive device, either thinking they were deserters or escapees or spies.
Then the military realized they had killed 9 students who had been given permission to go through the area (although they were not supposed to be there at that time) and killed two KGB agents.
The helicopter(s) carrying the bodies, tent and back packs dropped them and men off because it was an isolated, deserted place that would have few witnesses but on a possible route. Crime scene was faked and the military men skied back to civilization, those are the tracks they "followed"
So the military covered it up, to hide they had killed KGB agents.
I talked to an old trapper and an ex military soldier from South Africa who had experience with those big heavy canvas tents and they, and friends they talked to, said NO WAY! a frozen canvas tent can be folded up that small and carried by one man on his back.
so for better or worse, I'm happy with it
modified to add: I didn't realize that this would make people think I wasn't interested in feed back. I am certainly willing to listen to anything (other than insulting people because they are not university educated). I am happy with my idea, doesn't mean its right or it can't be corrected or more added to it.