First, who am I to present my ideas? Nobody, for sure. I have used a few dozens of hours to get familiar with this issue, but I'm certainly no expert. However, as a lawyer I'm interested in analyzing data, so I will entertain myself with this rather wordy look at the mystery. Don't expect any commenting, but also won't get offended by any criticism - I promise.
The recent book "1079" is what brought me here, so I will start with a brief comment. In a word the book is excellent and the theory it offers is excellent too. I think it is spot on as for for the mechanics of the hikers' injuries. It also suggests beautifully that for 60 odd years there have not been a succesfull attempt to draw a logical line connecting all the factual dots of the mystery - simply because some of the major dots were actually all the time in wrong places.
To me it is very strange that the stove was not been used in the last camp. It was very VERY cold that evening, so one would think making a fire should be the very first thing to do in those conditions - at least in Finland it would be like that in any army tent. Their tent was obviously also in a rather poor shape, so how on earth did they reside in the tent without fire in the stove? To me this is a big red flag in the official account - even though I have read about several opposite opinions.
So, I for one certainly can't rule out the theory given in the book. However, there is one big question that is not really covered by the authors: why was the cover-up performed? Why was the chain of events presented in the book deemed to be so damaging (and for whom) that it was replaced - with considerable difficulty - by in many ways similar but far more "exotic" scenario? This issue would, IMHO, deserve quite a bit of attention. At least for me the motivation behind the cover-up is anything but obvious. So, with all its good qualities, 1079 doesn't empty the mystery.
The new avalanche theory:
Some new theoretical data has come up about the possibility of an avalanche or some sort of snow slide towards the tent. There is a valid point to this thinking: the group seem to have indeed created close to ideal conditions for an avalanche. They did dig an empty space for the snow and ice to take a move, and there was both a lot of snow and a lot of wind at that time.
So, yes, it is plausible to me that even if the slope was only just steep enough, technically it might have been in the margins of possibility. But as we all know, this is just the opening step - as such this information is of a limited use. Even with some level of panic, why did they leave the gear? Why didn't they even try to come back after the first shock? Not even one or two of them? I just can't see that kind of decision making by this relatively experienced and capable team. So, if this theory can't take us more than a few metres from the tent, it is certainly not very all-inclusive. It gives us one possible trigger option, but not a lot of more.
As with any decent mystery, the main problem is establishing the facts. If we can't do that, we can't solve the problem. Thus, even being far from an expert on the subject, I will first make an attempt towards that target.
1. nine hikers killed: checked - I suppose there is no real disagreement on the individuals involved; won't waste anybody's time to repeat this data.
2. time and place of the tragedy:
- near place called Dyatlov Pass - checked
- some time between 1.2. and 3.2.? Perhaps not a full proof fact, but surely it is a matter of only a few days, and the level of uncertainty won't change the solution in any major ways?
3. causes of deaths: Should we first establish that:
3 A) all of the victims had insufficient clothing (some more, some less) on when their bodies were found by the search team? I for one feel obliged to accept that. Then, can we further confirm that:
3 B) At least most of the victims were badly clothed also in the moment of their demise? I am aware that there is no unanimity on most of them being barefoot or wearing only socks as a result of the (first) unknown event that triggered their untimely deaths. However, judging by some of the skin injuries, it can be reasonably argued that there had been quite a lot of skin exposure during their last moments.
On the other hand, the amount of confirmed frostbites is oddly low. Can this have something do with them dying of hypothermia before major frostbites had time to develop? And, in case we decide to trust the offcial data, most of the winter gear of the hikers was left in their tent, especially their warm boots. So, all in all: checked with a little pinch of salt.
3 C) I think this is as far as I can go as for the facts. Ok, we can safely assume that it was both quite a remote place - few if any people around, and it was freezing cold weather with a killer wind to add to the agony of it.
But the actual chain of events that resulted in the tragedy, has more to do with the solving of the puzzle.
4. Back to the very frames of the puzzle:
Should we believe the official search party data, that is:
- Did the team camp for the night, or at least try to camp on the slope of the hill as it was established by the search party?
- Did the hikers die in the given locations and with the given equipment and injuries? (Last point referring mainly to the possibility of some of the actual injuries being omitted from the medical reports)
Alas - the answer to these points is surely a definitive MAYBE..
The major problem with the mystery - almost like by the definition - is that you should expect at least something unexpected and rare rather than the most common chains of event. If the calamity had followed a more conventional route - say, the tent was set on fire in the night, and then people in it were killed by a combination of burn injuries and hypothermia - there would have been no mystery in the first place.
Yet again, looking for the strangest explanations and rarest phenomena would hardly be the most practical way to approach the problem. Thus, in my opinion, it is after all more fertile to lean on the official data as the basis for our analysis, and only in case there is a logical dead end with the given data, we should take a whole new starting point. Say, the official account included a claim that somebody had committed suicide by shooting himself in the back and after that hiding the gun too.. - then that should be judged as being impossible. With the given information the official data can't be proved to be false?
The Big Picture:
I would say - as many have did before me - that in the big picture there are two main pieces:
- Why did the team leave the safety of the tent with inadequate equipment?
- While hypothermia can be regarded as an obvious cause of death in the given conditions, how did at least three of the hikers manage to receive very serious - easily fatal - injuries?
At this point it is already clear to me that no final truth can be achieved but rather some more or less probable alternatives.
1. Leaving the tent - the organized panic:
As said above, I just can't see the group making a reasoned decision to leave both the relative safety of the tent AND most of their winter gear behind and to prefer taking their chances, especially without proper footwear, in the woods. I can understand some of the counter-arguments hereto, but they just don't convince me, at all. So, unless we want to speculate on some mental issues - and of course they can be speculated! - there are two (or three) possibilities:
- the group was attacked by somebody or something - or rather a team of somebodies or some things.
- the group panicked over something that they THOUGHT would make staying in or even around the tent impossible. Here we come close to the supernatural issues.
- the group was physically removed from the tent or prevented from returning to it after a moment of hasty exit
Ok, I admit it is surely possible to guess which one of those is my favourite hypothesis.. Will go them all through, nevertheless.
Was there an attack by humans - Mansis, prison escapees or the military / secret service - it could be expected to have a logical motive. It could very easily be money and equipment (prisoners), and perhaps it could be some kind of ethnic / general hostility (Mansis), or securing secret military information.
The utilitarian motive (robbery) is hardly plausible, because at least most of the hikers' valuables were left behind. As for some kind of hate crime, I find it difficult to believe that the outcome of the attack would look like that. Some victims were "beaten" in a most brutal manner, while some were made to (more or less)freeze to death. Too complicated, too time consuming. Also, only the head injuries would easily fit the description.
And if those without major physical injuries managed to escape, surely the ones attacked physically would be found in the tent or very near of it - now they were the three bodies with the longest distance to the tent. Possible, yes, but only just.
The same goes mostly with the military intervention. But if it were the real pro killers - military or secret service - surely the bodies would have just disappeared or organized so that there was one simple, obvious cause of death. Scattering the bodies here and there and making even a bonfire for them sounds a bit off. If the hikers were either been chased by the gunmen or they were made to walk towards the forest by gunpoint, surely the result would have looked different.
Was there a bear or a pack of wolves - evidently not common in the area - or some other attacker from the animal kingdom, once again, the injuries are not only atypical but also it is difficult to explain why the worst injured were found with the longest distance to the spot of the original attack. The serious injuries of Lyuda, Tibo, and Semyon, really need to have occurred near where they were found as they would have been unable to move a lot after being injured.
As for the wolverine, it is certainly an interesting candidate. An unexpected visit by wolverine in the tent, would no doubt cause a full chaos in the tent and I can imagine it making the hikers exit the tent even through the canvas (which they, after all, probably never did). Yet, considering on the one hand the weather conditions and on the other the hiking knowhow of the team, I just can't see them leaving the tent without their boots - they had to be aware it is very near to a suicide to take a mile long walk or run like that. Surely, it would have taken even a more ferocious beast to make nine fit adults to give up most of their gear.
I haven't found any detailed data on the level of toxicity of the wolverine spray, but I doubt there are reports of any life threatening poisonings. So, with the 25 - 30 m/s wind, it is not easy to assess that even the boots were impossible to locate and / or be worn.
How about the irrational panic over something that wasn't in reality dangerous enough to force a hasty exit from the tent. That would leave the tent more or less intact and it could easily explain why the hikers didn't make a quick return to the safety.
Among the amateurs (in the best sense of the word) of the Dyatlov mystery it is almost unanimously considered that the hikers walked calmly or in any case in a normal pace towards the forest. I am fully aware that the detected footprints strongly suggest towards an organized retreat from the tent. Yet, I say it is completely crazy in the situation.
I admit that this scenario indicates a direct physical threat by someone or someones towards the group of hikers. The hikers being made to walk towards their horrible fate by gunpoint, will surely offer a fine explanation for their strange behavior - victims walking without boots as a group and the two gunmen a little bit apart, with a decent footwear..? It does, I can't deny it.
So, there is a serious controversy between leaving the tent in panic - perhaps up to the point that they destroy their only safe camping equipment by cutting it open - and then making a controlled decision to move to the not-that-nearby forest. If they were panicked enough to leave their winter gear in the tent, how come they didn't seem to run like headless chicken a minute or two later?
To start proceeding as a group must have required at least some elementary change of thoughts and words among the team members. And then the result of that dialogue is to not even try to go back and take the damn boots, but instead walk away empty-handed, and empty legged..? It takes quite a flexible logics to accept that scenario.
If it was a mistake to leave the tent, why it was not possible to correct that error? And if it was not an error, but there was a real concrete mortal threat by the tent, why, after all, nothing happened by the tent or to the tent? I can't find a viable explanation.
Whatever had taken place, the hikers were definitely not "walking calmly" towards the forest. They may have proceeded at a pedestrian's speed, but there were certainly nothing calm about it. They must have been scared to death by something at or in the tent - there is no way around it. Or is there? How about the official theory of avalanche and heavy wind? How about any early disturbance and a heavy wind on a slippery surface?
Maybe there was a scary accident - such as a fair amount of hard snow or ice sliding on top of the tent, or maybe just one of the guys were blown away by a gust of wind? What would the other members of the team do? A calm and rational decision would surely be to send one or two people to check the situation. But it is asking a lot to require the most intelligent actions taken in a sudden emergency. People inside the tent couldn't possibly have any idea of the nature of the emergency when hearing the scream of agony by their team mate, could they..?
Maybe a bad timing - as there are a large number of testimonies about strange light phenomena in the sky - so that an individual accident was interpreted as a general threat? I for one CAN see a disorganized, chaotic exit of the tent, then more cries and screams, and in a moment everybody would face the full rage of the blizzard.. People were thrown off their feet, and it would have seemed quite impossible to climb back against the hurricane wind. Then somebody suggests (probably Igor) to withdraw to the forest, make a nice big fire and come back when there is light and most probably a lot better weather too..
How about that? Yes, it would have been a catastrophically bad decision, but it just MIGHT have felt the only chance in the heat of the moment (heat being admittedly an awkward term here).
And what if one of the hikers got injured either in the tent or when struck down by the wind? Then Igor might have ordered two of the best equipped boys to go ahead and prepare a fire in the woods, while the rest of the team followed carrying the unfortunate team member. Being a good team, they moved as a group even though all but three of them (one injured and two carriers) could have proceeded much faster. - There are reports of only eight foot steps. First the main group took a slightly different route towards the forest, then at one point they joined the exact line of the fore-runners.
Sure, it is a long shot - but with relatively few logical problems?
Physical injuries - the second calamity:
The structure of the mystery is such that if the first piece of the puzzle fits well, the second is clearly of a secondary relevance. Primarily we will just need to check if the first answer somehow rules out the second one. I think in this scenario, it won't.
It seems next to impossible to formulate even a rough chain of events covering all the serious injuries. I am painfully aware that this fact weakens the theory on the first event. But that's how it is.
It somehow feels like a very remote possibility that big chunks of ice would fall down and crush the unfortunate three hikers who had been seeking shelter in the deep snow by the ravine. But can I rule it out? Nope. Can I find something better? Yes - the falling tree theory is obviously a lot more plausible. Everybody seem to agree on the heavy wind, after all. Can both be true? Only just.
And why abandon the fire? Maybe it went out or was about to go out because of too much melting snow and ice? I don't have a clear picture on how it was supposed to work - it is surely hopeless to make a fire on snow, and if only a small space was freed from snow, it would have been very complicated to build a bigger fire if there was one metre plus snow all around it.
I will leave it here. Probably none of you managed to read through this stream-of-thought anyway. Let's just bear in mind the teachings of the great Sherlock Holmes: "When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."