...over time, I'm more and more inclined to think in other directions.
What is your theory?
Bear with me; its kind of long and convoluted, lol.
I kind of waffle back and forth, to be honest. On one hand, I believe that there was a weather related event and the group made decisions that, while the best options they had, led to their deaths. When I watched the Expedition Unknown episode with Josh Gates and Teddy and saw the conditions on the ridge in "normal" winters, it seemed like a revelation to me. Reading all of the witness testimonies about the superstorm that occurred in early February and the accounts of other hiking groups in the area who also had problems, I really believe that the weather was the catalyst. I know that makes leaving the tent even more suspect, but we make odd decisions sometimes when in the middle of a tragedy with only split seconds to decide. To me, in a crisis event, I try to regroup, triage and go from there. Focus on getting through the first five minutes, then focus on the next hour, then focus on the next twelve hours (at twelve hours, you will either be alive or dead; daylight will arrive, etc.). If something is wrong at the tent, say the wind and snow are too much. Its all going to blow away (or something to that effect,) you have five minutes to secure the tent in order to try and save what is inside, sixty minutes to get to shelter (the cedar being the only shelter around,) regroup, triage and come up with the best plan to make it to sunrise. (Get a fire going for immediate warmth, start building a better shelter, possibly send someone back to the tent for supplies.)
On the other hand, there is the tent. The tent, the stove, their food, their entire lifeline. It would have to be extraordinary, extreme circumstances not to get better gear on when leaving and to leave the tent behind. Here is where I waffle with the cover up theory. Part of me is convinced the group would not have camped on that exposed ridge in the middle of a storm, considering how bad the wind is under normal circumstances. Some of that has to do with the cache. According to the supposed timeline, they tried to ascend the ridge and had to turn back, then they dug the cache and went back up the ridge to try and ascend again and wound up camped on the ridge. That doesn't make sense to me. The logical sequence would be make the cache, try to ascend, turn back, try again the next day. But, we know the tent was found on the ridge, and we know where the bodies were found. What if they didn't camp on the ridge, though? What if they camped elsewhere, something completely accidental and mundane happened but the camp was close to something the locals or authorities did not want outsiders seeing? This comes close to someone else's theory and I don't want to draw from their more in depth research. It just is the only thing to me that can explain the tent being on that ridge where there is just no other reason for it to be.
So, my theories are a bit boring and mundane, I know. The cover up part is so completely against my pragmatism but I can not reconcile the tent being there for any other reason. I know that some hikers felt Dyatlov would use it as practice for his trip to the sub polar Urals, where they'd be above the tree line, but I just don't see them taking the chance in that storm. Then again, if the weather kicked it up into a danger zone after they'd made camp and it was too late...
This also relies on not focusing on things that could have mundane answers, like the radiation (I think the area was high in radiation as it was and some of it could have also come in on their clothes, as well,) or the nature of their injuries. I think for Zina, Igor and Rustem, they were crawling up hill, already in a severe physical state, with high winds and ice and snow hitting them, and they were falling on their faces and such. I think the Yuris probably knew that staying to tend the fire for the others was akin to suicide but you sacrificed so your comrades could live. I think the state of the ravine 4 either had a lot to do with decomposition, animal predation etc or they were injured in whatever accident happened if they were camped elsewhere. I know there is a lot of debate about their injuries and I don't discount that their injuries are one of the biggest mysteries of all.
And there is so much more, as always, lol! I love social psychology, so learning about their lives, their interactions, the lives of those involved with the rescue and search etc are really interesting to me. I don't think there was anything between Zina and Igor, as some believe. Zina sent a letter to a friend before the hike describing Igor as basically a loner that none if the girls were interested in. I do find it curious how much she writes about Rustem on the hike... I don't know why, but hearing other students saying Kolevatov was a jerk and none of the girls wanted to be around him somehow piques my curiosity. Just curiosity, though; I don't think any fights broke out over love triangles or anything. I interpret some of their writings differently than others, just to try and see different perspectives. They were just a fascinating group of normal people.