As I write in my Intro, before I came here, I had two big questions: first - why they leave the tent(still not have answer for it, just some ideas) and second big question was how the group of 4 in ravine die, how they got the injuries - and now, after reading, analyzing photos and using own experience I got some idea what happen there..,
Nigel, first I will write something about your theory, read it and I agree only with one thing - THE RAVINE WAS FULL OF SNOW and my theory is mostly based on this fact. I do not agree with you the the bodies were moved in some natural way from the Den, if there will be any snow movement, the Den will be moved too, or at last some parts of it together with the bodies but it looks like intact so they not die in the Den. So no need of any extremely heavy object to passes over the top of the den, and it is very unlikely or even not possible that such a object will show up in this place.
WAB, the fact that few years ago, during winter with lots of snow the ravine wasn't completely covered in snow not mean that in 1959 was the same. Few facts:
- Snow in mountains never have the same deep everywhere, wind move a lot of snow from place to place creating huge snowdrifts/cornices. From photos in 1959 you could clearly see that the mountain slopes are with little snow but there is a lot in the forest close to the slopes. (do we have weather reports from that region from January 1959 to see how much snow fallen and what was the wind direction?)
-This days the forest around ravine is much more dense than in 1959. So it stops much more snow drift from the slopes, the snow is not blown down that far as back in 1959.
-Witness statements say about snow up to 6m deep in ravine, the photos show very deep snow as well.
I think there is no doubts that the ravine, in 1959, was full of very deep snow
So what happened there:
They spend the night under the Cedar tree at the fire, two Yuris not survive the night(I have at last 3 options why they die, all 3 options could be combined together but will write about it somewhere else). At the morning they known that:
-they have retrieve some gear(shoes etc) from tent to be able to go down to civilization;
-they have to spend another night somewhere around and not in the tent as it is damaged;
So I am sure that they found naturally formed snow cave, created by cornice/snowdrift in the raving, something like on this photo:
Why do I think like that:
- they build only floor for the den, so it have to be surrounded by natural walls, building floor on the snow in open space is a nonsense, it will not give any protection (much better will be stay under the Cedar)
-the Den floor was found under 4-5m of snow so there have to be lots of snow over it
-there was enough snow (I explained that earlier) for snow cave to be created in natural way
-they didn't have anything to dig in the snow, it is not possible to dig by bare hands in snow like that (generally you could dig by hands only in powder)
Now we have the Den under cornice/snowdrift, with floor that give isolation from the snow - good place to stay overnight. At some stage during the day Igor, Zinaida, Rustem departed to the tent with plans to bring necessary equipment, they never got there..
For sure the naturally formed cave where they made the Den wasn't the only snowdrift feature in the ravine, it was all full of snow, so I could imagine that just beloved the Den, towards the exit of the ravine (where the bodies were found) the snowdrift already created a snow-bridge over the ravine. When the snow is moved by wind it sometimes build-up creating empty space under it(snow cave) so it is possible that in this place was already snow-brige as this place was more exposed to wind. They could walk over it before many times but at some stage they could walk over all together, not aware that it is empty inside, and the bridge collapsed.
They fall down from 3m to the stream, they was tired, the fall happened suddenly so very easy of them could hit some stones below, hit each other, fall on each other(breaking ribs). Additionally after breaking the bridges some parts of it could fall on them - piece of wind-compressed snow 50cmX50cmx50cm could weight 50kg, if something of this size fall on someone that already lie down below could easily break ribs and create other injuries.
Facts supporting idea of creating snow-bridge:
-there was lots of snow- photos, witness statements etc
-wind moved big amounts of snow from mountain slopes down to the edge of forest
-they build the Den under the snow, so it have to be done in snow cave created in natural way, they were not able to dig in the snow. If the snow cave was created, the bride over ravine as well.
-personally, I have seen few times huge snow caves and snow bridges over ravines in forests, close to mountains slopes, I have seen something like that as well in early May in Ural during my hike. It is possible that something like that was created there as well.
Facts supporting idea of breaking down snow-bridge:
-they lie down in organized, natural way, after the fall they was in empty space but without possible exit so they just lie down and die there.
-they have injuries that could happens to people when they fall on each other, hit some rocks in the stream, and when big pieces of snow fall on them. I am sure that this four hikers and the rest members of the group got some injuries during the night walk down as well. It is not possible to hike 1.5km just in socks and not fall, making some injuries to face/hands is very possible, as well in the path of the hike down is few 5m high steps so it is possible that they fall/roll down from it and got some, not life threatening injuries.
Two edited pics of the 3D model how I see it:
Option 2: They were in the den when the roof collapse on them due to natural, own weight(what is possible), the amount of snow make all the fatal injuries. They manages to crawl out from it and just find shelter in some other place of ravine where they die. The fact is that Lyudmila was badly injured and she die almost immediately so is very unlikely that they will move her of from the Den.
Missing tongue, eyes and other soft tissues are not suspicious at all, it was eaten by small animals that are active all winter under the snow.
Ok, so this is my point of view on the ravine deaths. Questions or point out some facts that I am missing and that they discredit my idea, please...