Unfortunately I don't have time to formulate an entire theory right now, but I wanted to suggest an idea of inquiry and gather initial thoughts about it.Soviet Weather Modification
This idea would be proceed down a similar path of ball lightning theory and Soviet cover up. The Soviet's were conducting weather modification experiments during this time. For example, a CIA report states:
"Since 1946 Soviet scientists have been doing basic research in all aspects of cloud physics and weather control....
In 1958 the USSR began using cloud seeding techniques to open airfields closed by certain types of winter time fogs....
It should be noted, however, that there are significant gaps in Soviet scientific literature especially in the area of weather control experiments. Soviets may classify this information
Soviet weather modification and it's classified status could possibly suggest a reason for a cover up, and an extreme weather phenomenon such as ball lightning could explain the burn marks and injuries. For example:
"When E. P. Maslennikov and I examined the scene in May, we found that some young pine trees at the edge of the forest had burn marks
, but those marks did not have a concentric form or some other pattern. There was no epicenter. This once again confirmed that heated beams of a strong, but completely unknown, at least to us, energy, were directing their firepower toward specific objects (in this case, people), acting selectively."
I'm not necessarily implying or not that Soviet weather modification directly resulted in the "overwhelming force" of the hikers deaths, but it could provide a reason for Soviet cover up since they were actively experimenting and would be correlated to an extreme electrical weather phenomena such as ball lightning.