The belief that the group cut the tent in order to escape is largely held as a fact. That's because it seems to make sense. The cuts are made from inside the tent, the tent was left with huge holes in it, therefore the logical explanation is they sliced the tent in order to quickly escape.
However, I don't think this is certain. In fact, I think another explanation may be likely.
If I gave you a cutting instrument and told you to quickly cut your way out of a tent what cut would you make? I am assuming you would make a vertical slice, put your hands in between the cut, pull the fabric apart and escape. If I asked 100 people to quickly cut their way out of a tent I would bet that 99 of them would do that.
How many of you, upon being directed to slice your way out of a tent, would make three relatively short horizontal cuts that were spaced a long way apart from each other? None of you would do that, because making those cuts wouldn't allow you to escape. Well, those three cuts are the cuts that Dyatlov's group made.
The group only made 3 cuts with the cutting instrument. The red ink in this picture shows the cuts: https://dyatlovpass.com/resources/340/gallery/Dyatlov-pass-case-files-Churkina-photo-01-en.jpg
. The sections that are crosshatched are actually tears, not cuts. The report on the tent in the 1959 investigation plainly states that only these 3 cuts were made and all other damage is a tear
. From the report: As a result of the foregoing, and when examining the edges of all the damages on the tent, one can conclude that three damages /conditionally marked № 1, 2, 3 / came as a result of contact with some sharp weapon /knife/, i.e. are cuts. Yet the rest of the damage is a tear.
So, working on the assumption that they cut the tent to escape - why on Earth would they make those 3 cuts then attempt to tear the rest? Look at the picture, this makes very little sense. It is a bizarre strategy. I believe the cuts may have been made to save the tent
We know from reports that the tent was already damaged. It had several holes in it. One functioned as a ventilation hole, one hole was in place for the stove exhaust (when the stove was assembled), another hole was stuffed with a piece of clothing, and the group repaired their tent daily. My theory is that extreme, possibly hurricane force wind, was blowing with terrifying force into their tent via a pre existing hole(s), with nowhere to escape. Perhaps it was coming from the tent entrance as well, and the sheer force of the wind rendered them unable to secure it. This was causing a balloon effect inside the tent, making the group believe their tent was in danger of being destroyed. This is why investigators later find clothing stuffed in holes. The group originally tried to plug the pre existing holes with their clothing. They were successful in doing this on at least one hole, but wind was still coming in and it was starting to tear the tent.
How do you rectify this situation? Well, if you can't repair the pre existing holes, you cut openings on the other side of the tent, so the wind can zoom through your tent with less resistance
. It doesn't become trapped in a secure pocket of the tent, ripping things apart. It is a desperate measure, but we know the group had the ability to sew and repair cuts to their tent - so they decide to try - because the wind is making them very quickly fear for their lives.
From this point one of two possibilities occur:
1. The wind causes the poorly placed cuts to rip apart, and very quickly the side of the tent is torn open.
2. The cuts don't help to rectify the situation, so the group panics and evacuates the tent. The tears are caused by the wind later or caused by the group burying their tent after they leave.
After the group had left the tent, they (or one of them, probably the well dressed Zolotaryov - which footprint evidence suggests he was walking behind the other members down the slope) quickly buries part of the tent with snow. There is strong evidence to suggest this. From the report: On the side of the tent on top of 10 cm of snow laid Dyatlov's flashlight..."we couldn’t understand why the snow under the flashlight was 10 cm thick, yet there wasn’t any on the flashlight itself"
. The answer to this is that the group put the snow on their own tent to protect it from being blown to pieces by the wind. If they left the tent in its original state, they think the wind will utterly destroy it.
They need to lower the tent's profile and its resistance against the wind to save it from wind. So they slice it, they tear it, they collapse the middle of it, and they throw heavy clumps of snow on top of it. The flashlight is thrown on top to serve as a marker or a beacon.
They leave, with intentions to return when the weather subsides and try to salvage the tent. Okay, but why didn't they put their shoes on if they had time to save the tent?
Explaining human behaviour during an emergency is often hard to do. But, here are my thoughts as to why they don't have shoes on. I think the answer is a combination of all 5 explanations.
1. Time. I believe these extreme force winds emerged quickly. We can tell by the group's last photograph that when they were preparing the tent sight the wind was very strong. You can see it plainly in the picture. However, at some point during the night I think the wind went from strong to emergency within the space of a few minutes. Maybe their actions in slicing the tent and burying it literally occur in the space of 30 seconds. When it is all written down plainly in a post like mine, it gives the false idea that these actions occurred logically and thoughtfully over a long period of time. This probably all occurred so quickly that those without shoes didn't have time to get them.
2. Danger. Not finding their shoes may have been the correct decision. The wind posed a legitimate threat to their lives on the slope. Once they were out of the tent, the thought of standing up there, digging through the collapsed tent in the dark and finding their shoes was not even on the table. I like to imagine it as being inside a room that is ablaze with fire. Sure, you can probably last a few extra seconds if you are determined, but most people are going to be screaming to leave ASAP.
3. Mob mentality. All it could have taken was one or two members of the group to scream "FORGET THE SHOES! WE NEED TO LEAVE!" and others follow. In a life or death emergency, the first people to act are the ones who set the standard of behaviour. Perhaps it was Igor himself who made the decision that they didn't have the time to find their shoes. It is interesting to note that the oldest member of the group, Zolotaryov, was the one who did have valenki boots on. This is completely speculative but maybe he was old/wise enough to prepare better than the younger members?
4. Poor communication. The majority of the group may not have realised that they were going to have the leave the tent until they were already outside of the tent. This works strongly in conjunction with the time explanation. Most of them were probably sitting there, terrified beyond belief by the wind, not exactly sure on what the ringleaders were doing. If this all occurred within meer seconds, this is almost certainly the case. It is unlikely that all nine members were truly in synch with each other.
5. They didn't even consider it. This ties in with the time and danger explanations. They may have been filled with so much adrenaline and severe panic that they didn't even think to get their shoes on until they were already outside. By then, they deemed it safer (or easier) to just keep going. "We'll be okay once we get into the trees" sort of mentality. Okay, but why did they walk down the slope slowly as a group? If their lives were in danger on the slope, wouldn't they run - not walk - away?
I have been in hurricane force winds before. The absolute last thing you will ever do is run (especially down a slope) when you feel wind so strong that it feels as if it can pick you up and throw you at any moment. Especially when you factor in night time conditions with bad visibility. The group had enough experience and enough sense to know that staggering down the hill together was the correct decision.Okay, but what caused the injuries?
1. Superficial injuries were caused by foraging for branches, panicking, seeing friends die, and running around a forest during extreme weather in the middle of the night. (As an aside, when I was a teenager, in pleasant Australian conditions, I was drunk and running around the bush with my friends at night whilst camping. I remember waking up the next day and it was amazing how many cuts and bruises I had. It looked like I had been mauled by a bear. I had a huge bruise across my thigh. It all came about from running around and being an idiot at night in the bush. Combine this times 100 and that's what the group was going through)
2. Serious injuries were caused from severe impact with ice, debris, trees due to wind/falls. People may have been blown and pushed by the wind at various stages throughout the night. If this occurs at the wrong time you can be badly injured.
3. It is highly possible the den collapsed on some of them, crushing them with snow. It is also possible that many of the injuries occured post moderm.