I was at the DPI venue this year. And I have to say that the forest is (not very pronounced at all) along the entire slope (of course about 1 km from the point where the tent is supposed to be). But there is no forest at the top of the mountain (I would call it a hill). It should be noted that this mountain is also much less steep than I imagined. There could not have been any avalanche there either in theory.
Above all, this is an area that was completely different for me than I expected.
Most of all, I was surprised by the "ravine" which is approx. 100 m from the cedar. There is no ravine at all, but just a plain stream. Where even if you want you have nowhere to fall. Above all you get the feeling that nothing can happen in such an area. You feel safe.
I've seen Youtube videos of people walking that mountain, supposedly taking the same route that the group did down to around where they started the fire, and of course the photos from that time (and the Discovery Channel documentary). There are a lot of rocky protrusions, apparently, but not much tree cover (as you said, "no very pronounced at all"), and yes, it's not steep. Now when the rescuers took photos, the "den" apparently needed to be dug out and was deep under the snow, the point being that we don't know if there was a snow drift the "ravine 4" fell through, nor do we know what injuries were sustained, if any, prior to the apparent fall at least some of the 4 took onto the rocky creek. I think it's also important to point out that the group did a whole lot of work that night, after leaving the tent. The fire was said to be robust, lasting 1 to 2 hours, and there was a large amount of tree branches scattered throughout that entire area (from the fire to the "den"), along with what they did with the "den" itself, and however much work it took to secure the tent. To me this is important because when you aren't dressed well and you do that much work under those conditions, as soon as you stop, you may feel overheated for a few minutes but then you get super cold (I experimented with this when I was much younger and shoveled snow), so instead of "paradoxical undressing," it seems that after they started the fire (which apparently was not easy, with lots of used match sticks around the area), they then realized it wasn't keeping them warm enough (and also it seems like they recognized that the winds were the major problem, hence the need for the "den"). Simply, they had a plan but it was the wrong one (they should have taken the blankets and found a spot fairly protected from the winds and huddled together wrapped in the blankets), though there's no way to know for sure if any plan would have worked. I think Zina had this thought, blamed Igor (read the diaries), and decided to go back to tent. Slodobin and Igor then decided to go after her, to try and get her to come back, but it was far too late, in terms of hypothermia. They didn't have much evidence of frostbite on their bodies, which is also consistent with my notion about working too much under those conditions wearing the clothes they had on, but while you are working hard you feel fine. The problem is you can only do so much before you lose energy and have to stop, and that's when the situation becomes so dangerous.