Most theories take it for granted that they fled from the tent in fear from some real or imagined danger.
But why is it assumed that they panicked? Does the evidence really support that notion?
I think you would never leave your tent in the middle of the night in a snowstorm without proper clothes on because you heard something scary outside (remember, they only could’ve heard it from inside the tent). Why would you go outside where the scary thing is? In fact, if you heard something scary outside and you panicked, you would refuse to leave the tent. I mean, I’ve been backcountry camping. I can’t think of any noise outside that would make me slash out of the tent. To go do what? Fight? In the dark?
Put yourself in their shoes, if you heard something scary outside, you would curl in a ball, try to breathe quietly and pray it doesn’t find you. Plus, we know they didn’t flee in wild panic all the way down, because they walked single file most of the way. They were so scared that they tore through their tent instead of using the exit, then 30 meters further they were sufficiently recovered to calmly walk down? Why not go back to the tent then?
So if they were fleeing from anything, it had to be inside the tent. But if something inside the tent scared them that badly, why would they cut the tent up in that way? One wall of the tent had several long widely spaced vertical slashes that were all joined by a tear, plus several shorter horizontal cuts near the top rope, probably by two different blades. Plus several slashes that didn’t go through. That doesn’t sound like what you would do to escape a tent. One or two big slashes and everyone leaves through that.
You don’t need to mangle a tent like that to go out!
Why would you take the time to really slash up the tent like that if you are that terrified? That’s 13 cuts, not counting the ones that didn’t go through (and possibly not all of them are there).
Why would they take the time to also cut the upslope side? Are they scared or not?
So if they weren’t trying to leave, why might they cut up the tent like that? What if they were trying to let something else out? What if someone had really bad gas?
I’m just messing. I think their tent was filling up with snow, so they cut it to let the snow out.
But let me start from the beginning.
They set their tent on the slope by digging a hole.
Now see the hole is already filling back up.
The hole plus the upslope side of the tent would stick out, which would make snow pile above and around it, like an avalanche barrier. It was snowing and there was lots of windblown snow. So loads of snow piled up against the side of the tent.
Kinda like this
So they set their tent, got ready for bed, heated up their meal -- meanwhile, the snow was piling up in the hole and on the tent, and the small part of their tent that stuck out was getting hammered extra hard by the blizzard. Dyatlov wrote in his diary the previous day “The speed of the wind is similar to the air draft created by a taking off airplane”.
Under the weight of the snow and the strength of the wind, the upslope side of their tent tore where it would’ve been weakest because of the constant friction from the rope being whipped by the wind and the sandblast effect of the snow.
Snow started pouring in through this hole and their tent started filling up with snow like sand from a trap from The Mummy.
They tried to plug it by stuffing a jacket and a flashlight in. But another hole appeared, then another.
At least three holes in the upslope side of the tent.
Snow probably also poured in from the entrance, since they stuffed the stove and a jacket in there as well.
Under the extra of the snow both inside and outside, one of the ropes snapped and the tent partially collapsed and started leaning dangerously downslope. They knew they were in trouble, but were unable to leave through the entrance, as it was both buried and blocked.
They thought that a few cuts would let snow out of the tent, before the extra weight pulled the entire tent downslope or they became buried inside the tent. However, when they had slashed the tent a few times, the entire panel suddenly tore and all the occupants were swept out along with the snow.
They slid around downhill, along with a few items -- remember they were on a 30 degree slope. This would have been really disorientating, especially in the dark. They realized they wouldn’t find the tent again in the blizzard. In his diary, the day before Dyatlov wrote: “Walking is especially hard today. Visibility is very low.” And that was in the daytime.
Possibly it was so windy that they were unable to walk upslope -- they would’ve had to crawl, and if they had tried crawling about in the snow in those conditions, they 100% certainly would’ve died (thanks Nigel!).
They might also have assumed that the tent was completely destroyed/buried/swept away. I think the tent was more buried than the pictures show
Possibly they did look for it but were unable to find it. So they went downslope, thinking to shelter there until morning. They fell several times in the dark, acquiring the light fall injuries (scratches and bruises).
At moonrise, some went back to look for the tent but died before they could get there. The guys tending to fire sat down to warm up and rest a bit, thought “lemme just close my eyes for a sec” and never woke up.
We know the ravine four died after that, because they are wearing some clothes cut off people dead at the fire. However, they almost certainly died from the fall. I mean, they’re in remote Siberia, at the bottom of a cliff with injuries consistent with a fall? No need to make it more mysterious than it is.
Other things my theory explains:
The Items scattered near the tear in the tent.
The missing boots and torn socks: most of their indoor boots are unaccounted for. There are nine pairs of outdoor boots in the tent, but only a few indoor boots. One guy has only one boot?
The absence of footprints immediately around the tent.
The footprints nearby sometimes leave and rejoin the main set of footprints: it's because they were looking for the tent, other people or the scattered items from the tent.
The mess inside the tent.
The cut branches up high on the tree: someone climbed the tree to look for the tent, but the branches were blocking the view.
Second best part of this theory? We know something like this already happened.
Here is an extract from the book On the Road of Trail describing a similar scenario (tent tearing and letting in snow), except there was another camp nearby, so the hikers left and walked to that, and survived (thanks Teddy!).
... A muddy curtain of bad weather appears on the horizon ... We corral into the tent, huddled around the stove, where a faint light flickers a little, casting a pale glow on the gloomy, alert faces of people... from the north a snowstorm approached. And soon everything was whistling around, spinning in a mad whirlwind. Streaks of snowy dust flowed through the frozen slant; snow drifting ominously.
The tent is arched from the pressure of the wind. The stove has gone out. Firewood is over, the cold finds a gap, seeps inside. We are wrapped in warm clothes. It is impossible to fall asleep, but the conversation is not getting better... what will happen if the wind breaks our tent and we find ourselves face to face with a snowstorm on bare rocks, far from the forest?...
A snowdrift piled up heavily on the tent on the windward side, the wall bent dangerously, and soon the rope it the middle broke, unable to withstand the weight... The hanging snowdrift had already taken a third of the site away from us and continued to press from above, bending the crossbar. It was at that moment that a new ferocious squall hit, and the canvas wall broke in half. A mountain of snow fell on us.
– Get dressed and go out! - Lebedev orders. A scuffle begins in the twilight, no one can find their belongings, you hear curses. The wind flaps the torn sides of the tent, throwing fistfuls of snow in our faces.
– I say, get out! - Lebedev's voice is heard through the howl of the storm.
– Presnikov, you are holding back everybody detain all.
– I lost my hat, – he screams back.
– Cover your head with a bag and get out! - orders Lebedev, wrapping a rope around himself and passing the end to his comrades.
The snowstorm brings down on us all its might. The chill is blinding the eyes, burns the nostrils. Lebedev is ahead, behind him, holding the rope, the others are walking. Moving almost blindly, it is difficult to get to the slope. It becomes easier to walk, because under your feet the descent and snowstorm are somewhat quieter here. We go at random among the small rocks, along hollows with steep slopes. Obviously, we descend down to the ravine, where there must be a forest, which means there will be a fire. We don’t dream about anything else... Only an hour later, the steepness of the descent broke, the placers and the rocks were left behind. Smooth drifted snow under our feet, slippery as ice ... We go down the ravine even lower and notice freshly cut stumps, and then tents are shown. Well done Kirill Rodionovich - how confidently he led us to the camp! And now we are at a great fun bonfire that has given us strength and good spirits. The ropes are untied, there is laughter...
... On the pass we saw snow mounds, like dunes of oblong shape, located in the direction of the wind. And where our tent stood, a frozen mound with an overhanging snow cornice towered ... We did not excavate the mound, it was late, and the snow hardened so much that it could only be cut with axes. We will do it tomorrow …
That sounds pretty similar to what happened in Dyatlov Pass! Except there was no camp for them to go to, so they tried to save their tent, then went down to the forest for shelter.
Best part about this theory? This is something we can actually test! I’m going to make a small scale model of the tent and try it out with a leaf blower!
I think WAB made a model already? If you could give me more details about it?
Few more things:
Why they did they pitch their tent in that spot? They probably got caught by the dark. They moved more slowly than planned and they couldn’t make their planned destination for the night, and figured it was safer to camp than to keep going in the dark. Remember Dyatlov wrote that walking was difficult that day.
We know that much of the footprints were erased (there should at least be footprints from them setting up the tent) so there might be actually a lot more footprints. There might have been footprints all around, looking for the tent. Why do we assume that it’s tracks leading directly from the tent to the forest?
The burned hands and feet is an easy one. The guy was trying to warm by the fire and lost consciousness. Or he didn’t feel the burn because of frostbite.
The torn clothes the woman was wearing: when she found her friend’s body, he was already frozen, so she couldn’t remove his clothes the normal way.
The two coats have to have been irradiated before the trip, otherwise all their clothes would be irradiated. And the two men who had the radioactive clothes both worked in a radiation facility. And I mean, sloppy radiation safety in the Soviet Union in the 1950s? You don't say.
The cut trees at the bottom that weren’t burnt: these were used for the shelter (when they first found the cut trees, they didn’t know about the shelter yet).
The missing lips, nose and tongue: a small animal would struggle to eat a frozen body, especially through clothes, so it would just nip away at the softest tissues (this is why if you die with a pet inside the house, it will eat your face after a few days.)
Oh, and also, when they say they were in their underwear, they mean stuff like long johns, not like boxers shorts only. They weren’t that “undressed”.
I also feel that people overestimate how experienced these people were. They hadn't even gotten their full qualifications yet. To me, an expert is somebody who has gotten all his qualifications at least 10 years ago.
There is also information that seems to have been simply made up decades after the incident, adding to the “mystery”.
Also, some people insist that anything unexplained must be evidence of a murder or a conspiracy of some sort. But not really. Something unexplained is just that, unexplained. It could just be a mysterious accident. Just because the case is really mysterious doesn’t mean there must be some bizarre explanation as well.
Let me know what you think!
Thanks for reading!