Otorten Mountain, Mountain Of the Dead; The Most Mysterious And Horrific Incident of the 20th Century

By Ayesha Bashir

Khyatlov Pass or Mountain of the dead, as it is called by the Northern Siberian natives witnessed, what can be defined as  one of the most mysterious and horrific incidents of the 20th century.

A group of Russian hikers from Ural Polytechnic Institute embarked on a trip in early February to Otorten Mountain in Northern Urals which in Mansi language means ‘don’t go there’. However, after two weeks of no contacts, a search team was sent to investigate the disappearance and their finds were shocking.

When the team reached the point, they saw the tent was buttoned together but with knife slashes down the sides and with all essentials like warm clothes, water proof jackets were all intact, probably abandoned by the hikers in frenzy. Eight or nine footprints could also be seen some with either one shoe or with none at all leading towards the woods.

A view of the tent as the rescuers found it on Feb. 26, 1959. The tent had been cut open from inside, and most of the skiers had fled in socks or barefoot. Photo taken by soviet authorities at the camp of the Dyatlov Pass incident and anexed to the legal inquest that investigated the deaths.
A view of the tent as the rescuers found it on Feb. 26, 1959. The tent had been cut open from inside, and most of the skiers had fled in socks or barefoot. Photo taken by soviet authorities at the camp of the Dyatlov Pass incident and anexed to the legal inquest that investigated the deaths.


On further investigation they came across frost ridden bodies of Krivonicshenko and Doroshenkodressed only in their underwear and lying near a river next to a burnt out fire and 350 yards away lay the corpse of Igor Dyatlov the student who had put the expedition together.  Another body of Zina Kolmogorova was discovered in line 200 yards apart and few metres ahead the body of Slobodin was found buried in snow. Their direction of all these bodies suggested an attempt on the part of the victims to reach their tent.


It took another two months to come across the entire group buried under 15 ft of snow though these were better clothed than others. It seemed that they had made a cave for themselves to hide from someone/something.

Further investigation

Few of the members had internal injuries and broken bones, but no external injuries, not even a scratch, post-mortem of the 9 bodies revealed some serious anomalies with the most striking one being that of Lyudmillia’s body which was missing her eye and tongue and skin maceration on the hands.

A medical examination indicated that injuries couldn’t have been the reason of death and that one explanation can be hypothermia where due to sudden body warmth a person tends to remove off her/his clothes and since two of them were only dressed in their underwear this can be taken into consideration.

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One of the hikers had major skull damage; two other had chest injuries which according to Dr Boris couldn’t have been caused by another human and compared it to the force of a car crash.

There is a speculation, that this might be the act of the native Mansi people who might not have appreciated the hikers encroaching on their lands, however no foot prints other than that of the hikers were found on the sight to support this theory. Another analogy suggests an unexpected avalanche, but this still doesn’t explain the severe internal injuries with the absence of any external ones, other than that, they were a group of professional hikers who were aware of the possibilities of natural calamities and hence must have been well prepared.

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Some of the inquest files that were made available to the journalists suggested:

  • Six of the members may have died of hypothermia
  • No one else other than the 9 members was present on the KholatSyakhi mountain
  • Forensic radiation tests showed high levels of radioactive contamination on the clothes of their bodies.

It was believed that the group members died of a natural force and therefore the case was  officially closed by the authorities due to absence of a guilty party and the files were sent to secret archives an were made available only in 1990.

Later a statement was made by Lev Ivanov of the Soviet Union who was investigating the case, stating that his team had no explanation of the incident, however, he was forced to dismiss his inquest.

A number of rumours relating to an alien attack or that of Russian yeti have surrounded the incident, more so because there were claims by another group of hikers who were camping at the same time 50km south of the Dyatlov camp base to have seen orange spheres in the sky that night. Similar spheres were also observed in the adjacent areas continually during Feb-March by different witnesses.

A Dyatlov Foundation was founded which aims for the reopening of the investigation by Russian officials.

I’m awaiting its result with abated breath. Are you?

The world has many such unresolved mysteries, right under our noses. If you’re keen on discussing one, leave a comment below.

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