Part 1 left the group inside the tent with a screaming Yeti outside.
The growling and screaming became incessant. Semen Zolotorev composed his breathing. Instincts and experience took over the chaos in his mind. Suppress the panic. Panic wasn’t helpful.
He peered through a slit in the tent, “Snuff the lamp, I can’t see.”
Igor doused the light. The tent went pitch black. “What do you see, Sascha?”
“Something is moving up slope, along the ridge. I see it from this end,” said Yuri. He had his head halfway through a cut in the tent.
Semen did the same thing. He had to see what was there – he had to see where they were. Ten years in the Great War…and he’d lived. One of the lucky to survive that bloody hell. Every comrade he fought with died. He’d held their bloody heads in his hands. The fucking Nazi’s couldn’t kill him – he wasn’t going to die on this mountain.
He gripped his knife tight. “If they attack, we fight back,” he said. He thought, these kids will panic soon. There was only one way to defend an attack like this – saved his ass every time – charge the attacker. Take his momentum away. Make him panic. “Igor…Georgyi…Nicolai…Aleksi. Arm yourselves.” Semen found a ski pole and blindly cut, trying to make a lance.
Whomp…something hit the tent. Zina screamed…bodies jostled…Whomp…Semen grabbed someone by the arm, “We go…now!”
He ripped his way through the tent wall and ran screaming. The others, confused, exposed and frightened, tore their way out and ran downhill. Igor stayed with Semen. “I don’t see anything,” he said.
“The filthy pigs are cowards. Do you smell them?”
“But where are they, Shascha? I don’t see anything,” said Igor.
“There you are, you bastard!”
Igor watched Semen disappear in the dark, running with his knife raised. He heard a muffled grunt, then silence.
He found Semen on the snow, on his back, staring into space.
Dazed, Semen stared where a moment ago, he’d looked straight in it’s eyes. Glowing eyes. He’d felt the knife leave his hand, firm to the hilt, as the eyes blinked and vanished in the night. No matter the size of the thing and the blinding darkness, he’d put the knife between its ribs. Knife-work was like riding a bicycle.
“Semen, are you okay?” Igor helped him to his feet.
“I got it, Igor,” he said. “That will teach them to mess with a Cossack, eh?.”
“The others have run. Let’s go. We need to stay together.”
“It sounds pissed-off,” said Semen. “Didn’t like the poke in the belly.”
“Sascha! We go now to the others. Now!”
“I’m with you, comrade. Lead the way. Fuck it’s cold.”
Igor picked up the trail of the party and followed it down slope. He tried to jog. His wooden feet made him stumble. He realized they were freezing. “I’m in socks, Semen. My God, I’m in my socks!”
“I have my Burkas. They’re wet. My feet are cold.”
“Shascha. What will we do?”
“Stay with me, I have nine lives.”
“Good, there are nine of us.”
“I may have used some…”
The grunting and growling behind them was constant, but it didn’t pursue. They walked as fast as they could, with feet like blocks of wood. The nerves were alive, though. Searing cold brought stabbing pain with every step. Igor began to think of options. He didn’t know if the others were okay. No option, but to reach them first.
Semen listened to the growls. He tried to hear individuals in the cacophony behind him. It reminded him of the Moscow zoo. The fucking monkey cage – that’s what it sounded like. A monkey cage full of freight trains. How many were there? He counted four – distinct, for sure. Maybe five.
“Is that you Zina?”
“Igor, we are in the trees.”
“I’m coming. Don’t show yourself – just keep talking. I hear you.”
“We are under the trees. I see you coming, Igor. Across the field, you are coming to us.”
“Is everybody here?” he asked, as he and Semen arrived. The party huddled beneath a cedar tree. Igor hugged Zina.
“We’re cold, Igor. We don’t have shoes,” said Georgyi.
“Everybody stand on wood, or bark, or something. Get off the snow.”
“We are. It doesn’t help! My feet are wet, and…the wind.”
“What happened, Sascha? What happened just now?” said Aleksi.
“The fucking Snowmen attacked,” said Semen…”What?”
“I never saw anything.”
“You ran. Why didn’t you stay and fight…we would have chased them away. Now, we are stuck down here. You hear their screams, don’t you?”
“I don’t know what I hear,” said Aleksi. “Damn! Why are we out here. Because a snowball hit the tent?”
“A Snowman hit the tent. What are you saying?”
“Shut-up,” said Igor. “We need a fire. Luda, grab that piece of wood. Nicolai, behind you is more…everybody.”
“What if they see it?” said Yuri.
“They’re animals. They don’t like fire,” said Semen.
“How do you know anything?” Aleksi said.
“I know,” said Semen.
“Put the fire behind the tree,” said Igor. “We’ll sit around it.”
They gathered a pile of bark and needles, sticks and branches together. They huddled in a circle around the tiny clump of debris.
“Let me,” said Semen. “Give me the matches, Georgyi. We can’t fuck around.”
“I’ll do it, Sascha,” said Igor.
“Okay, first everyone get around. Let us block the wind before you strike the match, Igor.”
“I am, Sascha. Okay, I’m lighting it now.”
Igor held the match, breathless and steady beneath the pine needles watching them glow and curl. They didn’t burst into flame, though. He tried again.
He tried two matches together, and the needles erupted into bright plasma. “Okay, okay. it’s going,” he said. He blew a steady wind to make it grow.
They all adjusted positions, grabbing branches and bark to sit on around the tiny fire. They began adding wood. Georgyi and Yuri scouted for more. They couldn’t sit still and hung over the fire to warm between runs to collect wood.
The fire blew out. Igor used a box of matches relighting it. Yuri and Georgyi kept feeding it, but the wind mercilessly consumed the meager bits as fast as they could replenish them. They began breaking dead branches from trees. Green wood smoldered and made Lyudmila’s eyes sting – already dry and windblown. Tears froze on her lashes.
The growling came loud again. Barks and shrieks filled the wind.
“You see, Aleksi,” said Semen. “That isn’t wind. That’s Snowmen. At least five of them, maybe six.”
“I hear it,” said Aleksi. “Okay, I hear it. I still didn’t see anything. What if it is just wind?”
“Are you stupid?” said Semen.
“Are you? Because of you, we are freezing in our sock feet. Did anyone else see a Snowman?”
No one spoke. They stood shivering, looking at Semen in the glow of the fire. “I saw it watching us in the pass – I told you,” he said. “I took a picture.”
“I believed you,” said Yuri. “I heard it, too.”
“I thought you were joking,” said Igor.
“You saw one of the Mansi,” said Aleksi. “Snowmen are a myth, Sascha.”
“They are up there. I saw one as big as Goliath. I just…you don’t believe anything unless it comes from the Party – you can’t think for yourself. What do you think is making that noise?”
“Why are they getting louder?” Zina asked. “Are they coming?”
“They see the smoke and hear us breaking wood,” said Sascha. “They know where we are – and they are letting us know.”
“How do you know about Snowmen, Sascha. You said you know,” asked Lyudmila.
“I know what happened in the war. That’s what I know.”
“She means Snowmen,” Aleksi insisted. “What do you know?”
“A company of men I knew. I wasn’t with them – comrades up the line. We shared our meals sometimes. I know what happened to them.”
“You were still in short pants when this happened. We died like flies in the war. Sick, frozen, starved. Stukas, machine guns, grenades…tanks. Fucking Tiger tanks. Shit, blood, puss, piss, snow, mud. That’s all we knew. No one made up scary stories. We already lived a nightmare.
“They were sent to carry messages. From the Front to the Commandant. He was way back somewhere, some village brothel no doubt, so they were gone a few days. Of course, they never returned. But they weren’t killed by the enemy. Not a human one, anyway.
“We found them in a gully. It was a kill. Fresh. Rocks, as big as…as big as an ice box were thrown on top of them. No human could do it. The feeding was the thing, though. Bones cracked and sucked dry. Heads and legs pulled from the joints…pulled like a piece of taffy.”
“Maybe it was bears, or wolves, after an earthquake.” said Nicolai. “Pulled like taffy. Wolves would do that.”
“The war made humans and animals into scavengers…and predators. Forage from the country was ravaged by the war. But meat was plentiful. I saw comrades eaten by pigs, dogs, goats, wolves, rats and foul. This wasn’t wolves. Believe me. I saw wolves eat men. It was a common thing. What happened to these comrades was different. Not even humans eat humans like that.”
“There you go again, Sascha. How would you know.”
For once, Semen stayed silent. His memory would make them shudder if he explained. The irony struck him funny – they would fear me more than the Menk.
Finally he spoke, “The other soldiers – some of them knew. They were from the Taiga. They said a Menk will follow you in the woods. At night, they take the high ground and throw rocks. They don’t want us in the forest. The Mansi told you, Igor. I heard them.”
“They just said it’s a dangerous place,” said Igor. “Gor Otorten – they call it ‘Don’t Go There,’ or something like that.”
“They said the Menk killed elk. They saw the fresh kill. Do you have any idea what a kill like that looks like? Five hundred pound animals torn apart by the bare hands of those beasts. Bones as big as your head snapped in two.”
Georgyi huddled into the fire, dropping a few sticks on the flame. He shivered uncontrollably. “I’m so cold!”
“Luda, your foot is burning. Take it out…you can’t feel the flames your feet are so frozen.”
“I can’t feel my toes.”
“We need to get to shelter,” said Semen.
“We could go to the depot,” said Rustem
“What, and play your mandolin? There’s nothing there for us and it’s way over the mountain. Look at you shiver. You can’t even walk.”
“Just trying to think of things….”
“It’s okay Rustem, we need to think of something,” said Igor.
“We need shelter from the wind. Look, we need a hole to climb into. We need to…”
“We need to go back to the tent,” said Zina.
“You don’t hear that? They’re still there,” said Semen.
“Maybe they won’t hurt us. My grandma said she knew of them. My mother told me don’t listen because it was old women talk. Grandma said they just want us to leave them alone and they take care of themselves. Let’s go back and get the blankets and our boots and skis. Let them scream all they want.”
“They hit the tent and you screamed bloody murder – that was you wasn’t it?” said Semen.
“It was just a snowball. It scared me.”
“Well, I thought it was pinching your head off. I beg your pardon.”
“I want to go to the tent,” said Zina.
“I’ll go,” said Rustem. “I have a shoe.”
“Don’t go back there. I’m finding shelter. We can survive the night. They will go away when the sun rises,” said Semen.
“Zina, let Rustem go. He can bring us supplies. Stay here and sit on my lap. Stay warm,” Igor pleaded.
Rustem Slobodin stood and walked away, before anyone could say more.
“They’re angry at us. Don’t go up there,” Semen said, then turned and walked into the trees.
The party sat in silence. Yuri climbed the tree and looked for Rustem. He broke branches to get a view. The campfire died. He looked down and saw everyone drowsing. He heard a thunk in the distance. He also thought he heard a sigh. He strained to look between the branches.
Semen came back from the trees. “I found a place.” He looked at the group. Georgyi slumped over his knees, his hand in his mouth, still. The others shivered and held each other.
Yuri yelled from the tree. “I don’t see Rustem anywhere,” he said.
Semen saw Yuri was shivering uncontrollably, hanging on the tree for dear life. “Can you see the tent?” he asked.
“I can’t tell what is happening up there,” he said. “I see things, but I don’t know. I can’t focus my eyes.”
“Get down then, Yuri,” Semen said.
“I’ll stay here,”he said. “Something is coming. Rustem is coming back.”
Lyudmila get up. Aleksi, Nicolai, Georgyi get up. I know where to go.”
“Coming Sascha. I’m coming,” said Nicolai.
“I’m going to the tent,” said Zina. “I’m cold and tired.”
“I’m coming.” said Igor. He was speaking to Zina. He didn’t recognize anyone else.
“Georgyi won’t move,” said Lyudmila. “He’s not moving, Sascha.”
Semen pulled Georgyi’s head back, “He’s dead. Take his clothes.”
Aleksi hadn’t moved in twenty minutes, except to pull his feet from the fire when they started burning. He leaned over Georgyi and stripped the pants off with his knife. “Wrap these on your feet, Lyudmila.”
Zina and Igor stood. Zina walked away and Igor followed. He stumbled after a few steps, and started crawling.
Semen led the others into the trees. He held the hand of Lyudmila. Aleksi held her other. Nicolai followed, asking, “How’d you know Georgyi is dead, Sascha?”
“When they are like that, they are dead.”
Yuri looked below him. Everyone was gone. Where did they go?
Where did everyone go?
They left the tent. Apparently with the clothes on their backs, plus the camera Zolotorev carried on his neck. Strange thing isn’t it?
They assembled together at the cedar, then ended in three different directions. Some left the tree, some stayed and died – or died and stayed – nobody knows. Certainly they were together under the cedar for some time. The evidence is they had a fire. Clothing, removed from Krivonishenko, was found with Dubinina and Zolotorev in the ravine. Three went for the tent, four went for the ravine, and two stayed, dead already, or nearly so. How the party split has bearing on some theories, especially where there is speculation a rift occurred in the group as the cause of the entire tragedy. But there is no evidence to indicate a different sequence of events.
There is every evidence they were trying to control their fate. They built fire and sought shelter. They climbed a tree – for whatever reason. That is an extraordinary expenditure of energy under the circumstances. For what? To get firewood? To see the tent? Were they hiding from something that was after them, or just hiding from the wind? The mystery deepens.
Anomalous bits of evidence lead to dead-ends. The answer demands consistency.
A number of anomalous bits of evidence, superficial connections, hearsay, unsupported anecdotal information from various people connected to the party, or the investigation, assumptions and fabrications fog the story. Some have merit and some are red herrings.
Radioactive clothing is a case in point. Dubinina and Zolotorev wore clothing found by Geiger counter to have a surface dusting of a radioactive material. Analysis indicated Beta radiation. Lantern mantles used at the time contained Alpha radiation, so although it’s a perfectly convenient explanation, it doesn’t work. The engineering students worked in laboratories at the Ural Polytechnic Institute, however. Zolotorev didn’t, but he wore Dubinina’s contaminated coat. So it is likely a laboratory is the source of the radioactivity.
It is interesting that the bodies were even scanned with a Geiger counter. It wouldn’t be normal practice, but this was no normal case. The fact of the radiation and use of the Geiger counter has supported theories of cold war espionage, to UFO’s. The Daily Plasma thinks it is a red herring, although other aspects of these theories are more interesting.
First, a theory actually examined by the investigators. Mansi tribe retribution for trespass, or some other injustice. The Mansi became suspect when investigators found the four injured in the ravine and decided they had a murder on their hands. The Mansi however were cleared. If there were any merit to the idea Mansi were involved, surely, the on-site law enforcement investigators would have found it.
Along these same lines, the possibility escaped convicts from a nearby prison camp found them and killed them. Throw in the radiation and Zolotorev’s somewhat sketchy military past, and you have espionage, either with American spies killing them in a meeting gone wrong, where one of the party intended to pass off the radioactive materials (as evidence of nuclear tests), or where the Soviets caught the spies in the act of meeting the Americans. There were such things going on in the remote parts of the U.S.S.R. during those tense, Cold War years and distrust over nuclear developments.
No evidence of anyone approaching the tent was found. The only footprints were those of the party. Nothing appears stolen. Money, supplies and valuable camera’s and gear seemed untouched. Escaped convicts would take things, unless they were depraved killers just climbing a mountain looking for victims on a freezing night. None of the party had connections to imply espionage, except some mystery over Zolotorev’s role at times during the war, yet nothing surfaces to show he’s a spy.
Much is made of orange fireballs seen in the sky in the weeks preceding and during the tragedy. Theories range from secret Soviet weapons testing to UFO’s that the group somehow ran afoul of. The scene and injuries were not consistent with an explosion, and no collateral blast evidence of any kind was found.
This photo, claimed to be the last on the party’s rolls of film, provides no useful information. It could be the orange fireball, but it could also be an overexposure from an accidental, unfocused shot.
Alien visitors, assumed to be far advanced technologically, could have a focused-beam weapon to cause injury to some and leave the others to die of exposure. Based on the first person reports of humans who claim a “third kind” encounter, however, alien contact never involves such violence. It typically involves an abduction. Victims often report odd lights, amnesia, loss of time, disorientation and alien harassment, including uncomfortable anal examinations, pieces of material injected into their skin and telepathic examinations. There was no evidence found related to abduction, or alien visitation. Some metal found near the site that raised suspicions of rockets, bombs and UFO’s were identified as pieces of radar equipment unrelated to any such event.
The orange lights, of course, may have been seen. Plasma events caused by atmospheric electrical phenomena could have been the “orange lights,” reportedly seen in the Dyatlov vicinity on that night by another expedition approximately 20, or 30 miles away. Similar sightings occurred for weeks prior, according to several local sources. These things happen in Siberia all the time.
The only way an electrical phenomena is understood to inflict injury is by a discharge. Common lightning can shatter tons of rock in a single strike, as recorded on mountain tops. The night was windy, and stormy and lightning could have occurred. High voltage injury, as experienced by transmission voltage workers will generally blow a limb off, or knock the victim to the ground, with death caused by the fall. Except for some unusual burns on hair, and clothing, which was likely caused trying to huddle and shield the fire from wind, there is little to suggest injuries were from a high voltage event.
Most of these theories don’t explain the scene as a whole. Why would orange fireballs cause them to leave the tent, for instance. One could imagine looking out the tent in amazement, but why leave it. The one scenario that has plausibility is if, in the wind and storm charged atmosphere, static charges built, causing their hair to rise, perhaps causing the tent to glow with St. Elmo’s fire. This could have signaled an impending lightning threat to the experienced mountaineers, and caused them to seek shelter in the trees.
But what then? Did they wait out the storm only to find they were too far exposed and frostbitten to return. Three of them dying because they fell into the ravine, or ironically, lightning struck them as they sheltered from it, killing them with rocky shrapnel. It is a chain of events that could have occurred. The heart of the matter lies with a closer examination of the injuries.
Before doing so, one final theory finding a popular following since the recent publication of “Dead Mountain” by Donnie Eichar. It is really a variation on these themes, but with an interesting causation. Infrasound caused by a known wind phenomena. A Kármán Vortex Street (named for Hungarian physicist Theodore von Kármán) can form when wind of a certain speed hits a dome-shaped mountain top, like Kolhat Syakhl. Vortices spinning off the obstructing object produce whirlwinds that could generate infrasound and an ear-splitting roar like an approaching avalanche..
Infrasound is low-frequency, lower than 20 Hz, below the audible range for most people. Infrasound will cause uncomfortable effects such as nausea, confusion, anxiety, and perhaps in particular combinations of power, resonance and frequency, even more damaging effects, essentially rattling the bones. Such direct effects to the body may have unhinged their state of mind, and the vibrations, or an audible roar caused them to believe an avalanche was approaching. It is assumed once out of the tent the sequence would be similar to the lightning scenario, including a fall into the ravine.
In part three, the focus will be on the corpus of wounds to the victims, in addition to individual cause of death, looking for patterns offering some conclusions. Further examination of the lethal wounds will be necessary. Some discussion of hypothermia and the dramatization will continue.
Postscript: At the end of Part One the reader was promised excerpts from the journals. The Daily Plasma prefers writing to cut and paste, and writing leads to unpredictable results. They simply fell out of the scope of the article as it developed. There is no clue to the mystery in them, other than notable exceptions that belong in Part Three.