DYATLOV PASS

M. A. Akselrod witness testimony

19-03-2018

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Protocol
witness testimony

April 24, 1959 prosecutor criminalist of the Sverdlovsk region Ivanov interrogated as a witness, subject to Art. 162-168 Code of Criminal Procedure of the RSFSR

  1. Surname, name and middle name: Akselrod Moses Abramovich
  2. Year of birth 1932
  3. Place of birth: city of Velikie Luki
  4. Nationality: Jewish
  5. Political affiliation: none
  6. Education: in 1956 graduated from the Ural Polytechnic Institute
  7. Occupation a) currently: Senior master of the Ural Hydromash plant
    b) at the moment of the events: the same
  8. Criminal record: no
  9. Permanent residence: industrial area Sysert, st. Rosa Luxemburg 6, apt. 2
  10. Passport: -
  11. Relation to the accused: -

Warned on the responsibility for the first part of Art. 92 of the Criminal Code for refusing to testify and under Art. 95 Criminal Code of the RSFSR for deliberately giving false testimony.

Akselrod (signature)

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In February-March 1958, I was the head of a third-category tourist trek in the Subpolar Urals (the district of Narodnaya). Among the participants in the expedition was Igor Dyatlov. Prior to this campaign, we were both participants in a trek of third category of difficulty in the Sayan Mountains in the summer of 1956. My first acquaintance with Dyatlov refers to 1954, by the time of his admission in the institute. At that time I was the chairman of the bureau of the tourist section of the institute. From the point of view of tourist experience, and just human qualities, I hardly knew Dyatlov at that time, so our first acquaintance dates back to 1956 (in terms of close acquaintance).

Our Sayan group consisted mainly of graduates of the Institute and engineers, perhaps that's why Dyatlov being a sophomore kept to himself, not befriending with anyone particularly close. Dyatlov's great contribution to the organization of the expedition was two transceiver-ultrashort wave devices designed for communication between the groups. I was the supply manager of the group, my responsibilities were, among other things, the distribution of cargo between the group members, and in this aspect I had a serious claim to Dyatlov after the campaign. I trusted him to weigh his own radio and he cheated with 3 kg. This came to light on the third day of the trek. I emphasize that this is my only argument with him and that it was in 1956. After the Sayan

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expedition I went to work in Siberia, from there I returned only in April 1957 and my next meeting with Dyatlov took place in the winter of 1958 in a winter trek. I must say that Dyatlov struck me with the change from Dyatlov, whom I knew in 1956. He was an open, self-sacrificing, kind comrade, serious about serious matters, able to contribute, where necessary, a dose of humor, etc.

In the group, he was highly respected for the above qualities, for physical endurance, for tourist experience, for being ready at any time to perform any task. Naturally, as a leader, I appreciated these most recent qualities in him. Long days and nights, evenings spent at the fire led to the fact that we became friends with Dyatlov. My friend was a man who, in addition to serious attitude to tourism (where we met), took life very seriously in all its manifestations (books, studies, science - especially art).

After the Dyatlov and other members of the group (Bartolomey, Han, Chubarev, Halizov) went on a campaign of III category difficulty, they were given the right to lead similar campaigns. So after our return to Sverdlovsk, the question arose where should these tourists go next winter to exercise this right. This question was not resolved and I learned about the final route of Dyatlov from himself

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approximately in November. In November or December, I do not remember exactly, I was witness of Dyatlov's visit to the meeting of the city section with the draft of the campaign. The project commission was sent to a consultation with Maslennikov. After the end of the section, Dyatlov and Kolmogorova (she was also in this section) saw me off to the building of the regional party school. We talked a lot, in particular about the campaign, I recommended Dyatlov to enforce strict discipline in the campaign in order to get out as soon as possible. It is better to have time in reserve than to overdue. Both of them, Dyatlov and Kolmogorova, quite seriously persuaded me to take part in their campaign. Judging by their mood, they didn't have any doubt that the campaign will go well, and they expected a lot for themselves. Perhaps, it was not in December, but in January, because I now remember that this was our last meeting. I promised Dyatlov that I would visit him somewhere on the 20th of February and find out everything about their campaign. Concluding this section, I want to note that the personal qualities of Dyatlov should be attributed to his direct expression of many feelings, like delight, satisfaction, joy.

On February 22, Sunday, using my stay in hike Sverdlovsk, I went to the dormitory №10 of the UPI to Dyatlov room. To my question whether Dyatlovhas returned, a neighbor of his Chigvintsev, answered that he haven't, and that the search for the group had begun. There I first heard about the tragedy, I heard that the search had begun. On the 23rd I worked full day at the factory, and 24 at twelve o'clock in the morning I started to call Sver -

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dlovsk in order to find out whether there is anything new about Dyatlov group. I called Rubel. She told me that Maslennikov flew to Ivdel. It became clear to me that the situation was taking a very serious turn. About a quarter to twelve I called the headquarters of the search operation in UPI, Blinova, who knew me, picked up the phone, she told me that in the morning an airplane was flying to Ivdel and that, perhaps, it would be possible for me to fly on it. At half past two at night I was at the institute, and in the morning I insisted before Slobodin about my departure to Ivdel, justifying my demand with experience (I'm the only one in Sverdlovsk who has four winter hikes of the highest difficulty category) and the fact that Dyatlov went to the three winter expeditions with me and therefore to some extent should have inherent my "creative handwriting", if I may say so how to choose micro-sites, camp sites, ways of ascent, etc. Not wanting to take responsibility for my flight to the mountains Slobodin refused. I was helped by the head of the training and sports department of the sports club UPI - Milman P. S., who phoned with Repyev P. A., introduced me and arranged for me a business trip from the City Committee of Sport and Physical Education for search and rescue operations. Together with students, radio operators, mountaineers Sogrin and Tipikin, I flew to Ivdel on the evening of February 25, where I went almost immediately to a meeting of the search headquarters. I questioned the stay of Slobtsov group on Mt Otorten and suggested to drop off our small, but maneuverable -

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group on Otorten the further north point of Dyatlov group route. After a long discussion, the proposal was accepted. During the orga meeting of the staff, became apparent the feeble competence of its members, with the exception of Maslennikov, in tourism in general and in the searches organization of this type of search in particular. The members of the staff can not be blamed for this, but in such circumstances it was necessary to assign the search to the mountaneers I reckon, leaving the general leadership and organization to the staff. On February 26, despite bad weather, my group (I was appointed as a leader) including Akselrod, Sogrin, Tipikin, Yaburov, Chigvintsev landed from a helicopter at 4 pm 8 kilometers east of Otorten peak. Since it was already evening, I decided not to carry out searches on this day, but to stop for the night, which we did below the forest boundary in the valley of Sulpa river. On the morning of 27 February at 8:10 the search group consisting of Akselrod, Sogrin and Tipikin, went in search of, leaving in the camp for communication with the plane (this was agreed in advance) Chigvintsev and Yaburov with the RBS radio station. We returned to the camp at 7 pm. For 10 hours of searches with a fifteen-minute break for lunch, we went through the search for about forty, forty-five kilometers, going around the forest border the entire valley of the western tributary of the Sulpa river, having inspected all passes between

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the peaks of the mountains of Otorten, 1024, 1039, 1041, making the traverse of the peak of Otorten from south-west to north-east and separately climbing to Otorten with a by-pass of the southern corner of Otorten. From the top of the mountain was a note, dated 1956, left by tourists from the Moscow State University. About 1 pm the airplane flying over us dropped the canister with the order to carefully continue further searches with the message that all the belongings and skis of Dyatlov group were found 12-13 km south of us on the slope of 1079. It became clear to me that the Dyatlov group are dead and I suggested we bow our heads. It was clear that without the skis the group could not go anywhere. With the departure from Ivdel, we had an agreement that on February 28, in 4 days, a helicopter will be sent for us. About 5 pm on February 28 the group was sent back to Ivdel. We flew together with the Regional Prosecutor General Tempalov. He informed me that four underdressed bodies were found: Dyatlov, Kolmogorova, Krivonischenko and Zolotaryov (subsequently identified as Doroshenko). In Ivdel, to Artyukov's question, what are our further plans, I personally and the entire group fully provided our time at the disposal of the search headquarters and the next day, together with the regional prosecutor criminalist Ivanov L. N. Sogrin, Tipikin and I were dropped off by a helicopter in the search area. We immediately had to change our boots with felt boots and take part in the loading of the tent and

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Dyatlov group belongings into the helicopter. Three bodies - Kolmogorova, Dyatlov and Doroshenko, lay already brought from the valley near the boot rock on the pass. The group immediately took part in the search. It was clear to me that none of the dead had left the valley, a lot of time had passed, the bodies, of course, lay under the snow, and they need to be searched only here. From that day until the day of departure (March 9), I took part in the searches every day with a probe in my hands. At first I participated as the head of my, five people group, but then, with the departure of some of the tourists to Ivdel, as the head of the entire civilian part of the search group. The tactics of searching were not established from the very beginning. Initially, the search groups went on in a wide search, seldom and superficially piercing the snow cover with ski poles from tent to the cedar (1500 m) and then the tactic changed. The searchers, standing close to each other, elbow to elbow, walked along or across the slopes of the searched area, deeply probing the snow with metal probes. This method yielded results: on March 5, one of the participants of the deceased group, Rustem Slobodin, was found under snow, thick not less than 350 mm. He lay with his belly down, arms outstretched, on one of which - the right one, the joint of the thumb was bruised. The same hand had a watch. On the head a hat, on the basis of which I believe that at the time of death, there was not a particularly strong wind, since it would inevitably blow off the cap from his head if not while alive, then when Slobodin was already dead. One leg, the right (I can be mistaken) was in felt boot, the left without it, pulled up under the right leg. The face was very

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quiet, no evidence of violence was visible on external examination. Under the knees, chest, i.e. parts of the body to which the gravity of the person lying was distributed, there was a half-ice-half-snow layer about 70-80 mm thick, which led me to the conclusion that Slobodin did not die instantly, but was alive for some time after falling. The body was approximately in the middle between Kolmogorova and Dyatlov. As you know, two bodies were found at the cedar: Krivonischenko and Doroshenko, but a careful study of the fireplace makes it possible to believe that there were more people at the campfire. I am basing this on the following: 1.) Judging by the debris, the two can not cope with the amount of work done there. 2.) A small scorched, obviously female handkerchief was found at the fire. 3.) A tattered cuff of a dark-colored sweater is found, which doesn't belong on any of the hikers accounted for.

What is my personal impression of the scenario of the death of the group?
On February 1, the group got up late. It is late, because the day before, judging by the diary, the group is very tired, and because in the morning, or after the diary was written late in the evening it was decided to do the cache site in order to free up the shoulders worn out by the previous days, increase the speed of movement. In the morning the group got up at 11 and proceeded to build the storage. While they were setting up the storage, and sorting out what to take with them and what to leave (the day before it was not done, because the storage site was in question), breakfast was ready.

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It was about 2 pm. And I think that the group started not earlier than half past three, setting one of the 2 tasks: 1) pass from forest to forest, from Auspiya valley to Lozva valley or 2) considering the fact that for several days the group has been walking in extremely deep snow, which makes the movement extremely tedious, considering that the group had had a good rest on for half-day, late breakfast, to move as far as possible along the forest boundary, without going into the forest (deep snow), towards Otorten so that the next evening would certainly be near Otorten itself. The group with lightweight backpacks goes on the route, but at a relatively later time - about 5 pm, poor visibility, more precisely, the absence of it makes the group stop for the night outside the forest. This does not exclude any of the options offered here. Was there a decision on a overnight at a exposed place (I deliberately avoided the word slope, because I believe that the slope, as such, did not play any role in their deaths) justified? In my opinion, yes. Why?

Last year, in the Subpolar Urals, we had four such overnights. All of them were in such conditions, when the security considerations of the group dictated the need to stop there where there is a place, while there is still a bright light to pitch the tent. It was in severe (-25 -30°C) frosts and there was no reason to admit this decision was not tactically incorrect. So Dyatlov had precedents, and they stopped at night not out of weakness, not blindly obeying the forces of nature. It should be noted that the high-altitude mountaineering consist only of the nights on

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snow, in severe frosts and, often, in a blizzard and snowstorm. It is not excluded that while the group was pitching up the tent 2-3 people went to investigate around. The tent is set. The tent is set taking into account the bad weather. Strongly stretched roof, on the windward side inside are packed backpacks, at the entrance there is a "barricade" with the stove, backpacks so that it does not blow out. In the tent, of course, the subzero temperature and you need to exercise self-control and endurance, so as to bend your hands in a 25-30° degree frost, fill your diaries. The only thing that they had the strength and humor for - it was the release of "Evening Otorten". It is evening, not fun, or daytime or something else. This is the work of their collective efforts, instead of writing personal diaries. Personally, letters seem to me angular, and the handwriting is similar to Zolotaryov's, but with significant changes. This is possible in the freezing temperatures. By the way, from the diaries it appears that Zolotaryov liked to draw and the chap, judging by the photographs, was no stranger to humor. Lots of laughing the group rested for the day (they cover only 2-3 kilometers with lightweight backpacks) the group goes to bed. The tent is quiet, only the wind blows around. For 8 of the nine night like this is a new experience. One can rely only on its own harding and relative warmth, and did not put on his lined with fur inner boots, or maybe just laid them out of his backpack and could not find them later. Another lay with felt boots, but at night one leg froze, so in order to

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rub it, removed one felt boots, or, on the contrary, put on a felt boot on the foot that started to freeze. The awakening was terrifying. My firm belief is that nothing and no one inside could not enduce panic terror among the hikers. From the inside, in the sense in the tent itself. Hence, they were forced to escape the manifestation of some kind of external forces. If they are asleep in the tent, tent is closed, then it is either very bright light, or very bright strong noise, or both. It may be that the signal to escape was given by one of the guys who had come out to relief himself, who dropped a flashlight from the surprise. At the entrance only a few toggles are open. The triangular back end of the tent is stretched well, and it's not easy for even one person to scramble underneath. Hustle, crushing. Maybe at this time, not knowing what to grab Slobodin put on a felt boot (his own?). In someone gets falls a saving knife. The tent is cut not succesfully right away, but with the third stroke and a panic flight begins along the wind, to where it is easiest to run. They only then thought of the fact that there is a forest. I stood with the rescuers for a long time on the site of the tent with a group of tourists (Sogrin, Korolyov, Baskin, Shuleshko) and we came to the unanimous conclusion that if they had only one chance to return, they would have returned regardless of the strenght of the wind. The group is running. But these are not animals, but young, energetic, Soviet people. They run together. Somewhere on the stone ridge Slobodin trips and smashes his head and soon falls. The tent is not visible anymore, legs

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burn from the cold snow, and maybe Slobodin falls at the end of the group of fugitives, and remains lying on the snow. And somewhere even earlier Zina Kolmogorova lost sight of the group. After wondering for a long time, she also lies down on the snow. The rest reach the forest, in the deep snow and begin with inhuman efforts to fight for life. At the price of a long time frostbitten hands and feet, a fire is lit and Dyatlov, the leader of the group, a faithful comrade, goes in search of the stragglers and freezes there. Could be that Kolmogorova went looking for Dyatlov and Slobodin. It has not downed on her her yet that it's about life and death that the group can not be broken up, but she was always in the team (at first the trade school, then the school, the institute, the tourist section) and for her the tourist slogan "Die yourself, but save your comrade" is not an empty phrase. She goes into the snowstorm, up and falls down exhausted in the snow and freezes. There are several people at the fire. They decided to collect fallen branches behind the cedar, to cover themselves with them and wait out the bad weather, especially since thin firewood is not easy to find, they can not break down thick branches, and their hands and feet are already frost-bitten. They understand that they will not be able to return to the tent. Two, Krivonischenko and Doroshenko, falling asleep, die, and the rest in the last attempt to save their lives rush either to the storage room or to the tent. On their way, they are overtaken by death.

The search for the group begins. A tent was found. While it was being dug out, from the bags and blankets rusks could have fallen out, and the piece of lard cut earlier by someone. It is unlikely that anyone will think of

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getting ready so early for the night, having plenty of time left without finishing changing clothes or done their satirical propaganda leaflet to sit down for dinner.

In addition, I want to express my opinion on the organization and techniques of searches. The organization of searches from the moment I came to Ivdel Maslennikov (throwing up assaults on the route at several points) does not raise any objections. There is also no doubt that the practice of methodically probing the most probable locations safety of the frozen tourists, established by the end of my stay at the site of searches, is not in doubt either. I believe that this method in the conditions of a snowy winter and the existing gap in time between the death of the group and the beginning of searches was the most rational. Naturally, if the search began within 2 days after the death of tourists, then the best would be a free search. Now it is only possible to say that for a faster detection of the location of bodies in the search area, it was necessary to recruit more people at the beginning.

The question arises whether the existing practice of training tourist for expeditions is in danger. Unfortunately yes.
And this is why:

  1. Unfortunately, neither the Rospromsovet not the light industry can provide specialized tourist equipment for winter treks such as: 1. Glued broad skis with a metal edging. 2. Warmed storm suits. 3. Special shoes. 4. Special tents stoves etc.

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  1. In each separate region of the Union tourism is left neglected. The current situation is such that the route along the Urals can be approved in Moldova, and the Moldovan route in Sverdlovsk. In my opinion, it would be necessary to create a route commission in each district, which would have the right to approve hikes in this area. This, by the way, will lead to the fact that the groups will start preparing for the campaigns in advance.
  2. For every large tourist area, following the pattern of mountaineering, it is necessary to create rescue teams with its own untouchable supply of food, equipment, with full time job rescuers.
  3. Light walkie-talkies need to be designed and manufactured, so it is possible to communicate with planes sent by the chief of the rescue team of the area over the places of tourists routes.

M. Akselrod (signature)
24/IV-59

Prosecutor criminalist
Ivanov (signature)

 

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