Expedition Unknown


5-12 Feb 2019

Both shows were really well received by viewers. Lots of terrific feedback. I can’t thank you enough for all that you did to help make this trip a reality. Without you, we’d still be wandering around out there.
Warm wishes,

Dear Teddy,
We thank you once again for your enthusiasm, expertise, and tireless hard work on this episode – and we hope you enjoy it!
All the best,
Carolyn Johnson, Post Production Coordinator, Expedition Unknown

“I feel now that I wasn't walking in the hikers footsteps, but alongside them. I was given a rare window into their camaraderie, their aspirations, their bravery. And while their lives were tragically cut short, the fearless spirit of exploration they embodied will stay in forever as inspiration.” – Josh Gates, Expedition Unknown

"Researcher Teodora Hadjiyska is the world's foremost expert on the Dyatlov Pass incident, having compiled and translated every known document related to the case before putting it on the web for the public to analyze." – Josh Gates, Expedition Unknown

Josh Gates: "I have read everything that you have written about this case. You did an amazing work. I think you know everything there is to know about this case."
Teodora Hadjiyska: "Nobody knows everything about this case, I can assure of that. The more you read the weirder it gets."

31 January 1959
Weather today is a bit worse – wind (west), snowing (probably from the pines), since the sky is perfectly clear. Started relatively early (around 10 am). Got back on the Mansi trail. (Up to now we are following a Mansi trail on which not so long passed a hunter with deer.) Yesterday it seems we stumbled upon his resting stop. Deer didn't go any further. The hunter took the beaten trail by himself, we are following in his steps. Had a surprisingly good overnight, air is warm and dry, though it’s -18°C to -24°C. Walking is especially hard today. We can't see the trail, have to grope our way through at times. Can’t do more than 1.52 km (1 mile) per hour.
Trying out new ways to clear the path. The first in line drops his backpack, skis forward for five minutes, comes back for a 10-15 minute break, then catches up with the group. That’s one way to keep laying ski tracks non-stop. Hard on the second hiker though, who has to follow the new trail with full gear on his back. We gradually leave the Auspiya valley, it’s upwards all the way but goes rather smoothly. Thin birch grove replaces firs. The end of forest is getting closer. Wind is western, warm, piercing, with speed like the draft from airplanes at take-off. Firn, open spaces. I can't even think of setting up storage here. It's nearly 4. Have to start looking for a place to pitch the tent. We go south in the Auspiya valley. Seems this place has the deepest snow. Wind not strong, snow 1.22 m deep. We’re exhausted, but start setting up for the night. Firewood is scarce, mostly damp firs. We build the campfire on the logs, too tired to dig a fire pit. Dinner’s in the tent. Nice and warm. Can’t imagine such comfort on the ridge, with howling wind outside, hundreds of kilometers away from human settlements.

  • We had similar temperature (-13°C to -26°C) and wind (warm south west) as recorded by Dyatlov in the group's diary last entry: -18C to -24C and Wind is western, warm, penetrating.
  • We had similar moon light. This is pertinent to the visibility at night. With winds carrying so much snow the moon doesn't really matter much, but still counts.
    Dyatlov Pass: The moon on 1 Feb 1959 Dyatlov Pass: The moon on 9 Feb 2019
    1 Feb 1959 9 Feb 2019
  • We ascended to Dyatlov Pass exactly as Dyatlov described it in the diary We gradually leave the Auspiya valley, the rise is continuous, but quite smooth. I am undoubtedly reaching two conclusions that are opposite to what I preached before visiting the pass:
    1. They did not attempt to go over Dyatlov Pass on the Jan 31 or else going south in Auspiya river valley they wouldn't have ended where the labaz was found.
    2. They did go near the Memorial on the Feb 1 because this is the only logical way to climb the ridge.

Expedition Unknown

9 Feb 2019 We took this route with the snowmobiles, you can describe it as steep. Photo

1 Feb 1959 Seeing the terrain I have no doubt in my mind that this is the only possible way they might have gone. A direct line between any labaz location and the coordinates of the tent would have made it very difficult without gaining anything.

31 Jan 1959 We gradually leave the Auspiya valley, the rise is continuous, but quite smooth. Photo

Dyatlov Pass: Auspiya map with routes

Download clean Auspiya map

  • I had this list of questions:
    1. Note whether there are areas of open water in streams (especially in the area of ​​the den and bodies found in May). Whenever possible to take photos or video. Also note/take a photo-video, if there are holes, slit-blowing in the snow in streams.
      We didn't in fact go down to the cedar tree. Only Morgan Williams, the field manager did before the rest of the group arrived. When we were at the spot of Dyatlov tent the snow was a lot less than in the photos from 1959. I saw photos that Morgan made on her phone and she described to me how was her walk down the slope without skis. The walk was easy until she reached the tree line. After that there was a point when she sank up to her waist in snow, it was generally hard to walk. There was running water in open spaces, and under snow, there were holes and grottoes but not so big as to fall and hurt yourself on my opinion.
    2. Note the change in visibility at the pass as a function of time. Until what time you can navigate freely when it becomes dark, etc.
      Dawn is at 8 am, dusk is at 5:30 pm. Sunrise 8:30-9:15 am, sunset 4:45-5:30 pm.
    3. Is it possible to confuse the direction to go on the slope? By mistake, go not along the slope, but down?
      This one thing that became very clear to me. There is no other way to go but down. First to go down where they came from is much further, and second - the wind is so strong that makes it impossible to consider going to along the slope. They wouldn't have made to the memorial, going down earlier is not much shorter i.e. faster. The immediate goal is really to hide form the wind, and having ascended the previous day they were aware that the wind dies down very quickly once your approach the tree line. I have read this in testimonies, but also experienced it myself.
    4. Try to assess the difficulty of movement without skis:
      a) on the slope of Kholat Syakhl
      For me it was almost the same ski or not ski i.e. relatively easy, but we had less snow
      b) in the area of ​​cedar and den
      As I said, I didn't go down to the cedar, Morgan said it is difficult. This appraisal is personal on my opinion, but sinking up to your waist on every step is difficult for anyone.
      We didn't go down the slope because first the time advanced to 2:30 pm and we had to head down for overnight in Izba Ilycha Hut, but more importantly the weather totally closed on us, we were in visibility not more than 20-30m. The weather cleared right after we went back to the snowmobiles, as if Otorten shrouded itself not to be filmed. This photo is taken on the south slope of Dyatlov Pass when we were headed down. This is an illustration how fast the weather changes. It is unpredictable.

      I have included 6 photos and the videos below from Morgan that are from 31st of Jan. As you can see the first two are going down and the rest - going up. Her words: "once you hit the little stream it's back up hill a bit. Overall it was an obvious descent downhill before the tree line (best seen in video) then it evens out a little bit when you hit the tree line - steadily going down towards the stream but not so obvious a downward trek as it was when out of the tree line. Once you hit the water (very abrupt drop off in some of the areas we saw) it's back up hill towards the tree."
  • The Swedish-Russian expedition before us that spend the night on same spot where Dyatlov group tent has been endured -43°C and -50°C earlier in Vizhay. We had -13°C to -26°C. The night we left Dyatlov Pass i.e. 10 Feb 2019 the tent was flattened by a blizzard according to Oleg Demyanenko, who told me this while driving me to the airport. I think Ural Expeditions & Tours didn't dismantle the camp on Dyatlov Pass hoping that it will last for a while.
  • Coordinates of the tent N 61°45'30.84"E 59°25'45.96"
    Know that at present there is a cairn not more than 5m away form these coordinates i.e. the location of the tent is marked by a cairn of stones. This photo was taken by Richard Holmgren from the Swedish-Russian expedition on 1 Feb 2019. I was surprised that there is a cairn. I didn't expect anything marking the location of Dyatlov group tent.

    Dyatlov Pass: Swedish-Russian expedition 2019

Scrapbook about the expedition

Very nice guy from the Ural Expeditions & Tours, Ivan, met me at the airport and took me straight to the sports equipment store and bought the smallest size polar suit which is still very big for me, in which I look like a bomb squad. It is so heave that I might as well clear explosives in it. Specially if I turn my butt towards the explosion because it has some heavy duty asbestos plates on the buttocks.

Jokes I told story producer Lowell Goodman and he didn't find remotely funny:

  1. No respected climber wears shoe size larger than size 6 because they are missing their toes.
  2. In Ural instead the tooth fairy comes the toe fairy. Same transaction: comes while you sleep, replacing the lost toe with a small payment.

From personal exchange with Richard Holmgren whose expedition retraced Dyatlov group route days before us: "It is very important to go there and to look and touch details. To see with your own eyes. So important. One small thing I realized in the woods during extreme sub zero, was how easy it was to snap tree branches when making the bedding for the tent. I immediately recalled the broken branches on the cedar tree and how many people cant understand how they could have been snapped off. It is so easy and just a detail that need practical experience."

I was driving on the snowmobile behind Mike Libecki, and also slept next to each other on the pass, so I had the chance to exchange some thoughts with him. Libecki is very warm, friendly and brave man. Real explorer. The thing that I will never forget is that when he didn't feel like staying in high school but becoming a dirtbag in Yosemity so he can climb, he asked his grandma if he should drop out. And she said to him: "Three things are important in life: (1) do what makes you happy, (2) look forward something in the future, (3) have someone to love."

I am very, very happy to have had the chance to meet all of these people - the film crew had very good dynamics, great sweet people, Mike Libecki is such a cool guy that I initially thought he's faking it, and the support group - Oleg Demyanenko - they just worked their asses off to make all this happen. About the third aspect of my trip - my personal experience on the pass - it will take some time to be able to organize my thoughts. I wrote a diary too. It is really amazing, sorry for the general term, but I am just... not the same person when it comes to "understanding" the events. It's not that I had a revelation, but being on the spot where it happen just makes it personal experience, and I have a better understanding why nothing make sense. Pitching the tent where it was found doesn't make any sense. Going down to the cedar tree instead back to the labaz makes perfect sense - you can't go against the wind, it's brutal, you won't make it even to the memorial. We had almost same temperatures and wind that are recorded in the diaries -13°C, -26°C at night and warm south-west wind. I stood in the middle of the night in that exact spot and looked at what the Dyatlov group saw. I felt the mighty mountain and the doom of life. But I couldn't understand why.

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The Expedition

The aftermath of the storm

On February 5, 2019, the camp was set up near the outlier (rock with memorial plaque) on the Dyatlov Pass by guide Alexander Fedotov. The photos before the storm are taken from February 5 to 11, 2019. Everyone left the campsite on February 11. A storm destroyed the camp that same night. All members of the expedition were extremely lucky to have escaped a blizzard that would have reenacted the tragedy that took place on the night of February 1, 1959.

Yekaterinburg cemeteries

On 5 Feb 2019 I received mail from Irina Varkentin saying "Hello! My name is Irina, I am a journalist from Yekaterinburg. I work on the city website. I found your project about Dyatlov’s group death (https://dyatlovpass.com/). Could you answer a few questions about your project and tell us a little about yourself for our website?"

How is this for a coincidence? Having signed a NDA about EXU I explained that I wouldn't answer any questions about the expedition, but this sweet thing Irina was interested in me. Consequently - in the bears too. We met on the 13th of Feb, Olga, the interpreter was also present at the interview and we had a great connection I think. After the interview in the Hyatt Irina obliged my request to take me top the the cemeteries where Dyatlov group are buried. Mihaylovskoe is pretty much straight forward knowing that the gate is from Gagarin St, but Ivanovskoe where Krivonsichenk and Zolotaryov are buried was a little adventure. Had to cover with scarfs and wrap in skirts provided by the Voznesenskaya (Ascension) Church to ask for the memorials just to be sent out to the grave diggers in the near by shack and one of them took us right where we came from across the cemetery and walked us through the snow to the memorials.

Zolotaryov memorial is new, we were looking for the old one, which is leaning on a nearby tree. The grave digger said that he personally installed the new memorila, and that Zolotaryov's relatives are sending somebody to watch over the grave and report back to them.

Did you know that among Dyatlov group possessions were two bear toys? They belonged to Slobodin and Krivonischenko.

I brought tangerines to Dyatlov group memorials on Dyatlov Pass and Yekaterinburg commemorating this mysterious birthday when the group split a tangerine on 30 Jan 1959. The last entry of the diary that we don't know who it belongs to says "Today is the birthday of Sasha Kolevatov. Congratulations. We give him a tangerine, which he immediately divided into 8 pieces (Lyuda went into a tent and did not come out until the end of the dinner). So another day of our trek went well."

The randevú on the 13 Feb 2019 resulted in the following article. Enjoy!

Photos by Irina Varkentin

Award ceremony

It was a surprise. Josh was super busy but Kuntsevich persistence won and we all left touched by Peter Pan performance, children's owe before Josh, the diplomas and St George order pins. St George is apparently the patron Saint of pathfinders and scouts. It doesn't help that the badge resembles iron cross.

Second star to the reicht and straight on till morning.” Josh Gates

* Walt Disney's 1953 Peter Pan suggests Neverland is located in space, adding a "star" to Peter's directions: "second star to the right, and straight on till morning". From afar, these stars depict Neverland in the distance. The 2003 film version repeats this representation, as the Darling children are flown through the solar system to reach Neverland.

Another tender moment that I will remember is when maya (10) asked Josh for his phone number, and she persisted even after I told her his number doesn't work in Russia. Josh said to himself: "How do I get out of this one?", and I suggested I give her my number, so we played him mumbling random numbers and me (as if translating) giving her my US number. Later we thought that this could develop in a phantom relation and clueless Josh ending up being a character in a story he is not aware of. As he said: "I can't explain to a 10 year old why she can't have the number of a 41 year old."

Photos by Anna Yazhuk

Farewell to Yekaterinburg


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