Interview with Boris Gudkov

© Maya Piskareva June 1, 2013

It all started when Tanya (Moon) decided to check whether the note from Moscow State University students, taken from one of the peaks of Otorten by Moisey Akselrod’s group in 1959, was real during the sad epic of the search for the Dyatlov group. This note indicated the names and surnames of the participants in the ascent to Otorten in July 1956. Tanya found the address of the leader of that group, Boris Sergeevich Gudkov, and wrote him a letter. After several letters to Boris Gudkov, Tanya shared his address with me. I asked for permission to send him questions about that trek and that time... Boris Sergeevich kindly agreed to answer them. We began a correspondence, which resulted in this publication. A wonderful invention, the Internet, given to people by God! Without it, it is unlikely that we could communicate so freely, quickly and easily, while being in different parts of the world, me in Spain, Boris Sergeevich in Moscow, Otorten in the Northern Urals, and we all connected at one point.

In the process of correspondence, Boris Sergeevich sent me notes about his student hiking life and the diary of his trek to Otorten in 1956, as well as photographs of this campaign and photographs of the Artybash camp site from the time when Semyon Alekseevich Zolotaryov worked there. I am pleased to present all this to the reader and express my gratitude for the materials provided, for the responsiveness and kindness in communication to a wonderful person - Boris Sergeevich Gudkov and, of course, Tatyana Vladimirovna!

In the text: B.G. - Boris Sergeevich Gudkov

M.P.: Dear Boris Sergeevich, thank you for agreeing to answer some questions and tell people about your expedition to Otorten. Thank you very much for the hiking diary! I just read it, it’s extremely interesting. You warned me that this diary is unlikely to help me find out anything about the Dyatlov group, but it helped me understand many nuances, which I will talk about below. Boris Sergeevich, for people interested in the Dyatlov Pass incident, the history of that time, your hiking diary is just a gift!

Please tell us about yourself. Who did you work for, what treks did you go on?

B.G.: The story of my life and work is very ordinary. Having graduated from the Faculty of Chemistry of Moscow State University in January 1959, I worked for two years at the Institute of Chemical Physics of the Academy of Sciences, and then moved to the academic Institute of Organic Chemistry, where I worked from April 12, 1961 (the day of Gagarin’s flight!) until my retirement in 2007 year. The social worker who processed my pension was very surprised by the small number of entries in my work book. My entire career growth fell within the boundaries of junior to senior researcher, which I do not regret at all, since, unfortunately, I am almost completely devoid of ambition.

Boris Gudkov, 1956
Boris Gudkov, 1956

'I am curious to look at my 20-year-old self. This, however, is a "staged" photo taken at the end of the hike, in the city of Ukhta.'

Besides the North Ural, another serious hikes in which I had the opportunity to participate, as Altai in 1955 (from Chemal on the Biysk tract to Artybash, including a boat trip from end to end of Lake Teletskoye), a winter hike in 1956 in the Middle Urals, a kayak trip along the rivers of the Vologda and Arkhangelsk regions in 1957, a 1958 trip through the Caucasus (from Dombay through the Baksan Gorge at the foot of Elbrus and the Donguz-Orun pass to the Inguri trail). Yes, I also forgot the rather difficult winter hike along the Vetreniy Poyas (Windy Belt) in the Arkhangelsk region. That's probably all, the rest is minor stuff. Unfortunately, I don’t have any full notes from these trips, only photographs, a few maps and other minor "storage items". After graduating from university, my hiking career was practically over.

Oddly enough, in retirement there is always not enough time, especially since I do quite a lot of scientific editing - not only and not so much for income, but rather out of natural inclination.

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M.P.: Boris Sergeevich, your life is interesting, just like the life of any person, moreover an intelligent and educated one, and it is interesting not only for scientific discoveries, achievements and titles, for me personally this means nothing. All titles and scientific activities do not cover real human qualities and properties of the soul. And you are especially interesting to us as a witness related to the mystery of the death of the Dyatlov group, even if indirectly, as an eyewitness of a bygone time that reflected in your diary, a piece of the history of our country.

B.G.: I would like to say a few words after reading all the materials that you sent me with your first letter. I felt that I was then a stupid, thoughtless puppy who understood nothing in the world around me. How little we knew, and most importantly, wanted to know, about the places we visited, about the people living there, about the history of these places! Although, it seems, they were preparing for the trip quite seriously. However, thoughts about the pointlessness of simply dragging backpacks from point A to point B arose in me a long time ago, towards the end of my hiking career.

You are doing a great job. And not only because you are trying to understand that long-standing mysterious story. One way or another, in your conversations with the people involved in it, the living history of my country is visible. I, of course, know a lot about it, but what always moves me more is not the general reasoning, but the specific testimony of specific people with their momentary life.

M.P.: Thank you for your kind words, Boris Sergeevich. You know, I receive a lot of letters from ordinary people with gratitude for the published materials; people are interested not only in the topic of the tragic death of the unfortunate group, but also in the history of the country, the history of those places and people who unwittingly became involved in the 'Great Ural Mystery'. And I myself am interested in learning new facts, meeting new people and their life stories.

B.G.: Dear Maya Leonidovna, you, of course, know that recently there has been a whole series of programs on our television about the tragedy of the Dyatlov group. Unfortunately, this story was turned into a rather superficial show with a fair amount of - apparently, to attract a "wide audience" - mysticism, talk about the secrets of the KGB, aliens, Bigfoot etc. Malakhov's program was especially to blame about this. I don’t understand why the organizers didn't use your more interesting sources. I confess that I haven’t read all of them yet, but most of all I liked what Vladimir Askinadzi said and how he said it. I liked the sobriety of his assessments, rational skepticism, and reluctance to put forward spectacular hypotheses, which many participants in the mentioned programs were so susceptible to. This is the path that needs to be taken.

A lot of outright nonsense was said in Malakhov's program. They said, for example, that Dyatlov could not have maps of those places, that he wanted to be the first conqueror of Otorten, that he managed to get there only due to an oversight of the authorities, that then "being the leader of a hiking group he was obliged to write reports for the relevant authorities", that Otorten is in area of ​​mysterious anomalous phenomena that the Mansi especially protect these places. I testify that when we went on a hike to the upper reaches of the Pechora river in the summer of 1956, two and a half years before the tragedy of the Dyatlov group, we had quite good detailed maps, received and re-photographed by us at the Faculty of Geography of Moscow State University (they are kept in my possession now), that in no way we did not have to contact any authorities other than the city Route Commission, that I never wrote any reports to the "relevant authorities", and it never even occurred to me, and we did not encounter any mysterious anomalous phenomena there. There were difficulties, but of a completely different kind. By the way, I learned that we, it turns out, visited the very places where the Dyatlov group died only from Tatyana Vladimirovna’s letter and from television programs, although at one time we talked a lot about the very mysterious death of the Sverdlovsk hikers, despite the complete lack of information about the incident in the press.

M.P.: Of course, I heard about the series of these programs, but I haven’t watched them in full until now. I was invited to participate in the program, the editor offered to arrange a teleconference with Spain, but I decided to refuse because I knew that nothing good would come of it. Sober voices are unlikely to be heard; the ratings of programs and the channel itself require exotic versions, the most scandalous assumptions, unsupported by documents and facts. It was psychics and the authors of such versions who were given the main say. I would like to note that all the news in 'Dyatlov case', new research on this topic now appears first of all on the Internet, and then television programs are made based on these materials, sometimes with a delay of a year or even more.

You know, there was so much speculation and discussion about the note from your group. For example, that there was no note, Muscovites were never there. And when the entire Dyatlov case was recently published, along with this note, new assumptions arose that this note was a fake and was not written by Muscovites. Tanya took up the matter decisively and wrote to you. I myself did a lot of searching for people on the topic of the death of the Dyatlov group, I know how difficult and troublesome it is to find a witness and get him to tell something, even just a little, and when Tanya said that she had found you, I was simply delighted and especially because you kindly agreed to talk about your trek! Believe me, knowledgeable people will appreciate it, and from the bottom of their hearts they will thank you both for the diary and for your recollections.

B.G.: I was very surprised that there was so much talk about our note on Otorten, especially about its forgery.

The note left by Gudkov's group at the top of Otorten.The note left by Gudkov's group at the top of Otorten.

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This note is genuine, we actually made a hike to the upper reaches of the Pechora in 1956, although I personally did not climb Otorten then for some reason. I did not write the note, and the signature on it is not mine. I don’t remember why the guys wrote it on my behalf. They probably thought that it should come from the leader of the campaign. However, this ascent in the summer was not at all difficult. The hike itself turned out to be very difficult and very memorable for me, for all of us. Unfortunately, I don’t know the fates of all my friends, some are no longer alive, and your letter brought back many memories in my soul.

Petition to the city route commission.
Petition to the city route commission.

My diary will in no way help you in your research, but it can give an idea of ​​the spirit of sports tourism at that time, of the relationships inside the hiking group, which were unlikely to be much different in Dyatlov's group. I am also enclosing our petition to the city route commission. For some reason, the last name of one of our members, Andrey Pashinkin, is missing from the group list. So in fact, there were not eight, but nine of us, and the number 9, as sacramental and dangerous, was mentioned more than once in Malakhov’s program on Channel One.

M.P.: A very interesting fact, Boris Sergeevich, that your group also consisted of 9 people. And everyone came back safe and healthy from that trip. This is just an aspen stake in the heart of the version of all lovers of the occult and the number 9!

Your diary indicated that your group took another note from Otorten, students of Sverdlovsk University, who climbed Otorten two weeks before you. Do you remember how many people were listed there, and what was written in the note? Maybe you still have it, or it was sent to the address indicated there?

B.G.: The question about the note from the Sverdlovsk group on Otorten also torments me. I kept trying to remember what we did with it. In all conscience we should, of course, have sent it to them or, at worst, transferred it to the Moscow Sports Tourism Council, but nothing emerged from the fog of my memory. I don’t even remember the text of the note, but it contained what is usually written in such cases: the list of the participants, their affiliation, the date.

M.P.: God willing, we will find members of that group. They were probably the first students to climb Otorten. Or maybe not, and they also took someone’s note from the top. One of them may respond.

Boris Sergeevich, why Otorten? Why did it attract you so much? Vladimir Askinadzi says that the route is not interesting. As I understand it, there is nothing interesting if you go from Vizhay to Kholat Syakhl along Lozva and then Auspiya, it's really long and boring, and everybody goes along this route just to repeat the path of the Dyatlov group. Why were you so drawn from Moscow to Otorten? How did you find out about it? How did you plan the route, did you conquer all the peaks that you had planned?

B.G.: Why Otorten? Yes, it just somehow happened that way. Otorten was not the goal of our hike. I don’t know if we talked about it at all before starting the trek. It was just one of the points on our route, and we were driven, rather, by the romantic idea of ​​moving from Asia to Europe, rafting along the Pechora river from its headwaters, visiting places where no other group had gone before. In fact, it turned out that at least one group was literally two weeks ahead of us. We didn’t plan to "conquer the peaks" at all, and not all members of my group climbed Otorten.

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Back in January, conversations began with experts in the Northern Urals, trips to the TEU (tourist and excursion management at the Ilyich Outpost), where reports of all previous trips were kept. As a result, we had in our hands a million-scale hypsometric map (10 km scale map), a five-kilometer map and a ten-kilometer map of the Pechora River. The best and only map we used was the hypsometric chart. Without the map it would be difficult, if not impossible, for us to go. In general, it must be said that maps without indicating the heights in the area of ​​our hike are absolutely useless, since the peaks were one of the most important landmarks for us. From reports and conversations with experts, we found out that they can tell something about the first part of the route (to the ridge), and even further in a slightly more southern area. From guidebooks and Hoffmann’s very detailed and explanatory book (travel reports of 1849, 1851 and 1856), we got an idea of ​​the character of the upper Pechora and its tributaries. The most serious and responsible part of the trek - the ridge - remained for us, in fact, a blank spot. We only knew that the ridge tops in this area were treeless.

You need to keep in mind that we took pictures of the map with a camera in parts, so the frames are separate and partially overlap each other. And the real scale is not 1:1,000,000 or 1:750,000, but somewhat different (it is naturally distorted during photo enlargement, and probably during scanning), but this doesn't matter, because you cannot walk on these maps. Two circumstances are noteworthy. Firstly, the different maps do not completely coincide with each other, which, of course, did not make our life easier. Secondly, most of the settlements marked on the maps did not actually exist at the time of our hike. In any case, along our entire route after the camps and Nikolay's hut, right up to Shizhim on Pechora, we did not encounter a single village or simply a separate inhabited dwelling. On the 7.5 km scale maps there is a dotted line, which apparently marks our path, but I don’t remember whether this was done before the start of the hike or after. Now I wouldn’t undertake to pinpoint our route exactly.

Map of the route
Map of the route

Continuation of the map
Continuation of the map

Leghth of the route
Leghth of the route

M.P.: Thank you for the maps! I will place all the photographs and maps that you sent on my Yandex page, in a special album. Again, to confirm, there were no such names on the map as Kholat Syakhl, much less the Mountains of the Dead; all this was invented in our time, when it became possible to talk about the tragedy. It was just height 1079. I wonder how you defined was the transition from Europe to Asia was, were there any signs there?

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B.G.: There were, of course, no signs "Europe - Asia" in these wild places and, I believe, there are not even now. But when you stand on the Ural ridge, which is not so wide, about a hundred meters, there are no doubts of the sort. And we received all these maps and re-photographed them on the spot in daylight, on the windowsill at the Faculty of Geography of Moscow State University.

M.P.: Boris Sergeevich, from the entries in your hiking diary on Otorten, I noted the following moment: you tried to lit a fire and for a long time could not light it, until, finally, you used a piece of photographic film. Was it new film or defective? What was the situation with photographic films for hiking at that time? Was there a shortage? They say they even used film cut into pieces like photographic film? Did you carry photographic film specifically to start a fire in difficult conditions, or did you use new, undeveloped film?

B.G.: Ordinary photographic film was not at all in short supply at that time, unlike other photographic materials, for example, some types of photographic paper. But, in general, after running around Moscow stores, you could always find what you needed. Quality is another matter; there have always been problems with this. Now, of course, I don’t remember what kind of film we used to light the fire. Most likely, we had some surplus. By the way, during our hike along the Vetreniy Poyas (Windy Belt) we managed to get a truly unique, highly sensitive photographic film that made it possible to take pictures even by the light of a fire. Some acquaintances at NIKFI (film and photo institute) helped.

M.P.: Thank you, now it’s clear that there were no problems with photographic film in Moscow. Probably not in Sverdovsk either, although who knows, Krivonischenko from Chelyabinsk-40 wrote that he had problems with photographic film and asked if it was possible to get film in Sverdlovsk. A piece of film was found among the Dyatlov group, found 15 meters from the tent; the witness said that this roll of film rolled out of the tent as a result of an inspection of the tent the day before. What kind of roll it is, how many meters it is, is unknown. It turns out that it was overexposed. Witnesses say that at that time film was also used for photography.

B.G.: Cutting film into pieces and rewinding them onto photo cassettes would be much more convenient to do at home. It is unlikely that the Dyatlov group would be able to load the already cut pieces into the case; this is an extra opportunity to expose the film. Has it ever occurred to anyone to compare the film from the Dyatlov group cameras with the film from the roll?

M.P.: The investigation may have made comparisons. The fate of some of the films and this roll of film is unknown. With photographic films you get an interesting picture. They suddenly turn up in the personal archive of investigator Lev Ivanov, although according to the law they should have been confiscated from the place of inspection where they were at the time of discovery, and a seizure report should have been drawn up. Then all the negatives had to be packed in a special envelope, which was numbered and filed with the case file. After all, the films could contain some evidence, this is material evidence. People died. No one knows why they died; at the site where the tent was found, they found cameras with films and films in an sealed tin can. The killer may be captured on them. Or the moment that caused the death of the group? In any case, photographic films are the most valuable physical evidence and must be formalized according to the law so that they can later serve as full-fledged evidence in court. In fact, films are found in the possession of investigators in our time. Moreover, according to the daughter of investigator Ivanov, Alexandra Lvovna, these films were ordered to be destroyed, but Ivanov kept them in his archive, hiding them in a safe place, so much so that they could not be found immediately after his death. So, thanks to investigator Ivanov, we can see trek photographs of the Dyatlov group. Who developed these films in the forensic laboratory of Sverdlovsk, who saw them first, who cut out, perhaps, dangerous frames, leaving only insignificant ones, in their opinion, we do not know. We have what we have. Thanks to investigator Lev Ivanov, who acted against the orders.

M.P.: Boris Sergeevich, you noted in your diary that two comrades did not listen to the leader of the trek and went about on their own, about their own affairs. Was this encouraged? In your personal experience of camp life, were there often such cases when the group disobeyed the leader and even split into parts? As far as I know, sometimes such cases ended tragically.

B.G.: In general, from the very beginning, even before the election of the leader, there was an agreement that after any discussions, the final word always belongs to the leader of the trek, no matter who he is, this is the law. It wasn't even discussed. In fact, I would characterize the "political system" in the group, at least in ours, not as autocracy, but as enlightened absolutism. Still, both the boss and the members of the group were all their own guys, and the boss did not appear from somewhere above, but was elected from among his own (in particular, this troublesome duty was assigned to me, it seems to me, mainly because I did not know how to refuse). We could argue, discuss, disagree with each other, but only until the final word from the boss. Everyone initially understood that this was necessary for the safety of the group and the consequences of disobedience could be the most severe. I, unsurprisingly, have no living memory of that sad episode, but apparently the offenders were subjected to "the harsh judgment of their comrades" and no more similar cases seem to be noted in the diary.

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M.P.: The group's diary you noted that on the way to Vizhay, "the pictures all around are, in general, gloomy. Everywhere there are labor camps or traces of the activities of prisoners." Please explain this gloommy feeling. You wrote that when the group was at the 100th district, you had to be on duty with a gun all night. And different people came to your fire, which made your soul uneasy. Did the camp authorities warn you about the danger of those places, about the danger of contacts with the population, or did you yourself think that you were in the edge of the labor camps and therefore were afraid? Did anyone along the way tell you about prison escapes? Why did you decide not to shoot game until you left the camp area?

B.G.: The gloomy pictures on the way to Vizhay are, of course, towers and barbed wire, traces of activity - clear cuttings of forests.

View of the Northern Urals along Gudkov group’s route
View of the Northern Urals along Gudkov group’s route

In those places (and we started from Vizhay) there were then many labor camps, and in the first days we were forced to stay in shifts at night with the only single-barreled hunting rifle we had. We heard that the local population (Mansi) received serious material incentives for helping to capture (was it only to capture?) fugitive prisoners. At that time, we vividly discussed the "camp" versions among ourselves. As you, of course, understand, it is difficult for me to remember all the details after 57 years, but it would be difficult not to experience disturbing sensations in the "zones" even without warnings from the authorities. That’s why we decided not to hunt in the first days, so as not to provoke the emergence of some undesirable situation with shots.

M.P.: I would like to clarify this question: when you were traveling to Vizhay, was your group stopped by inspection posts along the route and how many times? What were asked and noted? And when you arrived in Vizhay, were you supposed to report to the camp authorities and report the target dates for the hike? Do you remember the camp commander? Have you gone to the Vizhay forester to ask about the route?

B.G.: There were no checks from the "inspection posts" on the way to Vizhay. And in Vizhay itself (most likely, it was there) we, of course, had to make a mark with a seal in some official institution, just like at the end of the hike. This was a strict requirement of the route commission and generally a general rule. Unfortunately, I don’t remember where exactly we got the stamps. I don’t remember if we went to the head of the forced labor camp. Hardly. And we didn’t contact the forester. We tried to get out on the route as quickly as possible so as not to experience those same unpleasant sensations.

Lezhnevka Ivdel-Vizhay
Lezhnevka Ivdel-Vizhay
Photo by Gennady Kusov, son of the head of the Vizhay labor camp, B.M. Kusov

M.P.: It turns out that posts, or zones, as they were also called, appeared on the road to Vizhay later than 1956. Local residents said that there was no checkpoint "on Vizhay"; they entered as usual, as into any village. And on the Ivdel-Vizhay road there were checkpoints, an operatives were on duty, they checked all the visitors, where, to whom, who was going. Well, in the village, hikers came into the "office", checked in, and notified the camp administration. They asked for help to get to a certain place, and they were assisted with this.

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Boris Sergeevich, was it mandatory for each participant in the hike to have a passport? Or could you be content with a pass with a photo, or some other identification document? A library card, for example, with a photo? Did you sign up for a business trip for this hike and receive a travel certificate?

B.G.: Of course, we had passports with us, although I don’t remember any specific case when they were needed. However, no, I remembered: the money for the return journey was kept on our letter of credit, and it would have been impossible to receive it without a passport in Ukhta, from where we were leaving for Moscow. A passport was not required when purchasing train tickets then. It is quite possible that during the flight from the "Kurya airport" (you should have seen this airport!) to Troitsko-Pechersk they were not very interested in our passports. We were not issued any travel certificate, but there was a covering letter from the faculty asking for assistance. We showed it to the police at the station in Ukhta, when they woke us up, sleeping on our backpacks on the floor, and asked who we were. I don’t have this letter from the Ural trek, but I have a similar one from the Altai trek.

M.P.: Could this cover letter also be called a travel certificate? As I understand it, at that time you could easily travel without passports if you didn’t have letters of credit and carried all your cash with you. If anything, you could show a piece of paper from the institute and that’s it. Return tickets were not accepted then; there was no such system, as I understand it.

B.G.: I don’t know whether a cover letter can be called a travel certificate. Hardly. It is still necessary to make some official notes on travel certificates. We called it among ourselves a "safe conduct letter". As for passports, I’m afraid you didn’t understand me quite correctly. Do not forget that in 1956, only three years had passed since the death of the great leader of all peoples and the luminary of all sciences, and the fear of being found guilty without guilt in the face of the interested authorities had not yet evaporated. So it was necessary to have evidence of your loyalty with you. And when was it different in our country? Another thing is that ordinary people and lower management could see clearly who was in front of them, and they did not have to show their passport often. But you should have had it with you.

M.P.: Boris Sergeevich, how were the documents of the group members and money kept, with whom? Did everyone carry their passport with them, or did they give it to the leader? The general money was probably kept by the treasurer, or by the leader. Did you take personal money with you, or did you mainly use letters of credit?

B.G.: As far as I remember, everyone carried their passports in their own backpack, it was safer that way. In my opinion, there was no personal money, somehow it didn’t fit into the general system of relationships in the group, but there was, of course, some total amount in cash, and sometimes you had to pay on the spot (for example, for transportation by boat from Ust-Unya to Kurya or by plane from Kurya to Troitsko-Pechersk). I can’t say for sure who kept this money, maybe even me. The letter of credit could, of course, be used only where a savings bank existed, in our particular case - in Ukhta, and this money (the bulk of our funds) was intended for return tickets to Moscow.

M.P.: Rustem Slobodin’s passport was found in his breast pocket along with a certain amount of money. Didn’t all this get in the way during a hike when the straps of a heavy backpack chafed? After all, the passport could get wrinkled, and even dig into the body under such a load, it could get wet from sweat... What do you think? Have you personally or someone you know carried a passport in the breast pocket of a shirt or kacket on a hike?

Covering letter of the group for a hike in Altai
Covering letter of the group for a hike in Altai

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B.G.: I’ll try to turn not so much to memory as to simple logic. Do not forget that the Dyatlov group walked in winter, and in these conditions it was quite natural to carry documents in their breast pockets. I don’t think the backpack straps, much less sweat, could have damaged them in any way. The straps of a properly assembled and packed backpack do not overlap the "chest pocket area", so to speak. It's a different matter in the summer. In the summer you often get caught in the rain; in the summer, the pocket of a shirt is usually not protected by the material of a windbreaker or sweater; in the summer, sweat sometimes pours out. It makes more sense, of course, to carry documents in the backpack, in some kind of waterproof container. There were no plastic bags in use in our times, and we most likely made do with oilcloth for this, as well as for storing matches. But this is not information from memory, but again simple logic. I don’t remember where or how I carried my passport. I think, depending on the circumstances, whatever was more appropriate.

M.P.: At the beginning of the route you noted the following episode: "In the evening the Sverdlovsk-Polunochnoe train dragged us further. Early in the morning we arrived in Serov. Here the cars heading to Polunochnoe stood the whole day: for some reasons traffic on this section is carried out only at night." Why at night, for what reasons?

B.G.: I am forced to refer to memory flaws that prevent me from answering the question about the reasons for the delay in Serov. It may not have been desirable for passengers to see too much on the way to Polunochnoe.

M.P.: I was struck by the entry in your hiking diary about the Mansi sites that your group encountered along the way. That there were empty bottles lying among the fire pits. In one of the photos of the Dyatlov group’s search, you can see a fire pit, charred trunks and some kind of bottle in the snow near the firelog.

Is this a bottle by the Cedar?
Is this a bottle by the Cedar?

Yuri Yudin puzzled over this photo about where the bottle came from. I considered this bottle to be important evidence of the presence of outsiders. Other researchers decided that it was not a bottle, but just a twig or fire log. Or the bottle was left behind by the searchers. I kept wondering why this photo of the remains of the fire pit and the bottle was taken, with investigator Ivanov himself standing in the background. The searchers couldn’t bring a bottle, drink it where they found two corpses near an extinguished fire, and then take a photo of the abandoned empty bottle against the backdrop of a fire log. I saw the answer in your diary - there were Mansi there! The fact that the Mansi had a resting spot near the Cedar is also confirmed by former searcher Valentin Yakimenko, and journalist Gennadiy Grigoriev, who also took part in the first days of the search, even dug up some skin in the snow near the Cedar, though now, he no longer remembers this episode, but the note about the skin remains in his notebooks. The skin was probably deerskin.

I asked Valentin Yakimenko if they had encountered traces of the Mansi in that place, the answer was affirmative. They found Mansi items in the area of ​​the pass, near the outlier and on the slope of Otorten. These were out of use and therefore abandoned Mansi items. Vladimir Askinadzi noticed that the fire near the Cedar could only be called a fire "in quotation marks"; it was a slightly burnt birch trunk, a rotten tree that could not warm up in the cold. One inevitably comes to the conclusion that it was not the Dyatlov group who lit that fire, but that it was an old Mansi camp near a cedar tree, with the remains of a fire pit and an abandoned vodka bottle. Near this Mansi site, the burnt bodies of the Dyatlov group were placed by someone. With the den, it’s not so simple either. There was a trail from fresh spruce branches to the ravine. And the den itself, as can be seen from the photo, was mainly made of old crumbling fir branches, with smooth cut edges, and it was build in a place where, according to local hunters, it was possible to track wood grouse. As if someone wanted to lead the investigation to the trace of Mansi’s involvement in the death of the group.

I was also impressed by your message in your diary that at the top of height 1079 the group discovered a Mansi sacrificial sign with a bear skull. But the Mansi, all as one, said that the mountain is not considered sacred and is not visited.

B.G.: Unfortunately, I don’t have a photograph of the bear skull. As far as I remember, there were no poles there, and we didn’t look at how the bear’s skull was secured, because we didn’t come close to it, much less touch it with our hands. Out of respect for local shrines. I remember that we encountered similar signs in other places on the ridge, perhaps on Otorten. And the Mansi could well have left the bottle. As it was clear from a conversation with Mansi Nikolay, who accompanied us for a couple of kilometers at the very beginning of the hike, the topic of alcohol interested him very much. But on the ridge we often came across "Mansi" bottles.

Yudin seemed to me, including from your interview, a very modest and very decent person. Rest in peace! Alas, our generation is leaving, and this is happening very quickly...

- 9 -

M.P.: For me personally, it was important to finally resolve the question: where did the empty bottle come from there, by the fire? You have an entry in your diary that the same Nikolay, who is Mansi, kept asking you about where he can buy alcohol. "All the way he chatted incessantly, wondering mainly whether there was vodka in Vizhay, 1st Northern and other places...”

B.G.: I have to admit that I was too little interested in local people and everyday life in the places I visited.

M.P.: Another very interesting moment noted in the diary is that your group saw a silver plane suddenly appear from somewhere, which began circling above you when the group reached the western slope of height 1079. You even saw that it has two motors. For some reason you assumed that aerial photography was being carried out. I asked one former Ivdel pilot what kind of plane could have flown there, was it an aerial photograph? He said that the best aircraft for aerial photography at that time was the Il-14, which had an autopilot and automatic program turn. Judging by your diary entry, it could have been an Il-14 or Li-2 aircraft, since there were two engines and the aircraft was silver in color.

Ilyushin IL-14M. Photo by Rodion Nikolyan
Lisunov Li-2

Aerial photography could well have been carried out from both aircraft; at that time, a lot of this work was carried out to create and update topographic maps. IL-14 could stay in the air for up to 9 hours. His only remark is this: the survey is carried out on parallel tacks, usually from west to east and back. And the diary said that the plane was circling over the group. This is more like search work, when the plane, having arrived at an object of interest, spins a spiral, expanding the search. Or maybe your group was being monitored.

An interesting point was that the plane suddenly appeared when you found yourself on the top of Kholat Syakhl, circled above you for two days, and suddenly disappeared when your group left the vicinity of Kholat Syakhl.

B.G.: The two engines of the circling plane were clearly visible. But I’m not sure whether he was circling above us. It probably had some other goal. Why did we think about aerial photography? What else could come to our minds? This was the most natural explanation. We, of course, did not know the rules of aerial photography.

M.P.: I read a very interesting passage on the topic of tragedy, which also echoes your expedition to Otorten. This applies to the very planes that circled above you for two days in a row while you were in the area of ​​height 1079. The son of one of the witnesses in the Dyatlov group’s case, Lev Gordo, wrote: "My father turned to the pilots from the Uktus airport for help. They shook their heads and said right away that the area where the group disappeared was inaccessible for flights. Perhaps nuclear warheads were stored in those places at that time. I would like to add that there are such "bans" even in the Moscow region. The territory is fenced with barbed wire, and if you go further, you can see the inscription: "Forbidden zone - shooting without warning". As a result, the pilots said that they could not fly into these squares and they needed permission from the KGB. The father was between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, the guys’ relatives demanded news. On another - there were KGB officers who strictly forbade the dissemination of any information about the Dyatlov group. A KGB officer boarded the plane to search. He immediately said that there was no need to send the guys to certain death. The Dyatlov group ended up in forbidden areas and, in fact, became state criminals. The places they wandered into were never visited by anyone. Who killed them is the second question and not so important. They became criminals - they were destroyed."

Did you ask anyone for permission to go to those places? That’s interesting, you probably went without any permits. And planes were circling above you....

Didn’t the relevant organizations control local sports tourist clubs? Didn’t they keep track of where the hikers were sent, to what areas? After all, in our country there has almost always been total control over everything and everyone...

B.G.: We really did not receive any permission to travel along our route, and it never even occurred to us to ask for such a thing, since our route lay very far from the border areas. And we didn’t attach much importance to airplanes, it was just nice to see evidence of civilization in wild places. You are absolutely right about total control, and that is why I think that all the talk about secret restricted areas in the Otorten area is complete nonsense. No matter how you feel about the activities of the "authorities", they still received some kind of professional training, and they probably could have prevented the appearance of unnecessary people in an unnecessary place without bloody incidents.

- 10 -

B.G.: The idea of storing nuclear warheads in those places seems quite ridiculous to me. To bring them there, and most importantly, to quickly take them out if necessary, you need at least reliable roads or at least a good airfield. You know much more about those parts than I do. Have you heard of anything like this? The Moscow region is a completely different matter. And who said "no one has ever walked in these places"? We went! Not counting the locals, in 1956 alone, as you know, at least two hiking groups trekked there.

M.P.: I asked the same Ivdel pilot whether it was true that in the Ivdel region there were squares into which it was forbidden to fly without KGB permission. And how will he comment on the story of Lev Gordo's son.

Here is his answer: 'Each flight is carried out strictly along the routes, and then the day before a preliminary flight plan is submitted for approval and obtaining permission. There were and still are forbidden and semi-forbidden regime zones. We knew many such areas where anti-aircraft firing training was carried out, or in the south they were shooting at thunderclouds. All of Moscow is a restricted area unless you fly along designated corridors. There was a complete ban on spaceports, military training grounds, and sensitive factories. Restricted over hydroelectric power stations and nuclear power plants. There were flights over the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and in the area of ​​Zvartnots Erevan airport. KGB officers supervised the work of air traffic controllers when a special flight regime was established in their area of ​​responsibility. And there really was order.

Military units, fenced with barbed wire, were everywhere, but these were, as a rule, units and towns with a developed network of access roads. It made no sense to store nuclear warheads, of which we clearly had few at that time in 1959, away from the launch pads. But getting all the construction facilities and intercontinental missiles there, having no roads, could only be done by helicopters, and even if observing the secrecy regime, it would hardly have been possible. I think there were no nuclear warheads there.

The KGB officer may have been in the search group, but he probably did not speak out so cynically. And hunters, geologists, and even hikers walked freely through those taiga places.'

M.P.: Boris Sergeevich, you describe very interesting details in your travel diary. On the slope of Otorten: "We walked all the time along Motya and soon came across a real road with many traces, not marked on our map. The road crossed the river valley and went east, to the ridge. Here the real taiga began, already familiar to us, and in Looking for an easier path, we climbed up."

Do you remember what kind of road it was? For some reason, all these unknown roads, unmarked on maps, and mysterious planes in that area, and even the periodic shaking of Mt Kholat Syakhl at that time, are very alarming to me.

B.G.: Memory is an unreliable thing, mine at least, and I don’t remember that road at all. I don’t think it was a somehow equipped route. I looked at the map again and still found the Motya River. This name is written by hand and is very hard to see, but if you look at the hypsometric map, you can see a stream flowing straight from the height with mark 1182 (Otorten) to the north (i.e. up) in the direction of Mount Koyp (1108) .

After Otorten
After Otorten

By the way, in the Mansi language "u" means "a river on which you can sail a boat".

A page from a camping dictionary of Mansi words taken from Hoffman’s book
A page from a camping dictionary of Mansi words taken from Hoffman’s book

I scanned the mini-dictionary of Mansi words that was with me on that trip. The words relate only to some geographical names; they were written down before the trek and were taken, it seems, from Hoffmann’s book. My handwriting was terrible; I couldn’t read everything myself.

- 11 -

It’s hard for me to imagine, judging by what I still remember, the very possibility of active military activity in those places, somehow it doesn’t seem like it. And the planes didn’t alarm us at all then. You never know what they could do there. What if it was a training flight? Now I'm almost sure that it was just an ordinary aerial photograph. What I described in my diary as circling above us could well have been the same back-and-forth tacks that the pilot was talking about. By the way, as far as I remember, the plane did not fly directly above us, but somewhat on the Asian side, and at a fairly high altitude. Its appearance at the moment of our approach to the ridge can also be explained simply. It was at this time that the weather cleared and the sun appeared, and before that there were clouds and it often rained. And we, being in the taiga, did not look at the sky very often.

M.P.: It turns out that I unwittingly pushed you to change your testimony about airplanes. You remembered new details. It's a pity how much intrigue there was. I liked it so much! But what can you do, the truth is more important. This is why I examine the evidence from all points of view in order to come to a definite conclusion. But I would like to add an addition to your words about the weather. The weather, judging by the diary entries, was sunny and hot already on July 23, and your group reached the slope of Kholat Syakhl on July 25 and climbed it on July 26 to continue the journey to Otorten. And it was on these two days that planes appeared and flew over you for a long time. Then the planes in the sky were no longer mentioned in the diary. Maybe it was an accident that they were flying over Kholat Syakhl when you passed there, or maybe not. You see, I don't give up.

B.G.: As for the plane, I don’t believe in its appearance there for our sake. No, I resolutely reject this intrigue. By the way, I noticed that you now know my diary much better than I do, for which you have honor and praise.

M.P.: Because I like it, very interesting!

Boris Sergeevich, you write that the group went down to spend the night and did not stay overnight on the slope. 'As already said, we spend the night at height 1079. Again we had to go deep down, but this time to Europe, to the sources of one of the tributaries of the Unya.' Why did you go down to the Unya, and not to the tributaries of the Lozva? Why couldn’t it be possible to spend the night on the slope, so as not to waste time climbing in the morning, but to immediately go further along the ridge?

B.G.: We went down to spend the night "in Europe" because it was more convenient and closer. Other times we set up camp "in Asia". Well, it’s just very simple: on the ridge there is no water or wood for a fire, so we had to go down to the edge of the forest.

M.P.: This seemingly obvious rule was violated in the case of the Dyatlov group, whose tent was set up on a windy slope in winter, not in summer! Without the necessary supply of firewood. At that time, when there was a forest below, it was warm, there was firewood. This oddity in choosing a place to pitch a tent is noted by some researchers familiar with hiking rules and practices. Either the Dyatlov group were forced to set up a tent on the slope for some unknown extreme reasons, or it was not the Dyatlov group who set up the tent.

Boris Sergeevich, have you gone on winter hikes? How did you set up your tent in winter? In a treeless area, did you set up a tent on skis with their bindings facing down?

B.G.: I’ve been on ski trips, but I’ve never had to pitch tents on skis, I’ve never even heard of this method. The spruce branches were always there, but we didn’t have the chance to spend the night in treeless places. But for a fire, we dug a hole in the snow right down to the ground, this created additional comfort and prevented the heat from dissipating too uselessly. That's how it seemed to us, anyway.

Maya Leonidovna, I would not attach special significance to this issue, much less look for a sinister meaning in it. Firstly, moving in winter, through deep snow, is much more difficult than in summer, and the guys could simply feel sorry for returning, "no one will take away the path we have traveled". Secondly, as far as I understand, they didn’t go that far from the edge of the forest, where they later ran in a panic, and could well have decided that they could send a couple of the strongest guys for firewood. Thirdly, once it was possible to give up hot food and get by with dry rations, because they found crusts of brisket or something like that in the tent.

M.P.: How about the weather there, on the slope of height 1079, strong winds? For some reason this is not mentioned in the diary.

B.G.: We did not encounter any special winds on the Ural ridge on that trip. But this was in the summer, in July, and journalist Gennadiy Grigoriev described what happens there in the winter.

- 12 -

M.P.: Boris Sergeevich, why do they decide to quit smoking during a hike? So the Dyatlov group also promised to quit smoking, and they found "Aromatic" cigarettes in their belongings. And your smokers suddenly bought cigarettes on the route, although they decided to quit smoking during the hike. How does smoking interfere?

B.G.: In 1956, I had not yet smoked, and it is difficult for me to answer why it is on hikes that people decide to quit smoking. Maybe because it’s not easy to get a smoke far from residential areas, and external circumstances seem to be pushing towards this difficult decision. But since I am now a smoker of over 40 years, I can confirm that it is very, very difficult. You, as a non-smoker, are unlikely to understand this.

M.P.: Boris Sergeevich, what does the group leader do if one of the hike participants suddenly gets sick along the route? Have you ever had such cases while hiking, what did you do in these cases? I want to understand why Igor Dyatlov let Yuri Yudin go alone, although there was a driver there, but the driver drove far ahead for a whole three hours, and Yudin walked alone all the way. What if something happened to him on the way back? There was no accompanying person with him. And the group did not stay at 2nd Northern for a day to wait for news whether Yudin reached the 41st district safely. Moreover, he was allowed, sick, to go with the group all day to the 2nd Northern. It seems to me that this was somehow an ill-considered decision.

B.G.: I think that in each specific case a specific decision can be made. I can’t know what kind of condition unfortunate Yudin was really in, what kind of person the driver was. If Dyatlov and his comrades left Yudin alone, it means that they did not consider the situation threatening. On another trip, in the Caucasus, one of the guys severely cut the skin on his head, there was a lot of blood. We sent him and another guy to the nearest medical center, and we ourselves waited for them on the spot for two days. Fortunately, it turned out to be nothing serious.

M.P.: In the same case, a certain irony of fate appeared: the sick Yuri Yudin returned from the trek alive and unharmed, and lived a long life. And the healthy members of the group died a few days later. A similar case of dividing a group into sick and healthy, when the healthy did not accompany the sick to the nearest settlement and soon died, while the sick and injured survived, occurred in the summer of 1961 in Transbaikalia, also with UPI students. There were seven people in the group, but three, including a girl with a broken leg and the leader, who was also injured on the descent from the Bear Pass (Kodar Range), returned, and the remaining four for some reason continued the route and died.

Boris Sergeevich, on that hike, did any places on the route influence you, instilling unconscious fear? I looked at the travel photos. The places are creepy and wild. Or, in my youth, such things were not noticed, were not recorded by the psyche?

B.G.: No, I didn’t experience any inexplicable anxious feelings on that hike. Such sensations arose as a result of the emergence of very specific situations, for example, due to the proximity of the labor camps. This happened during the 1956 trek, and especially during the earlier winter hike in the Middle Urals. And what you are asking about happened once during a winter hike in the Arkhangelsk region, when we came to a rather large, but abandoned, absolutely deserted village, where loggers once lived. Many completely intact empty houses, impossible silence, frost, a bright moon in a cloudless sky. For some reason I felt uneasy. But we spent the night there, and in the morning there was no trace left of the night’s fears.

M.P.: What happened during the winter hike in the Middle Urals?

B.G.: This trip to the Middle Urals was organized by the hiking department of the Faculty of Chemistry so that hikers who had already walked a lot could share their experience with such neophytes as we were. So the group was quite large.

Towards the end of the hike, our crowded group came to one of the camps, of which there were many in these places at that time. At night we were given a place in an empty barracks for unescorted prisoners, and in the morning they promised to send us by car to Kizil, since the presence of strangers was extremely disturbing to the labor camp authorities. In the morning, indeed, a truck arrived, which, by the way, ran not on gasoline, but on wooden blocks, and therefore had a high black column on each side of the cabin, in which a fire roared. Some serious argument broke out between the truck driver and the boss who sent him. Unfortunately, we understood its meaning too late: the prisoner driver insisted that he be allowed to stay overnight in Kizil, and the authorities demanded a return to the evening roll call. He was not permitted. As soon as we were settled in the back, the car took off, and a security guard, whose mouth was full of gold teeth, rushed after us, desperately swearing and waving a pistol. He jumped onto the step, the truck for some reason did not rush along the road to the city, but turned into the forest and soon stopped in a gloomy clearing, surrounded by tall pine trees. A huge fire was burning in the middle, and around it were blackened figures of prisoners who were quite unambiguously looking at our two suddenly quiet girls (one of them was, by the way, the daughter of film director Vasiliev and actress Myasnikova - Anka the Machine Gunner from Chapaev). It is true what they say that people on this side of the prison bars are close in spirit and live in the same world. The guard was clearly from this world and spoke the same language as the prisoners, but he still represented the law and was clearly feared. Under his supervision, pine logs were loaded into the car, and we finally got out onto the road leading into the city. The guard left us here. But we didn’t go far, getting stuck at the first small but rather steep climb. At first, the truck made it with a running start almost to the end of the climb, but then powerlessly rolled back. There were many new attempts to overcome the obstacle, we pushed the car together, put spruce branches under the wheels, but every time, almost at the very top, the engine suddenly stalled, and the truck rolled back, threatening to crush the guys pushing it. Then we finally realized that the problem was not the steepness of the climb or the malfunction of the machine. The driver did not intend to make this trip under unfavorable conditions for him.

- 13 -

Meanwhile, the short northern day was over, and we had no choice but to get on our skis and try to walk the remaining 25 kilometers to the city. At first we moved quite quickly along the well-worn road, but gradually fatigue began to take its toll, our legs began to move apart, we took off our skis and then simply pulled them along with us on a rope. In complete darkness we saw some strange barracks on the edge of the road, where we were allowed to warm up for a while. The warmth immediately melted the exhausted guys, our eyes closed involuntarily, and we would have willingly stayed here until the morning, despite all the suspicious conditions of the house, which resembled a den of robbers, if soon we had not been almost forcibly pushed back into the cold. We trudged on, literally falling asleep as we went. It was almost morning when we finally reached Kizil. Oddly enough, the guard of the school, on whose doors we had been desperately knocking for a long time, let us into the gym, where we finally collapsed on the mats covering the floor. No, perhaps it was not Kizil, but some village on the way to it, because it turned out that one of us needed to immediately go to the local car depot, where the working day was just beginning, in order to arrange a car, which would take us to the Kizil station. Although I didn’t have any such responsibility on this trip, the leader was a guy from my senior year, I still decided to show willpower and went with him. What a melancholy the snow-covered, God-forsaken village, illuminated only by the light of dim electric bulbs from the low windows of wooden houses, evokes! And here you can live your whole life? But everything comes to an end, and this test also ended. In the evening we were already sitting in the carriage of a fast train and were heading to Moscow. That's all those unsettling feelings from the hike that I mentioned.

M.P.: Yes, quite a creepy story.

Boris Sergeevich, reading reports on the hikes of other groups, I notice that they took on obligations to note, for example, the level of snow cover, observe nature, give lectures in the places where they travel, all this was included in the plan of their hike and approved by the route commission. They even took supporting documents on the spot, certificates stating that they had held such and such a lecture in such and such a locality. From the diaries of Igor Dyatlov’s group it is clear that they also performed at school in front of children, but it was not a planned performance, but rather spontaneous, because the group was allowed to rest in the school closest to the station. And they could ask the school management for a certificate that the Dyatlov group gave a lecture on hiking for reporting purposes. This was encouraged at the UPI hiking club.

Have you read the report of a group of Muscovite students from Moscow State University for 1954, a hike in the Northern Urals, led by Evgeniy Shuleshko? Do you know any of them personally? Were you required to prepare such reports? And in general, how was the report on the trek written, the same as a diary, or was it significantly different from a camp diary? Who was this report given to? And did you have to write it down, or could you just copy the travel diary and submit it to the relevant authorities?

B.G.: No, I don’t know the participants in that hike, they were several years older than us, and at 19-20 years old that’s a lot. Looking through their detailed and very practical report, I felt like a complete amateur in the face of professionals. We did not write such reports, and now I doubt whether we wrote them at all.

Unfortunately, we have never been assigned any responsibilities for observing nature. The same applies to lectures. And who could we read them to in deserted places? It’s a different matter on short, easy hikes. I remember we took part in the so-called "star" in the Kalinin region, when several groups converged from different places to one point in some regional center, I don’t remember which one, and organized an amateur concert there.

Reports on hikes were written with the aim of making it easier for followers to complete their routes, and contained descriptions of local features, recommendations, specific tips, and tips. These, of course, were not travel diaries. The reports were supposed to go to the library of the Tourist House, or whatever it was called (at least not “authorities”), but I don’t remember any fears of any sanctions for non-compliance. And we didn’t register our last couple of trips at all; we went without official documents.

M.P.: As Vladimir Askinadzi told me, the first copy of the report was always sent to Moscow and kept in the library of the All-Union Tourists Club, on the Sadovo-Kudrinskaya St. And a special section was highlighted in the report, which outlined relevant recommendations on how to navigate difficult and dangerous sections of the routes. Whether the leader adheres to them or not is his business, but there were recommendations. This library has accumulated so much unique hiking material. There were reports on all category hikes, above two, from all over the Union, on all types of tourism, hundreds a year! They say that when this mansion was taken away from tourists during Yeltsin's reign, everything from there was thrown into the street, and some enthusiasts saved some things and dismantled the library into their apartments.

M.P.: Returning to the question of the protocols of the route commission, as you did at that time with the organization of control of hiking traffic. Indeed, in the Dyatlov group, sports bosses of all ranks began to blame the unfortunate Igor Dyatlov for not submitting the protocol of the route commission to the UPI sports club, so they did not know where to look for them. In addition, the chairman of the UPI sports club Lev Gordo stated that the final goal of the route of Dyatlov’s group was Otorten, as if erasing other peaks from the route. Among the belongings of the Dyatlov group found in the tent, there suddenly turned out to be a copy of the protocol of the route commission. Why did Igor Dyatlov need to carry this piece of paper on a hike? What such a terrible thing could happen if the protocol was not submitted where it should be, i.e. to the UPI sports club? And Dyatlov had never seen anything like this before, so that he forgot to hand over the necessary papers somewhere. He, a sports activist, chairman of various hiking commissions at the UPI sports club, a future secret defense industry employee, himself clearly understood this and thought about his career. How he methodically prepared for the hike, what lists he made of things needed on the hike, and wrote down every little detail. And suddenly he forgot to hand over the protocol and took it with him on a hike. As Vladimir Askinadzi explained to me, "if the group had not died, and they would have been forced to rescue them, Dyatlov would definitely have been disqualified for this to zero! The rest of the trip would have been counted. Why didn’t he leave the necessary information for the controlling organization? Apparently, the reason is the ubiquitous Russian carelessness.

Yes, the fact that at the beginning of the search they did not know in which part of the route to look for him is carelessness. But the reason for the carelessness is not in him, but in the general situation with control over routes. Hiking, as a mass phenomenon at the institute, was quite young; by that time it was only five years old. Timid signs of organization were just beginning to emerge. There were no examples. They copied organizational structures from other sports where there was no reporting on the process of holding competitions. In Moscow, by that time, structures of an all-Union scale had not developed, although hiking itself (of local significance) existed. Both the routes and the leadership team were quite qualified. It was not for nothing that at the beginning of the search they invited Kirill Bardin, a Muscovite, Master of sports, as a consultant. Of course, before Dyatlov, both groups and individual hikers died. But there was no such resonant event in the Union; the Government itself contributed to this. The revision of norms and requirements, especially for routes of the highest category, began in the Union precisely with the death of the Dyatlov group. The situation was further aggravated by the fact that by 1959 there were no emergencies in the club, even on a small scale. Dyatlov did not leave any documents, since no one demanded them from him. Gordo and Slobodin did not know this specificity of hiking."

- 14 -

B.G.: Apparently, I became interested in hiking when the hiking structure was just taking shape, because I entered Moscow State University in the memorable 1953. Many of the features of the planning of treks that emerged a little later remained unknown to me. I don’t know what the protocols of the route commission look like. Maybe in our prehistoric times they did not yet exist, but I personally have not had to deal with this. The route book existed in one copy. They most likely received it (I may have already forgotten) from the city route commission (unlikely from the university) and submitted it there. It was needed not only on the hike itself, but also to obtain at the university the wretched equipment that we still received. I don’t remember any troubles related to the route book.

M.P.: As I understand it, despite the emergency, Sverdlovsk, in comparison with other hiking clubs in the country, even in the capital, was still "ahead of the rest" in organizing and controlling hiking. They required protocols of commissions, route books, and monitored the registration of ranks and the compliance of groups with the categorization of their future routes.

On the ridge
On the ridge

B.G.: We went on the last couple of trips without any registration, without route books, without cover letters, without the goal of obtaining a sports category. Why did we need this? A friendly group just got together, got what they could and prepared equipment, bought tickets and went on a trip. In 1957, on a kayak trip along the rivers of the Arkhangelsk region, including Onega, my friend and I immediately recovered from military training, taking, to the surprise of the military authorities, a military letter (the right to free travel) not to Moscow, but in the opposite direction, to Nyandoma station, where we reunited with the rest of the group. The next year, when most of the guys had already completed their university course (and I, as part of my special group, had to study for another six months), we went on a hike to the Caucasus. It was precisely because of the lack of official documents that we were forced to pass through the Klukhorsky pass, where there was a certain barrier outpost, in the shadow of the night, trying to step quietly so as not to disturb the guards. Everything worked out, however.

M.P.: You wrote in your diary that somehow you were carried quite far to the north, and you ended up on the upper reaches of Malaya Toshemka, crossing one of its sources and reaching the second. 'Apparently, we was in vain to go from the hut on the pass to the booth and further along the stream, thereby deviating to the north, and did not take into account the magnetic declination (17 degrees)."

How did you determine the magnetic declination?

B.G.: I can’t say anything about magnetic declination, I don’t remember. I notice that more and more often I have to answer "I don’t remember" to your questions; apparently, my memory resources are close to exhaustion. And these questions somehow move further and further away from the topic of the tragedy of the Dyatlov group.

M.P.: Boris Sergeevich, every detail matters. It’s not for nothing that I’m asking you about things that seem to have nothing to do with the tragedy of the Dyatlov group. In fact, I am looking for answers to my personal questions on the topic of tragedy. And I have already found many, thanks to you and your hiking diary.

Boris Sergeevich, here’s a question for you: what does it mean, a hikers-type campsite? How does it differ from another type of camp, non-hikers? Was the fire not that complicated or what? What remained there at the campsite, what could hikers or non-hikers know from these signs? Here you wrote about a campsite that you stumbled upon in the vicinity of Otorten: "We are standing on the site of someone’s camp, apparently abandoned not so long ago. It's strange who it could be. There have been no hikers here yet, and the camp is clearly of a hiking type. Maybe an expedition..."

B.G.: Why did we think that the camp was a hikers type? It’s just that the traces left were very similar to those we left. Tent marks are about the same size as ours, perhaps struts on which they lay down with a bucket or pot hung on it, maybe empty tin cans. This was clearly a one-night stop. From respectable people, geologists, for example, I think more lasting traces remain. However, we were unlikely to seriously analyze our impressions then. It looks like that's it.

M.P.: What songs did you sing in those years, in the late 50s? Did you always carry a guitar with you, or was the mandolin easier to take and was it more popular than the guitar? They told me that a mandolin was much more expensive than a guitar, it’s unclear why they would carry it on hikes, such an expensive thing.

B.G.: Of course, no one took a guitar, much less a mandolin, on serious hikes. This was possible on short, recreational hikes, for example, along the Seliger River or along the Seversky Donets; these also happened to me. Probably our main hiking group was not very musical, they didn’t sing very much, and they were usually very tired by the end of the day. What were we singing? I'm afraid to lie, songs from different times could be mixed in my memory. They sang "Along the Tundra, Along the Wide Road", "Globe", "Brigantine", "Harness up the horse" (this was after the military camps), songs by Gorodnitsky, Vizbor (this was apparently later), I don’t remember everything, although some things still pop up in my brain from time to time.

M.P.: Boris Sergeevich, you wrote in your diary that all three watches you took on the hike were already damaged in the middle of the hike. And this story happens every time. Why did your watch break during your hike? If I'm not mistaken, watches at that time were quite expensive, many did not have them at all.

- 15 -

B.G.: Who knows why they broke. It was indeed quite an expensive thing back then. My parents gave me my first watch after graduating from school, but already in my first year I lost it. It was simply removed from me in a dark place on a deserted street near the Danilovsky market in Moscow. I was very proud of the second watch; it had luminous hands and numbers and was considered shockproof. But upon impact, some kind of spiral simply twisted inside, and they continued to count down time at double speed. Any watchmaker could easily return them to their normal state, but in the conditions of a hike it was impossible to do this yourself.

M.P.: As you probably know, two pairs of watches with almost identical time readings were found on one of the bodies in the ravine: a sports watch that showed 8 hours 14 minutes 24 seconds. The Pobeda watch showed the time 8 hours 39 minutes.

In your opinion, why did the man have two watches? What are your thoughts? You have been on hikes, did you know exactly which watch belongs to whom? It was so important to find out the time on a hike, or you could easily do without a watch away from populated areas. They say that there was a custom among hikers when they were on duty to wear two watches so as not to oversleep. Is this true? How did you wind up the watch during the hike?

B.G.: On my hikes, I, of course, knew who had what watch, especially since, at least in the first hikes, there were never more than two, and more often just one. The time, of course, had to be known, at least in order to designate the moments of halts, overnight stops or morning rise. Our guys on duty never had two watches, and I usually woke them up, as the only keeper of the exact time. When they were on duty at night in shifts, I gave the watch to the first person on duty, and then it was passed on to the next one. I have already told you that sometimes we were left without a watch at all. Then we used a compass during the daytime and if there were at least some signs of the sun in the sky. After all, exactly at 12 o’clock in the afternoon, and taking into account the current time zone - at 13 o’clock (then, as now in Russia, there were no summer and winter time, but now the discrepancy with the astronomical time is 2 hours), the sun should be exactly in the south. You place some stem or stick vertically and see how many degrees the shadow deviates. Over the course of an hour, the position of the shadow should shift by 15 degrees. This is, in fact, how the sundial works. The method is not very accurate, but it is what it is. I personally am used to winding my watch in the evening before going to bed. I think this is what most people did and do if they use mechanical non-self-winding watches, which have already become a rarity, but somehow it never occurred to me to check this.

M.P.: Vladimir Askinadzi said that at that time "watches were not so much a luxury, although that was also the case, but, especially among students, an indicator of belonging to a non-poor class. It's like today, a diamond tie clip." Therefore, he assumes that both pairs of watches were taken from others, for example, from those who froze under the Cedar tree, which fact can be interpreted in another way: the guys in the stream did not expect to die when there were already dead people under the Cedar tree. Boris Sergeevich, I wanted to know, what do you think about the cause of the death of the Dyatlov group? What do you believe happened?

B.G.: You, of course, know that last summer near the city of Serov, i.e. all in the same area, a small AN-2 plane disappeared, the wreckage of which was found only this spring. There was a lot of hype about this again, again TV shows, again theories, one more fantastic than the other. I won’t talk about the details that are probably familiar to you, but this tragedy, like the tragedy of the Dyatlov group, occurred in the same local "Bermuda Triangle", and both events are naturally connected with each other. I absolutely do not accept most of the ridiculous explanations for the death of the Dyatlov group (avalanche, Bigfoot, Mansi revenge, elimination of unwanted witnesses, internal strife in the group, etc.), but one that can unite both events seems to me worthy of attention. This is an increased probability of occurrence of magnetic anomalies in places, and in the Urals, where the ground contains a lot of iron, such anomalies exist, so-called plasmoids, simply put, ball lightning. What they are capable of producing is not very well known, but they are capable of many things. This version seems promising to me, at least it is far from mystical and has a natural scientific basis. I used to think that if an explanation was found, which I am not entirely sure of (the optimistic statement that everything secret sooner or later becomes clear, alas, is not always justified), then this will happen only after all the archives are opened. Now I have doubts about this. What do they have to hide after more than 60 years?!

M.P.: Boris Sergeevich, you noted an interesting point when you pointed out the appearance of plasmoids in an anomalous area, and anomalous precisely because there are deposits of various metals, especially iron ores. But it’s not clear to me what size plasmoids can be, and whether they are capable of breaking skulls and ribs. It seems to me that all these anomalous phenomena have nothing to do with the cause of the tragedy; after all, human beings tried. It was simply murder. It is the murders that the authorities could and are still hiding. Moreover, for some reason, all the crimes committed by the state and the military are already known: the Totsky training ground, the executions in Novocherkassk, but this case remains a secret, despite the fact that the criminal case has been released to the public for review. The reason for the death of the group indicated in this case file can only satisfy a narrow-minded person.

In addition, rumors about the involvement of the military and their secret tests were skillfully spread in society in order to distract people from other thoughts about what happened. After all, the way we argue is that if you say that there were military tests of a secret weapon, then everyone will understand that it could have been hidden, and the reason why the authorities are hiding it is clear. Lately, ufologists have been in vogue with their own version, and they consider alien mechanisms to be the culprits in the death of the Dyatlov group.

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B.G.: So, are you inclined to the point of view that the Dyatlov group were killed, and they were killed not at the state, but at the local level? This, to be honest, did not occur to me, and there is a lot of reason in this version. Although not everything fits completely in it, questions remain. First of all: who and why? Why did no one ever mention, no one saw outsiders? Why is a local crime still so carefully hidden? Or maybe all the documents, if they existed, were destroyed long ago? And could the local government be so unafraid of the central government (given the extreme hierarchy of the Soviet state system) that it was able to hide all the loose ends among its native aspens? And why then did the investigator go to Moscow? Or maybe several reasons came together?

I also don’t know much about plasmoids, but they can cause very serious destruction.

I would like to thank you for Makushkin’s materials, it was very interesting to me. I wish you had more such interlocutors - intelligent, modest, knowledgeable and responsible for their words.

M.P.: Thank you, Boris Sergeevich. As I expected, many did not understand anything at all in these materials. People are waiting for "fried" facts, ready-made conclusions. But for me personally, a picture has long begun to emerge that the way it was presented to us in the well-known case files was in fact different. Many materials were simply removed from the case. Many important examinations were not appointed, and those examinations that were forced to be appointed by law were incomplete due to the fact that important key questions were not posed to the experts. And the whole effect was adjusted to one cause - an overwhelming elemental force. This was also confirmed by the daughter of investigator Lev Ivanov, telling how her father collected the facts indicated to him, built a conclusion and closed the case, that he did as he was ordered. That in Soviet times nothing was said about this, especially at home. Only in the 90s, when it was already possible to start talking about this case, Lev Ivanov said that he was a communist, and he had a family, and he could not do anything other than classify the case. But investigator Ivanov did not dare to tell the truth about the Dyatlov group’s case, putting forward a harmless and fashionable version at the time that the Dyatlov group was killed by a UFO, although he himself did not believe in alien intelligence and was never interested in science fiction. Perhaps, when he said UFO, he meant a rocket of entirely terrestrial origin? May be. But Lev Ivanov’s daughter is convinced that her father specifically put forward the most fashionable version at that time, the UFO version, in order to somehow attract public attention to the forgotten case of the Dyatlov group.

B.G.: I am bothered by one question. About the footprints. Searchers found clear traces of people running down in the snow, which persisted for quite a long time. But then there should have been traces of the ski track laid by the guys on the way up, but I don’t remember this being said anywhere. And were there traces of any strangers who were there before the advent of searchers?

M.P.: Regarding the traces found on the slope and considered to have been left by the Dyatlov group, many conflicting opinions still arise to this day. Recently, an expedition from Channel One and Komsomolskaya Pravda conducted an experiment with footprints in February. The marks disappeared completely on the second or third day. And as we know, the traces of 1959 remained on the windy and snowy slope for almost a month. How can this be explained? I have an assumption bordering on the fantastic that these traces were either covered with something for safety by the time the search group of students arrived, or were left by strangers on the eve of the arrival of the searchers on the slope.

B.G.: So I have long been surprised by the extraordinary preservation of the traces, and precisely and only the traces of escaping people, which gave rise to the conclusions of the investigation and the construction of numerous hypotheses. Why didn't anyone raise this issue in TV discussions? Apparently, there are many mysteries in this story that no one has yet tried to answer.

M.P.: For some reason, in the case files there is no official conclusion of a traceological examination of the footprints (homeoscopic examination - examination of human traces), but we know from the words of forensic expert Igor Makushkin that his mother, expert Genrietta Churkina, went to the scene of the incident. Did the investigator even issue a resolution to conduct this examination? After all, logically he had to, people died. Five were found, four are still missing anf the time when the investigative group arrived at the location of the tent. What do we have? There is a protocol of interrogation of Aleksey Chernyshev, an employee of the Ivdellag, who convinces the investigation that the traces were most likely left by the Dyatlov group. There are other testimony of witnesses, and contradictory ones. The investigation posed the questions in such a way that from the answers of the witnesses a picture inevitably emerged that the traces were left by the Dyatlov group. Witness testimony replaces the results of a professional examination. Nonsense! This means there was something to hide in these traces.

B.G.: You really puzzled me with your information about the footprints, because this is what everything was built on, it was like the cornerstone of the whole incident. I was sure that you would easily refute my vague suspicions. It turns out that even this seemingly unambiguous evidence is unreliable. But then anything is possible, even down to outright criminality. My, my.

If everything is so, then we will really never know anything, or we will only find out after all the archives are opened. But even then it may turn out that they are empty. But for me this just means "never and nothing". You have more time ahead, you can still hope to find out the truth, especially with your persistence. I would very much like to live to see the answer to the question about the cause of the mysterious death of Dyatlov and his comrades.

M.P.: Me too.

Thank you for the interesting conversation, Boris Sergeevich! Let's hope we find out the truth in this life. I wish you and myself and other researchers long life.

(c) Maya Piskareva
June 18, 2013

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Аppendix 1.

Diary of a trip to Otorten. 1956

To give an idea of ​​what our treks were like from the inside, I will give a diary of one of them, the most difficult one, the summer campaign of 1956 to the Northern Urals. This diary was rewritten by me from the soggy original in the fall of the same year and, I think, slightly edited at the same time. I apologize in advance for the very long extracts, I tried to shorten some things as much as possible, but you can’t shorten too much, otherwise everything will collapse. Let this be an insert chapter that you can skip if you wish.

But first you need to introduce the participants of the hike.

Vadim Ogarev
Large, taciturn, the only hunter we have, the owner of a single-barreled shotgun, a serious and reliable person.

Igor Barkalov
My closest friend, we studied in the same group. Everyone considered us friends, but that would probably be an exaggeration. Wonderful photographer.

Sasha Virovets
Small in stature, strong, well-behaved, somewhat rounded, with very skillful, dexterous hands, his character was, first of all, a reliable and loyal comrade (not in the Soviet sense, in the original sense!). Sasha was a year older than us, but he went on several hikes with us, and who knows what would have happened to us without him. Much later, when we all scattered through life, I heard a rumor that he committed suicide, but I don’t want to believe it.

Natasha Rykova
Natasha was "the guy", the bearer of the "perky Komsomol principle", but a noticeable touch of vulgarity in her scared me away. I would hardly have been able to articulate it then, but something still got in the way.

Sasha Mishchenko
A quiet, calm guy, he ended up in our company only for this one trip. We all did not belong to a particularly wealthy class, but he was especially poor, this was evident from his clothes, from his attitude towards money. A few years ago I learned that Sasha died of a heart attack.

Andrey Pashinkin
At first, to us third-year students, he seemed like an elderly, respectable man. But he managed to quickly break this age gap and become simply "Andryushka".

Boris Popovkin and Yura Sychev
These were guys from the second year, different, of course, but united for me by this circumstance into one.

Now I don’t remember what brought us all together, but one way or another a fairly friendly team was formed that stuck together in subsequent difficult circumstances. And now I turn to the diary.

Back in January, conversations began with experts in the Northern Urals, trips to the TEU (tourist and excursion management at the Ilyich Outpost), where reports of all previous campaigns were kept. As a result, we had in our hands a million-scale hypsometric map (10 km scale map), a five-kilometer map and a ten-kilometer map of the Pechora River. The best and only map we used was the hypsometric chart. Without her it would be difficult, if not impossible, for us to go. In general, it must be said that maps without indicating the heights in the area of ​​our hike are absolutely unsuitable, since the peaks were one of the most important landmarks for us.

From reports and conversations with experts, we found out that they can tell something about the first part of the route (to the ridge), and even then in a slightly more southern area. From guidebooks and Hoffmann’s very detailed and explanatory book (travel reports of 1849, 1851 and 1856), we got an idea of ​​the character of the upper Pechora and its tributaries. The most serious and important part of the path, the ridge, remained for us, in fact, a blank spot. We only knew that the ridge tops in this area were treeless.

July 8, evening

Our train leaves the platform of the Kursk station, we are on our way. There is nothing to tell about the road to Sverdlovsk: this is the third time we have made this journey. Two days flew by unnoticed playing "goat" and "frapp" and other intellectual games and in search of beer. And in Sverdlovsk there was a new adventure. We arrived in the evening and decided to go without a change in Serov, by direct train to Polunochnoe. So, we needed to settle down for the night. We went to the Collective Farmer's House, but we didn't like the prices there. At this time, the House watchman turned up and offered us a corner for a quarter. The corner turned out to be, frankly speaking, not a fountain (idiom - not good), but we spent the night somehow. Almost the entire next day we got acquainted with Sverdlovsk, more precisely with its cinemas and canteens. However, we were also in the local history museum.

In the evening the Sverdlovsk-Polunochnoe train dragged us further. Early in the morning we arrived in Serov. Here, the cars traveling to Polunochnoe stood the whole day: for some reasons, movement on this section is carried out only at night. In Serov we swam in the Kakva River, played volleyball with local residents and, of course, got acquainted with the canteen. The road was already quite boring, and therefore we were all incredibly glad to find ourselves in Polunochnoe that same night. Here, in a small, dirty and stuffy waiting room, we had to wait for the morning, after which we sat down on the road to catch a car to Vizhay.

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Only at 12 noon we boarded a passing car that was carrying food to Vizhay. All the way we drove 'on the road' with the breeze as if on a highway. The pictures all around are generally gloomy. Everywhere there are camps or traces of the activities of prisoners, all conversations revolve around this, and all local life is somehow connected with this. Although they treat us well, and there seems to be nothing to fear, but it’s somehow unpleasant in my soul.

At 3 o'clock we are in Vizhay. We can summarize: we spent 5 days on the road, the same as last year, getting to Altai. Travel by train cost us 195 rubles each. (from Moscow to Sverdlovsk and from Serov to Polunochnoe we traveled with reserved seats).

Here, in Vizhay, the local camp authorities treated us very sympathetically. Having learned that we did not have enough mosquito nets, they offered them to us. At 4 o'clock we set out. So, we say goodbye to all means of transportation and from now on we can only rely on our own legs. The hike itself has already begun.

July 13

We considered this day the beginning of the route, although we only walked for two hours, from 4 to 6. It was hot, and the heavy backpack weighed unusually on our shoulders. We walked along a horse-drawn track. By the way, I have never seen such roads anywhere else.

>Round-lezhnevaya road to 100th district
Round-lezhnevaya road to 100th district. Photo by Gennady Kusov.

This is something like a horse-drawn tram, with the difference that the traverses are simple round logs instead of rails, and the same round tree trunks, not too thick, are placed on them. The horse drags an ordinary cart, but on its wheels, along the rim, there is a wide groove, which rolls along the "rails". Probably, given the local swamps, this is the most reasonable way to avoid off-road conditions.

We spent the night near a swamp, from which we took water. And now the fire is smoking, the tents are stretched out and... the first rain.

July 14

And today is the first catch. Despite the decision made yesterday not to shoot until we leave the camp zone, the hearts of our hunters could not stand the sight of a grouse impudently flying next to us from tree to tree. As a result, Andrey puts the bird he shot in his backpack. The rest is not very pleasant. There are swamps all around, you have to walk on traverses. This doesn't help much from the dirt, and my legs ache more and more. From time to time there are clearings. They cut down the forest here in a barbaric manner, in entire blocks. In the evening the sun came out and things became more cheerful. In addition, we went to district 100, here you can find out the way. It turns out that we have covered 18 km from Vizhay, which is not bad at all for the first day. Having learned that further, to the 100th district, no rivers were expected along the way, we decided to stop here, on the banks of the Vizhay river. The place is simply wonderful: a birch forest with soft grass, an abundance of dry firewood and a fairly large, clean and cold river nearby. One bad thing is that there is a labor camp nearby. In the evening, all sorts of people visited the fire, so my soul was restless. As on the first night, we all stood watch for an hour at a time - a gun in our hands, two cartridges in our pockets. It rained again in the evening and at night.

July 15

In the morning, under a low gray sky that threatened rain, we set off. Soon we got off the damn "lezhnevka" and walked along the path. The trail was muddy, but at first, while the memory of the "lezhnevka" was still fresh, it did not seem like a big deal. It’s only 5-6 kilometers to the 100th district, but even in such a small area we managed to disperse. For some reason, Vadim and Sasha Mishchenko liked the road that went to the left more, and they followed it despite all my orders. As a result, we had to wait for them near the camp. They were saved from the general anger only by a humble and repentant appearance, as well as by dragging several hazel grouse with them.

In the 100th, our smokers, who had firmly decided to quit smoking while still on the train, bought cigarettes, bribed them with salt. We were lucky: it turned out that a Mansi family was spending the night in the camp and could show us the trail. Without them, it would be difficult to find it. We found these Mansi. A curious family: its head Nikolay, a short, bowlegged old man with long gray hair, with a long hunting knife in a wooden case tied to his hip. He speaks, greatly distorting the Russian language, in a high, almost feminine voice. His wife and children are dressed completely differently from us, they wear shoes made of deer skins, and strange necklaces made of old coins, rings and just all sorts of shiny rubbish hang around their necks.

- 19 -

Nikolay walked us to the trail, about two kilometers away. He moves surprisingly quickly, often moving his short crooked legs. It was not easy for us with our backpacks to keep up with him. All the way he chatted incessantly, wondering mainly whether there was vodka in Vizhay, 1st Northern and other places. I had to keep up small talk with him. Having led us through a clearing where there was no visible path, he left us. It was clear that he was waiting for payment for his work, and if you remember his conversations, it’s clear what kind. But it makes no sense for us to squander our meager reserves of alcohol in this way, so we "did not get" his hints. The rest of the day we walked along a clearly visible path in a clear pine forest. In the evening we reached the Yakhtelya River. A log was thrown across it, and on both banks there were poles, with the help of which we crossed. As always, it was pleasant to meet such care for unfamiliar travelers in remote places, in the taiga. I remembered Altai, there was a bench next to the path, a canopy over it and next to it the inscription "Relax and smoke".

After crossing Yakhtelya, we began to look for a place to spend the night. Before we had time to put up the tents, it began to rain. This is becoming too regular, and the rain turned out to be much more prolonged than in the previous days.

July 16

Now the path is no longer what it was before. It always goes through the swamp, although Nikolay assured us that the road was dry. My feet are constantly ankle-deep in water, the water flows freely in my shoes. But if only there it was just the legs! A tedious, hopeless rain pours down from above all day, and no windbreaker can save you here. The contents of the backpacks were also wet. The impression is that there is nothing dry left around, everything you touch is wet, slippery, disgusting. In such a situation we had to stop for the night. You can't find a dry piece of land around. Everything is covered with moss, a swamp, not a swamp - you can't tell. We put our backpacks under a birch tree, seemingly in a dry place, and then there was water under the birch tree. In the evening, before going to bed, we used alcohol for the first time, for preventive purposes. It worked instantly, it immediately became fun, and my sleep was extremely sound. It's good that we had spare dry clothes.

July 17

I wake up, and the first sound I hear is the steady pounding of raindrops on the tent. It rained like this all night. Vadim is on duty today, and it’s a pity that I have to wake him up. I also decided to go out with him. What could be worse in the world than taking off your dry sweater and shirt and putting wet "day" clothes from the evening on your naked body! As soon as you crawl out of the tent, your foot plunges ankle-deep into the water. I don’t know how Vadim managed to light a fire in such conditions. In such an environment, all the most ordinary work slows down greatly. He cooked the food till 10 am. And at 10, oh, happiness! the rain suddenly stopped. But we are still unlucky. Quite unexpectedly, the bottom of one of our buckets leaked and we had to throw it away. How are we going to get by with just one bucket now?

After eating, everyone dried off. There was no way to speed up this process; we left only at 3 pm. By 7.30 pm we reached the Mansi hut. We were told that it is 30 km from 100th district to where we were. We spent a total of 2 days on this journey, which is not bad under such conditions.

Not far from the hut we passed an old burning place: lonely black trunks against the background of a gray sky, gloomy mountains in the distance, above them a strip of light through which the setting sun peeks through, the wind is rustling - it’s hard to imagine a darker and wilder picture.

After the rain, all the streams turned into real rivers, the swamps almost became lakes. We had to cross one such stream: the entire bridge disappeared under water; you can only get to the shore (more precisely, to the place where the bank used to be) by jumping from hummock to hummock. There are a lot of not quite ripe cloudberries in the swamps. I ate it for the first time, quite a pleasant berry.

The Mansi dwelling is located very conveniently, in a pine forest, on the high bank of a small stream, a tributary of the Toshemka. It's always dry here. This is a real estate: in addition to the hut, all sorts of outbuildings are scattered around. The hut is small, the doors at best are chest-high for a person of average height. As we approached, someone rushed through the doors and locked them behind them. No one came out to our calls for a long time, and only when we turned to leave did a girl of about 12 cautiously come out. Not without difficulty, we learned from her that this was Nikolay’s home, that there was no one at home except her and a few kids, and that we are on the right track. The ridge, according to her, is only 15 kilometers away. Apparently, they consider the eastern spurs of the Urals to be the ridge.

Due to the fact that we only had one bucket, we fiddled around for a long time and went to bed late, but we slept well: it was warm, dry, and the sky did not threaten rain. This is the second day since we canceled night duty.

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July 18

While we were busy with our only bucket in the morning, another part of the population of the Mansi hut appeared - the mother of the girl came with some child.

Varvara Kuzmovna Bahtiyarova with children
Varvara Kuzmovna Bahtiyarova with children. (She was identified from a photo by V. Androsov)

We managed to bargain with her one bucket for 15 rubles (we saw yesterday that they have buckets). Along the way, a brisk trade began: the Mansi bought all the available narks (something like little shoes made of reindeer skins), the smokers stocked up on shag.

The proximity of the labor camps has spoiled these people; among the few Russian words they know, the most popular is "need money". We heard this phrase even after the guys simply asked for a smoke.

We left the campsite late, only at 12.30 pm. A girl, our first acquaintance, undertook to accompany us to Toshemka river. After walking a kilometer and a half, we discovered that we were not going to the west, as it should have been according to our map, but to the north. It became clear that we were moving along a path leading to the ridge along the Malaya (Small) and Bolshaya (Big) Toshemka rivers. A simple glance at the map convinced us that this path was much shorter than the path through Mount Oyks-Chakur. The most surprising thing is that when planning the hike, the obvious thought about the advantage of such a route did not even occur to us. The road to Toshemka is not very pleasant. Although the Mansi assured us that the trail was dry and there were no swamps, we walked in water the entire second half of the way, sometimes even knee-deep. The girl accompanying us insisted that it was not a swamp, "just wet". Small consolation.

After 7 km we reached Toshemka river, and our first question was: "How will we cross?" The river makes a serious impression; it is one and a half times wider than Vizhay, but, as it turned out, it is much smaller. The crossing was carried out using a boat belonging to the same Nikolay. The boat is small, flat-bottomed, we had to make several trips to transport all the backpacks and people. More than once it threatened to end in swimming, but everything worked out. The last two, Sashka Virovets and I, had to wade across, since the boat had to be left on this bank. The formidable-looking river unexpectedly turned out to be easily surmountable, especially with our Altai experience. Even before the crossing, I announced that the next day would be a day's rest. After a continuous stay in the water, we need to get ourselves in order, and it’s time to take a little rest, because we’ve been going for almost a week.

July 19

Day off. We had a good night's sleep, the weather was excellent. We spent a long time fiddling around with lunch, but we ate a great meal; we were even given milk made from dry powder. Not bad, especially if you use it according to Vadim’s method, with butter and sugar.

After lunch, almost everyone scattered from the camp: Vadim and Sychushka (Yura Sychev) went up the river to hunt, Igor and Boris went along the trail with a second gun, Natasha and I walked a little up the Toshemka and turned onto another trail that starts here. It’s very nice to walk through the taiga without a backpack. It turns out that you notice much more than usual. And the forest in the vicinity of our camp is good, a real Mast-Tree grove.

Vadim and Yurka returned for dinner. They are with their prey: Yurka has a pair of grouse dangling from his belt, the duck they hit had swum away.

Reconnaissance data: a trail departing from the river near our camp and the same trail extending higher connect after 2 kilometers. About half the way to the confluence, the first path comes out to the Malaya Toshemka River, in this place there is a dilapidated hut. Then the trail goes along the river at some distance (up to a kilometer). On the opposite bank, towards the north, a large mountain, or rather a group of mountains, is visible. This is apparently a ridge with a height of 1292. After the hut, the trail crosses several small streams for a short distance.

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Malaya Toshemka River
Malaya Toshemka River

July 20

Going after a day out is much more fun. The weather in the morning is also not bad. At the junction of the trails we came across last year’s lingonberries, which had lain under the snow during the winter. This is probably the most delicious berry I have ever eaten. It tastes sweetish and at the same time gives off alcohol, like fermented cherries. You can eat a lot of it without fear of setting your teeth on edge.

We took a lunch break in a large clearing in a pine forest. There are many traces of Mansi camps here, broken sledges are lying around. Picturesque wooded mountain slopes are visible ahead. Having completed one crossing after a lunch break, I looked at the map and realized that we had committed an offensive stupidity by not examining all the branching paths in this clearing. After all, it is very likely that the trail splits here: one goes north, and the other goes northwest, towards the ridge. Because of this error, we had to organize reconnaissance and lose at least two hours. Two of us walked forward along the path, two returned back to the clearing, and Sashka Virovets climbed a tree. Those walking back did not find any other path there, it was decided to continue moving.

After 1.5-2 kilometers the trail turned sharply to the west. My heart immediately felt lighter. Soon the rise began, at first imperceptible, and then increasingly steep. It was gratifying that we were already on the spurs of the ridge. It was already evening, and the end of the rise was not in sight. It was not without difficulty that we found a place to spend the night on an area above the path. For some reason this evening is very good. Maybe because we are pretty tired, it seems surprisingly cozy by the fire. The taiga that now surrounds us is already a real gloomy taiga. Huge trees, windbreaks, streams, and in some places between the trees suddenly piles of stones. It's been the second day without rain.

July 21

In the morning we woke up to the accompaniment of raindrops drumming on the tent and a cheerful song. Igor and Sashka Virovets sang. They were preparing food, but the rain drove them under the cedar tree, where they consoled themselves with choral singing. A fair amount of water got into the bucket with the dough, so instead of flatbreads we ate pancakes in the morning. This, however, is also not bad. By the way, all opponents of flour in this trek admitted themselves defeated. Flour is a great thing, it takes up much less space than rusks, and the taste of flatbreads cannot be compared to rusks.

The rain stopped briefly while we were getting ready, and then it began to rain again. But even without the rain there was little good. We were in a cloud, and therefore everything around us was damp. For a long time, longer than anyone could have imagined, we climbed up. The pass was reached only at one o'clock in the afternoon. All around is flat, monotonous tundra, only a group of weathered rocks rises in front. There are wisps of clouds flying low, light rain and gusty winds. Only for a short time did the wind break the clouds, and we saw the majestic panorama of the ridge. Soon everything became cloudy again, but the rain stopped. Here, in the tundra, we have lost the trail. It is absolutely impossible to find it on the stones, in moss, in dwarf birch trees. While searching for the trail, we came across a Mansi hut, apparently built recently. On the doors there is an inscription in terrible Russian: "Whoever will spend the night here should leave 10 rubles." Inside are all kinds of products made from reindeer skins, and there is a little salt and crackers in the container. This is obviously connected with another inscription on the door: "Do not steal."

Not far from the hut we found a path, which soon led us to a hunting booth, where smokers were able to replenish their stocks of shag. This is where the trail ended. We had to go directly (along an azimuth), heading north-west. We descended for a long time along some stream, then turned away from it to the west. Damp taiga, difficult to walk through the windfall. Soon we stopped for the night. We gathered water from a funnel under the root of a fallen tree.

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July 22

It was quite cold at night, so everyone crawled out to the fire very early. While waiting for food, a heated debate broke out: whether the Ukrainian language is backward and outdated or not. It started, of course, with nothing, but in the end we got into such a jungle that we managed to get out of them only because it was time to leave. And now we are bearing down again, stubbornly making our way to the northwest. Everything would be fine, but the uncertainty of the situation is depressing. At every stop, someone climbs a higher tree and tells me from there what is visible to the north, east, west and south. According to the map, in these places there should be a clearing in the direction from north to south. But we walk for an hour, two, half a day, and there is no clearing. Apparently, the map lied here, although in general it is quite accurate.

After lunch, we completely unexpectedly saw a rather large river in front of us, flowing from south to north. It is completely unclear what it could be. We crossed over a fallen tree to the other bank and continued the same path to the northwest. Soon we came across another, smaller river, flowing from the west. The situation became clearer. Somehow we were carried quite far to the north, and we ended up on the upper reaches of Malaya Toshemka, crossing one of its sources and reaching the second. Apparently, it was in vain that we went from the hut on the pass to the booth and further along the stream, thereby deviating to the north, and did not take into account the magnetic declination (17 degrees). But this is not scary, for us it is completely unimportant where we reach the ridge; to the north it is even better, since this shortens the path along the ridge itself.

The rest of the day we walked along the river, which would certainly lead us to the watershed. By the time we spent the night, everyone was very exhausted. Apparently, moving along an azimuth in the taiga requires much more strength than walking along a path. And according to the plan, we should have reached the ridge yesterday.

Near the campsite we found fresh bear tracks. Vadim immediately caught fire and grabbed the double-barreled shotgun. But then I had to be amazed at his unexpected discipline; he did not dare to go without asking my permission. I forbade it (and rightly so); meeting a bear is not part of our plans. We have had enough of wood grouse and hazel grouse, which we feed on almost every day. Until now, I remember, there were only two days when we were left without game.

July 23

It was a significant day, we reached the ridge. In the morning, a discussion flared up again, this time about whether the benefits given to athletes when entering college are fair, and in connection with this, about the place of sports in life in general. Morning arguments have become a tradition among us.

Today we left the river, deciding that there was no point in following all its bends, and went straight to the west. Everything went as usual: windbreaks, swamps. But then the forest began to thin out more and more, a birch tree appeared, behind it a beautiful clearing covered with flowers, then another small group of birch trees and a ridge opened up in front of us. And the day was great, sunny and warm. One more transition, and at 11 o’clock on July 23 we ascended the Ural ridge. From here we can clearly see the entire path we have covered in the last three days. The mountain on which we lost the path is visible, to the left of it is a ridge with a high bare peak (height 1292 m), behind them, in a blue haze, are small gentle hills, and further, completely in the deep blue, the flat plain of Siberia, stretching to the east. On the other hand, to the west, Europe, we finally saw it again. In the huge basin between the main ridge and the Yana-Emt ridge lies the channel of the Vishera, here is its headwaters. Further to the south, two peaks rise one after another, so pointed and steep that it is hard to believe that this is the Urals. These are probably Oyks-Chakur and Isherim – amazingly beautiful mountains. Ahead, to the north, everything is covered by a low spur of the main ridge, from which Malaya Toshemka runs down. the view is such that you feel dizzy and want to breathe deeply, deeply, with your whole chest.

The ascent to the ridge was marked by sitting for two hours. We had lunch and explored the surroundings. The top of the ridge here is flat, 500 meters wide, covered with small stones and tundra vegetation. While we were sitting, Vadim and Sashka Virovets went hunting and soon brought in two white partridges.

And then the traverse of the ridge began. After two transitions, climbing up and up, passing the saddle, we ascended to one of the small peaks. Hence new exciting pictures, this time forward. Gumpkalay rises sharply above the entire tangle of mountains (which, due to its difficulty in pronunciation, was immediately dubbed Hvanchkara). It’s very nice after a long "blind" walk through the taiga to see your path for the whole day ahead. Before spending the night we made two more treks: first we descended to the saddle again, then we passed a tongue of forest that rose high up the slope. It's time to think about spending the night, it's not so easy here, water and firewood become a problem. In the end, after passing through the most unpleasant scree, we found a relatively flat area. The firewood was small (there are no others here) dried trees, which had to be collected over a large area. We had to make our way through the bushes to get water, and we had to get it in a mug. Then we dug up a stream that was babbling nearby, and the water supply became better. For the first time on this trip, the tent was secured with stones. The camp turned out to be extremely impressive: the tents clearly stood out against the background of the evening pink clouds, behind the tents there was a cliff, and below there was an endless taiga. On the other side there are rocky screes, and above all this, there is a calm, bright moon. Below, in the taiga it is dark, but here, despite the very late hour, there is a transparent gray twilight, something like a white night.

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July 24

We spent quite a long time in the morning: I was baking pancakes, and it’s not easy to do this with the firewood that we have at our disposal. However, we walked cheerfully, despite the heat. The path is very interesting. Small peaks alternate along the ridge for 2-3 km and saddles up to 2 km long. In some places you walk as if on a highway, on a dense surface compacted by winds and rains. Gorges rise to the saddles, along which rivers run down. Yesterday we spent the night at the sources of the Ushma River, today at the sources of Purma. There is quite a strong wind at the top, but this does not help from the midges, which have replaced mosquitoes here. It’s strange that the midge flies to such a height.

Today we reached Gumpkalay, I did not expect that we would succeed. To spend the night we had to go down from the ridge: in addition to the fact that this greatly reduced the distance, it was impossible to find a forest anywhere closer. Below there is tall, waist-deep grass and many streams. Apparently, the Mansi once drove deer here, since we found traces of their camp - stones arranged in a circle, fireplaces, some bottles, deer bones.

Our tents are located among birch trees, there are many snowfields around on the mountains. Approaching the campsite, we observed an interesting phenomenon - a triple rainbow.

July 25

So far everything is going as well as possible. We are at altitude 1079 and the weather is great. Two days ago I only dreamed that we would reach Otorten in three days' march, but today it becomes a reality.

This morning, when we had not yet left the rest stop, a plane circled above us for a long time, apparently taking aerial photographs. And it was so joyful to hear the distant hum of the engine, and then to see a high, high silver dot. I didn’t even think that we missed people so much. While climbing the ridge, we passed a large snowfield, ran through the snow, and took pictures. It’s not every time that you get to throw snowballs on July 25th. In the afternoon, during a lunch break, the guys climbed high weathered rocks. At the top they found something like a circle, and in it was a bear skull. This is probably some kind of Mansi sacrifice.

As already said, we spend the night at height 1079. Again we had to go deep down, but this time to Europe, to the sources of one of the tributaries of the Unya.

July 26

In the morning, a twin-engine plane hovered high above us again. Just like yesterday, we climbed for a long time. From the ridge, Otorten is clearly visible, tall, with many pointed peaks. The character of the ridge has changed somewhat: the peaks have become much higher, in some places you have to descend 300-400 meters to the saddles. Huge screes are more common, and river valleys cut deeper into the ridge. The ridge itself bends and twists greatly, so that sometimes we even have doubts about where the watershed is located.

The weather has been beautiful for three days now. If you remember the previous days, this is amazing. But the valleys are increasingly covered in haze, and now the distant mountains are almost invisible. I think this promises a change in the weather.

Our wildest dreams came true; by the end of the third day we climbed the western shoulder of Otorten. It turned out to be much less powerful than he had appeared from afar. Ahead in the haze you can see the Motyu-ya valley, and even further away a high mountain, apparently Koip. So, we say goodbye to the ridge. Having gone down to Motya, already at dusk we stopped for the night. We are standing on the site of someone’s camp, apparently abandoned not so long ago. It's strange who it could be. There have been no hikers here yet, and the camp is clearly of a hikers type. Maybe an expedition...

Well, we can be proud of ourselves. We passed the difficult mountain section perfectly, much faster than we expected. Now it’s taiga again, taiga all the way to Pechora rever. But first we will have a well-deserved day of rest.

July 27

Day off. We were lucky. It has already been raining since this morning, although interspersed with moments of sunshine. It would be interesting if we were in this weather on a ridge, somewhere on a scree. The rain for a long time did not allow Sasha Virovets, Sychushka and Igor, who had gathered to storm Otorten, to leave the camp. But in the afternoon the sky cleared a little, the clouds rose higher, and off they went. They returned to dinner. At the top of Otorten, on one of the rocks, the guys found a small cairn, from which they extracted a note from hikers from Sverdlovsk University, dated July 14, 1956. They were here just two weeks before us. So this is where we spend the night! Despite all the joy, it was still a little disappointing that we were not the "pioneers". How strange it turns out: before this year no one came here, but there are two groups here at once this year. Well, at least we are the first among Muscovites.

July 28

Apparently, the rainy season has begun again. I was on duty in the morning, and I was the first to get out into the rain. But the fire could not be lit, despite the birch bark and relatively dry wood. I had to call Vadim, but he couldn’t do anything. Only Borka Popovkin, after fiddling around for more than an hour and using several pieces of photographic film, finally managed to get fire. By this time the rain had stopped and the sun was out. We walked along Motya river all the way and soon came across a real road with many traces, not marked on our map. The road crossed the river valley and went east to the ridge. Here the real taiga, already familiar to us, began, and in search of an easier path we climbed up. In the evening we stepped into a swamp and decided to return to the river. Motya surprised us; now it turned out to be a rather serious river, and not the stream that we saw this morning. Near the river we came across a path, albeit hardly noticeable. It became more fun to walk along it. Today we ate mushrooms for the first time, mainly honey mushrooms.

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July 29

The path we found yesterday was soon lost, crossing to the other side. Then we saw it again, lost again, found again. Finally, we had already firmly stood on it and soon realized that this was not even a path, but simply a trampled trace of people who had recently walked here. Soon we saw a campsite, a place where the group from Sverdlovsk spent the night. We can only thank them for the path; walking along it is much easier than through the taiga, like yesterday. In general, it’s better to go down the Motya river, sticking to the river’s floodplain: it’s less cluttered here, although in some places it’s damper. We again collected a lot of mushrooms, but nature did not send us any living creatures in retaliation, and we were so spoiled that we consider game to be the most common dish.

By this moment, all three watches we took on the hike were already damaged (this is the third summer in a row that this has happened). Therefore, it is impossible to accurately indicate the solemn moment when we saw Malaya (Small) Pechora River flowing into the Motya from the right. Bolshaya (Big) Pechora should be somewhere nearby. But here, too, nature did not miss the opportunity to trip us up: a strong thunderstorm rained down. We had to make a fire to dry ourselves. And where there is a fire, there is an overnight stay.

In the evening, fog descended over the river, through which the setting sun had difficulty breaking through. What does tomorrow have in store for us? I would like to get to Medvezhiy Kamen (Bear Stone) so that the day after tomorrow I can start building rafts.

July 30

And again, everything didn’t turn out as expected. Soon we actually reached Bolshaya Pechora. We stood solemnly on its bank and drank Pechora water. But soon on the opposite bank we saw obvious traces of the construction of rafts, apparently the work of the same hikers from Sverdlovsk. The question immediately arose: why don’t we start rafting from here, and not from the Bear Stone. The idea was so tempting that I sent the entire group with backpacks to the opposite bank, and I myself, Vadim and Sashka Virovets decided to walk further along the river, maybe even to the rapids. But after walking 1.5-2 kilometers and seeing the Bear Stone around one of the turns, we realized that we needed to walk to it for at least a day.

Medvezhiy Kamen (Bear stone)
Medvezhiy Kamen (Bear stone)

The justification for an already internally made decision is easy to find. We reasoned that if the Sverdlovsk group built rafts here and rafted on them, then we could do it too. Moreover, they are from the Urals, they know the route as well as we do, and probably have an idea of ​​the true scale of the rapids. Much later we realized how dearly such a decision cost us.

In the meantime, we got to work on the construction. It was not easy: all the best dry trees had already been cut down by our predecessors, and we were left with those that were further away and worse. Still, by the end of the day, 18 dry 6-meter trunks lay on the shore near our "shipyard". All this work of finding a tree, cutting it down, clearing it of branches, and moving it was done in just half a day. Tomorrow we will start the most important thing - tying the rafts. It was decided to make two rafts of 9 logs each, which theoretically should hold it. There can be no talk of any two rolls. Now it seems funny to talk about a tent, a fire on a raft, which we discussed so seriously just two days ago.

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July 31

Experience is a great thing. In theory, we knew well how to tie the rafts, but in practice... At first it didn’t go well with the rafts. Studying the debrees left by the Uralians, we realized that they twisted them, but how this was done remained a mystery to us. But nevertheless, we made ties from bird cherry bushes. To do this, we used two logs, between which we clamped a rod, and then twisted the rod by hand.

We began to assemble the raft on the shore. The work was progressing well, the structure seemed quite strong. But the very first attempt to lower several already tied logs into the water ended in failure - everything was falling apart. So we came to a simple rule: the raft must be tied in the water. But that was not all. While securing the posts, we drove a pulling stake between the logs. It turned out that such a system rests, as they say, "on snot". The logs came apart and the stakes popped out. Discouraged, we retired for lunch. But while everyone was dozing peacefully in the tents, the creative genius of Aleksander Virovets was not sleeping. He figured it out! The stakes must be driven not between the logs, but under the crossbar, so that the stake rests on both logs, in the hollow between them, and can no longer slip down if the logs are driven tightly enough. Now the work has begun; all fundamental issues have been resolved; technical difficulties remain. By evening our first creation was ready. We pulled it out into the middle of the river, made sure it was holding at least four people, and towed it back to the shore.

We decided to tie the second raft with rope, at least partially (we don’t have enough rope). But the knitting turned out to be too fragile, and again it was necessary to invent something. However, we postponed it until tomorrow.

August 1

Having a fair amount of experience behind us, we quickly completed the second raft. It looked much more impressive than the first one, a real 'Kon-Tiki'. At 12 o'clock it was already rocking on the water, and by 3 pm we set sail. Vadim, both Sashki, Natasha and I went to the Kon-Tiki. Boris, Yurka, Andrey and Igor were sailing on a small raft. We soon lost sight of them, moving forward. Because the last few days were dry, the river was very shallow, and every now and then we had to jump into the water and push our floating devide. It was simply physically painful to feel the raft crawling on its belly along the bottom. After each shoal, we were surprised to discover that the fish were still holding. If only there was more water!

Pechora winds capriciously all the time, forming a mass of islands. And it’s very pleasant to sail past the black gloomy taiga, knowing that you don’t have to wade through its thickets.

Upper Pechora
Upper Pechora

Even the fact that I had to jump into the water often did not discourage me at first. It got worse when in the evening the sky became overcast and the sun disappeared. It was already 6 pm, and the Bear Stone was visible ahead, very close. We couldn't see the second raft, and decided to stop. According to the map we must have covered 10-12 kilometers, not bad at all for the first three hours of sailing. Our 'Kon-Tiki' suffered little damage, two logs came loose. But the small raft looked much worse. Almost all the logs moved freely in the ties. A major overhaul was needed. Of course, going through the rapids today on such rafts would be risky. We worked all evening: knitting yarn, fastening logs. The guys dragged a dry log, which we decided to use to strengthen the small raft. Sashka Virovets and I have already acquired the profession of tying logs. The work, although honorable, is unpleasant; you have to stand in the water all the time.

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So, what awaits us tomorrow? What are these thresholds that Hoffmann wrote about? The guys are in a cheerful mood; tomorrow, or at least the day after tomorrow, they want to be in Shizhim. Frankly speaking, this would not hurt, because we only have enough food for one day. Let us remember the note left by the Sverdlovsk group at the site where the rafts were built: they wrote that they took two days to build and that they were sailing with only a three-day supply of food, and it sounded pessimistic.

Tomorrow we decided to sail later, at about 12 o’clock, since the water was too cold in the morning.

August 2

In every trek there is always the most critical moment, when it seems that everything has turned against you. For us, today was such a day. It rained all night. Almost the entire Bear Stone is hidden by low clouds, only from time to time they break and reveal its gloomy wooded slopes. We set sail. At first everything went like yesterday. But then the thresholds appeared. Actually, we guessed that these were rapids already when we were dragged by the stream at breakneck speed, turned around and landed on a rock. The raft immediately became warped, and the water began to wash away the backpacks. We didn’t have time to think or get scared; we immediately jumped out, some up to our waists and some up to our chests, into the water and slowly, log by log, we removed the raft from the stone. And again we marveled at the survivability of the Kon-Tiki: only two logs, not fastened with ropes, moved away. The situation was much worse for the small raft, whose entire rear lashing fanned out. Urgent repairs were needed. The rain began to drizzle again. We decided to warm up before work, lit a fire, and put on some tea. Vadim went back to the hut that we saw on the left bank when we entered the rapids. It turned out to be completely collapsed, but there was a note from last year from some hunters.

And again we had to tie the raft up to our knees in water. But now it was impossible to stand it for more than 20 minutes; my legs and arms were completely numb. And yet we did it. We sailed further. But soon the second raft completely disintegrated again. Urgent repair! It was simply scary to think about this in the incessant rain.

We stopped for the night. Sashka Virovets and Yurka went ahead on reconnaissance. Meanwhile, we set up camp, pitched the wet tents, and with difficulty started a fire. Already in the dark the scouts returned. There is little consolation: further, all three kilometers that they walked, rapids stretch, the river becomes wider and deeper, there are no more shallows, but huge stones hidden under the water stick out everywhere. Should we sail further? We talked about this for a long time, and the majority were inclined to abandon the rafts or carry them through the rapids empty (this was suggested by Vadim). We counted the food: 13 cans of canned food (hunting helped us!), 2 mugs of buckwheat, 2 cans of condensed milk and about 10 kg (a whole wealth!) of sugar. If we eat two cans of stew a day, it will last for a week.

Everyone went to bed to the same monotonous sound of rain. We drank alcohol for the second time during the hike, today it was probably necessary.

I imagine this whole huge endless taiga, night, continuous veil of rain, swamps, swamps, windbreaks for hundreds of kilometers around. And not a single living soul. Lonely.

On a raft
On a raft

August 3

The morning brought new plans. While Andrey was unsuccessfully trying to start a fire, Sashka came up with the idea of ​​tying the rafts together, making ropes from a couple of blankets. But looking ashore, we realized that there was nothing to tie, the rafts were carried away. Pechora was very swollen, it has risen by 30 centimeters. So, we will have to walk.

We estimated from the map that it’s 60 kilometers to Shizhim, but it’s unlikely that this village, lost in the taiga, far from the roads, is populated. The next one is Shaytanovka, 80 km away. But we are not sure about it either, it stands too alone, and how many times during our wanderings around the Urals did we come across abandoned villages. Surely Ust-Unya is populated, 120 km away. This means you need to do at least 20 km a day. In the taiga!

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We set off already in the after noon. The backpacks became much lighter, and we could walk for a long time without stopping. We tried to walk along the coast, but the entire coastal strip was flooded. The taiga looks depressing - swamps, windfall. We walked 7 km until evening, when Sashka Virovets spotted two moose on the shore. We rushed after them, and suddenly on the other bank there was a large, fairly new hut! This could mean that people are somewhere not too far away, because they wouldn’t put such a house far from the village. We even shouted to celebrate, hoping that there was someone in the house. For some reason, this event had such an effect on us that we immediately decided to build rafts. The lack of dry trees was confusing, but an objection was quickly found: we will build from raw trees, but make the logs longer and take 10 logs for each raft. We picked very few mushrooms during the day, and were starting to feel the hunger setting in.

August 4

We were building a raft. All day long we felled trees with great difficulty, cut off branches, dragged trunks (try moving a 10-meter raw log!) and all in vain. Only after dragging 10 logs to the water did they decide to test their buoyancy. We lowered one, I stood on it, but it immediately went under the water. Is there too much bad luck? Lose the whole day when we are already running low on food! No, now just keep going, no matter what.

In the evening, when the water subsided a little, we crossed Pechora. This enterprise turned out to be very risky. At the very beginning, Sashka Mishchenko began to spin and begin to demolish, but with the help of a stake he held on. Almost at the opposite shore, we, who were sailing ahead, fell into a strong current, and deep water. The youngest, Sasha Virovets and Natasha, began to suffer. Natasha was torn from the bottom, I barely had time to catch her, and, fortunately, we landed on a rock. Here we were able to hold out until Sychushka arrived and helped Natasha get out. Andrey did not think to unfasten the lower strings of his storm trousers, they inflated like airships, and the current dragged him, but he, too, was able to hold on, although he cursed terribly.

But a real reward awaited us. The house turned out to be a real paradise: solid, dry, with a stove, and a large supply of dry firewood. And next to it is a real natural park - a young birch forest, soft green grass. But the most remarkable thing is the abundance of mushrooms. A few steps from the house, we easily filled four buckets within an hour, so just cleaning the mushrooms, which was done by four people, took two hours. You won’t see such mushrooms near Moscow - they are huge, some cover a bucket, and completely strong, young. Because of fatigue, we did not finish cleaning the second bucket and did not eat, but went to bed. How blissful it is to sleep in the warmth, by the stove! Now, as Sashka Virovets said, all that is missing for complete happiness is a path. But we will learn about this only tomorrow, after crossing the Bolshaya (Big) Porozhnaya River, which flows here into Pechora. The weather also improved, it was a cloudless evening. It seems that my theory about balancing good luck with bad luck and vice versa has some merit.

August 5

In the morning we crossed Porozhnaya and went deeper into the taiga. Then we decided to go to the shore again, and walked along the river almost all day. Near the water itself there is a strip 0.5 to 1.5 meters wide, covered either with pebbles, stones, or grass. After the confluence of the Porozhnaya, the Pechora became a completely flat river, majestic, wide, with many channels. But the current is fast, just to float on rafts. You just feel fooled walking along such a river on foot. In one day we collected a bucketful of mushrooms, although we didn’t walk much through the taiga. This is again saving food. We reached almost all the way to Manskiye Bolvany, about 20 kilometers.

August 6

This day turned out to be less successful. It became more difficult to walk, the convenient coastal strip disappeared. The rocks approach the water itself, dropping steeply into the river. You can, of course, climb the rocks, as we did in Altai, climbing through Cuba. But then we were just starting the hike, we had full backpacks of food and a reserve of unspent strength. It's a different matter now. In the taiga above the cliff there are swamps, thickets, rubble. That day we were provided with food: two buckets of mushrooms, a wood grouse shot by Igor, three black grouse and a hare made up a good dinner. However, 'hare' is too strong a word. The unfortunate little bunny, the size of an average cat, was shot from a distance of two steps, with two shots. As a result, little remains of it.

In those rare moments when we went out to the river, the movement immediately slowed down significantly. There is an amazing abundance of all kinds of strawberries, blueberries, stoneberries, black and red currants, raspberries and especially rose hips. In a week, when all this is finished, there will be a real paradise here.

Even after Mansky Blockheads it is impossible to walk along the shore; it is completely overgrown with dense bushes. The good weather is a consolation, but in the evening, when we stopped for the night, it deteriorated. We walked no more than 10 km.

August 7

We make our way further and further to Shizhim. The pace is far from what we would like. At times, in search of an easier path, we go very far from the river, at times we approach it. One day we came out onto a high escarpment, from where a magnificent view opened up: the taiga stretches far, far away in smooth waves, and here and there you can see the rivers crossing it. Enormous space and complete solitude.

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In the evening we suddenly saw a wide, well-trodden path. Are they really people? We walked a little, looking closely at the tracks. No, these are not horse hooves, more like cow hooves. You guessed it - moose. The joy that had flared up died away. The path led us to a narrow strip of standing water. On the left it adjoined the river, and on the right it stretched for about a kilometer. We had barely walked around this "estuary" when we came across another, more serious one. Bypass this one too? Hanging from the opposite bank was a birch tree that had fallen into the water, which, as it seemed to me, lay at the bottom, reaching approximately the middle of the "estuary". The depth by eye is not great, about 1 m. I decided to try to wade. At first everything went well, but then the bottom began to rapidly go down. I didn’t want to stop, I moved on and suddenly felt that there was no bottom. I had to swim in full gear, with a backpack over my shoulders, to the damned birch tree, two or three meters. Somehow I got out. It turned out that the birch tree does not lie at the bottom, but hangs in the water. After an unintended swim, my backpack and, most unpleasantly, my documents got wet. Soon after this we stopped for the night.

August 8

This day was surprisingly eventful. As soon as we left our campsite, we came across huge thickets of raspberries and black currants. There was no way to tear the hungry guys away from them. Having lost two hours, we moved on. And suddenly on the shore, right next to the water, we see long, dry, hewn logs. Who prepared them? For what? Are people far away? Can they be used for a raft? Questions of morality were quickly put aside. It is unknown whether there are people in Shizhim and Shaytanovka, and we will not reach Unya on foot soon.

"Raft Brigade" Sashka Virovets, Igor and I built a magnificent raft, a real beauty, by the evening. But it began to get dark, and Andrey and Vadim, who were sent to get food, were still not there. Suddenly, from the direction of the river, we hear splashing and the sounds of voices. It’s as if Vadim’s voice is heard. Maybe they got to people? But immediately another thought: what about the raft? A boat moored to the shore; there were four people in it: Vadim, Andrey and two aborigines. At the bottom of the boat there is some kind of red bag and several cakes. Bread! You should have seen our faces!

This is what it turned out to be: we are 6 kilometers from Shizhim, there are people there, this is a forest cordon. But we are located on the territory of the Pechora-Ilychsky Nature Reserve, the logs are government-owned, and therefore the raft will have to be immediately dismantled. An aborigine, a young bearded man, a real inhabitant of the taiga, promised to take five of us by boat to Shizhim early in the morning. The rest will have to walk along the opposite bank, there is no longer a nature reserve there. Taking our route book and guns, the native left.

We dismantled the raft, drank the remaining alcohol and went to bed. It was joyful that our epic was ending, but it was also a shame that we did not completely overcome everything ourselves and that we did not do it without help. But we could have. Six kilometers to Shizhim, we would be there tomorrow. And there would be much more joy. For the first time after a long break, we cooked ourselves porridge and ate bread.

August 9

Early in the morning, five of us sailed to Shizhim, and four Sashka Virovets, Sashka Mishchenko, Borka (Boris) and I moved on foot along the left bank. I don’t know why, but these last six kilometers to Shizhim seemed the most difficult to me. Windbreaks, rocks, "estuaries", thickets, swamps, everything was somehow concentrated on these six kilometers. But still, at about 12 o’clock, on the other bank, high above the river, we saw several buildings - Shizhim. Here we were met by Igor and Vadim. Vadim took us to the other side and treated us to the fish they had left for us. In Shizhim, the guys were received surprisingly well, given crackers, freshly salted fish, and some cereal. They categorically refused to take the money. But we couldn’t get a boat; everything was mowed. This means that we will have to walk 20 km along the path to Shaytanovka.

We left at 2 pm. The trail is muddy and sometimes disappears into a swamp, but it’s a trail! They almost lost it when, going out to Pechora, it suddenly disappeared, dissolving into a huge wasteland where the now abandoned village of Kamen once stood. The abundance of berries, especially blueberries, bog blueberries and raspberries, slowed the movement. They, as we later learned, are not collected here, trying to preserve natural conditions for the birds. But how quickly we walked along the road, a real highway that stretched after the Stone. In the evening we went to the bank of the Shaytanovka River, which flows into Pechora. There is a cordon on the other side. A young guy came out in response to our screams, quickly moved the boat, and transported us in two trips. The impression is that they were waiting for us. They live richer here than in Shizhim. They gave us a bathhouse for the night and provided us with potatoes, butter, milk, and bread. But this time they took our money, albeit inexpensively. That evening there was a real feast; we had not eaten like this for a long time. We fell asleep warm, under the roof. Nice!

August 10

The next morning we had to agree on the most important thing about the boat to Unya. The local tariff is 1 ruble per kilometer, i.e. 450 rubles for 9 people 55 km before Unya did not suit us. Vadim, after haggling, dropped the price to 300 rubles. But this is also a lot. After all, we still have to get to Troitsko-Pechorsk, and we don’t know how much it will cost. No, more than 200 rubles is absolutely impossible. Andrey and I went to negotiations. The owner is a handsome old man, an Old Believer. We started a conversation from afar, talked about this and that, and learned, by the way, that gold had once been mined in the upper reaches of the Pechora. Then we got down to business. But our efforts remained in vain. Only when we had already risen, firmly deciding to walk the remaining 33 km to Unya (55 km along the river), the owner relented and agreed to our conditions.

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And now we are sailing along Pechora. The river forms many islands, often meanders, sometimes compressing into a narrow stream, sometimes forming wide reaches. We saw the work of Pechora fishermen catching pike and grayling. In the evening, when the sun was already setting, we reached Unya. (This is not in the diary, but I remember well how in this very Ust-Unya, where we finally got to the store, I experienced a feeling of real intoxication from overeating after the previous hunger. Not in a figurative sense, but in the most literal sense, with all the signs alcoholic gaiety, dizziness and unsteadiness of legs.)

August 11

So another 68 km have been covered. We are in Kurya. This time Pechora showed us all its splendor: a beautiful sunny day, the mirror of the river, clouds, taiga along the banks, and in places bright yellow sand. But still, a whole day on the water, in a boat, is tiring. But to Troitsko-Pechorsk, if you sail, there are still four days. We learned that planes regularly depart from here, and decided to fly. And it is cheaper: only 125 rubles per person.

August 12

Instead of the expected Yak, a U-2 arrived. And he was able to pick up only one, Andrey, the second place was taken by a passenger who was waiting for the plane before us. On the second run, Sychusha and I flew away. 100 kilometers, 45 minutes. It was our first time on an airplane. In the evening we met Natasha and Borka in Troitsko-Pechorsk. They were the last ones to arrive that day. We explored the local canteen and found it difficult to find accommodation for the night. Troitsko-Pechorsk is a typical northern town, or rather an overgrown village. Dirty streets, wooden sidewalks, wooden houses that were thoroughly wet.

August 13

Raining in the morning, bad weather. We went to the airfield several times, but they completely frightened us there, saying that there was a cyclone and the bad weather could last for a week. And again we trudge to the other end of the city. Still, just in the evening, having somehow chosen a two-hour break between two rains, the pilot brought Vadim and Sashka Mishchenko, Igor and Sashka Virovets spend a second night at the Kurinsky airfield. (This airfield was just a clearing in the forest, even a rather hummocky clearing, on the edge of which there was a small log house and a "sausage" hanging, a net that caught the wind. And when he saw the U-2 plane, Sasha Virovets thoughtfully said: "We shouldn’t have thrown out cans, I would make one myself").

August 14

Finally, we are back together. In the morning Sashka and Igor arrived. After the dining room we went to the Ukhtinsky tract to catch a passing car. With ease, with two transfers, we reached Ukhta by 8.30 pm. And here’s a new misfortune: all our money is on a letter of credit, and the savings bank closes at 8 pm. We miss two trains.

August 15

We spent the whole day at the station, since trains to Moscow only go in the evening. We missed the first train, there were only general seats, and we wanted luxury. We left on the second one, already on the night of August 16th. The police became interested in our long stay at the station, but everything worked out, we were cleared.

We arrived in Moscow on the 17th. So my biggest and most difficult hike has ended.

To this I will only add that for the sake of the hike we refused a trip to the virgin lands, where the "best representatives" of the chemistry department went that summer. In fact, many were eager to enter the virgin lands, and not everyone was allowed in, so we didn’t have to overcome any obstacles, no one persuaded us. Yes, they also paid money, albeit small. And, of course, there was not the slightest political background or any hidden resistance in our decision. Lev Yaguzhinsky and all his entourage did not go on an expedition and spent the entire summer in the Kazakh steppe. But we preferred the personal to the public.

(c) Boris Gudkov
July-August 1956
(c) Publication of the diary - Maya Piskareva.
June 20, 2013

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Аppendix 2.

Lake Teletskoye. 1956

Map of the hike to Lake Teletskoye
Map of the hike to Lake Teletskoye

About 5 pm we went to Artybash, more precisely to the workers' village on the left bank of the Biya. Here, food supplies were replenished at ORS's store. With the help of a 'safe-conduct' we had lunch in the dining room. We crossed to the other side of the lake and stopped not far from the camp site. The walking part of the hike is over.

Artybash tourbase, 1955
Artybash tourbase, 1955

The next day we clarified the situation. At the camp site you have to pay about 300 rubles for a 3-day walk on the lake. This doesn't suit us. We met the guys from MEPhI. They boarded the boat and paid 180 rubles for 8 people. In the store at the camp site you can get a lot, there is bread, millet, tea, cocoa, even canned food. Let's go find out about the boat in Artybash. Here we almost immediately came to an agreement with a certain Uymashev. We will pay 10 rubles per day for a fairly spacious boat. At 5 pm we loaded up and set off. In 3 hours we walked 15 km and stopped for the night near a forest cordon. We bought milk.

On Lake Teletskoye
On Lake Teletskoye

The next morning we got up at about 7 am in order to cross the cape in the morning, near which after sunrise a "verkhovka" blows, raises a large wave and makes it difficult to walk. We slipped through. We stopped at a very picturesque place to have breakfast. At 12.30 we moved on. Not far away, the aces of Cape Airam saw, or rather heard, a waterfall. There are caves nearby, but we noticed them only after driving away. We landed on the opposite bank, where there should also be caves. We didn’t find any caves and soon stopped for the night.

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In the morning there is a headwind 'verkhovka'. We waited until 12 o'clock, then headed to the eastern shore. Here we examined the Korbu waterfall.

Korbu waterfall
Korbu waterfall

It is quite high, but less powerful and interesting than the previous one, Kyshty. In the evening a fresh breeze blew, and we went quite quickly under the sail from a blanket. We stopped at Chelyush. From here it is 16 km to the end of the lake.

The notes, for some reason, do not mention that the boat we received was bundled with a passenger, a young local woman who was heading to her relatives in the village of Abyshtu, at the other end of the lake. She supplied us with information about the surrounding area, the features of the lake, the winds and their dangers. In the photo of our campsite she is wearing a white scarf.

Campsite at Teletskoye lake
Campsite at Teletskoye lake

(с) Б.С.Гудков
1955 г.
(с) М.Л.Пискарева
21 июня 2013 г.

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Аppendix 3.

Reflections on hiking in the 50s.

It’s strange, but what I remember best is not the main thing (although who knows what the main thing is?), but the secondary thing, namely the hiking trips. I had them, not counting one-, two-, three-day ones, a total of nine or ten - on foot, skiing, kayaking, mountain: to Altai, to the Urals, to Karelia, to the Caucasus, in central Russia. There are so many vacations, so many trips, excluding the very first winter holidays. And now they go hiking, but today it seems to me that this is done by people who are truly passionate about traveling, almost professionals, and they use professional, well-thought-out and correct equipment, and conduct preliminary and correct training. And then, at least at our university, hiking was something like an epidemic, and those not caught up in it must have felt, I think, somewhat even disadvantaged. The university could at best provide us with backpacks and tents for travel, and even then they were always in insufficient quantities and always in very shabby condition. Therefore, the two-person tent "serebryanka" had to accommodate four people, and the "poludatka" - six. Large mountaineering backpacks, 'alpines', were at a special price, but they were obtained extremely rarely. Everything else we produced ourselves. Sleeping bags were cut from quilted cotton blankets; in the summer, ordinary blankets were taken instead; wide felt linings were sewn onto the canvas straps of domestic backpacks so that the shoulders would be less abraded; simple ski boots were turned into mountain boots, stuffed with 'tricons' - three-pronged spikes that someone you knew made for you. I remember how, before going to the Caucasus, we "spiked" our boots, securing the vice on a polished round table in the living room of our apartment on Kutuzovsky Prospekt (our poor parents, who had difficulty getting this luxurious furniture! How did they endure all this?).

It took special effort to obtain food for the hike. Try to get canned beef or pork stew in Soviet times! We needed several cans for each day, depending on the number of hikers. We dried crackers, stocked up on cereals - buckwheat, rice, millet - which was also not always easy, bought condensed milk and refined sugar. We also took alcohol with us, but almost exclusively for medical purposes. Of course, there had never been anything specially lightweight or camping on sale, so the weight of the backpacks for the male part of the group exceeded 30 kg, and for the female part it was in half. And we had to carry this load on ourselves all day, only towards the end of the hike did the backpacks become lighter. We never dreamed of purchasing locally, and the hikes themselves took place mostly in deserted places. It was even harder when traveling by kayak. The first Soviet folding kayak 'Luch' (Beam), by the way, was very successful, weighed 30 kilograms. True, in this case all the rigging work took place on a short segment of the route to the place where the boat was launched into the water. Then the kayak carried the load itself, and the difficulties took on a different character.

Why did we do all this? After all, formally it all boiled down to many days of dragging heavy backpacks from point A to point B; we did not set any special goals e.g. research, exploration, or collection. Probably, I was attracted by the complete freedom, dependence only on myself, attracted by the opportunity to test my strength, to find my limit. I wanted to see the unprecedented, experience the untested. And every year twice - after the summer and winter examination sessions - we loaded onto the train, usually into the cheapest 'general', no-reserve car, and set off further from Moscow - to Altai, to the Urals, to the Caucasus.

Yura Chapovsky, a junior student, wrote such poems, perhaps not very skillful, but quite accurate.

Confused the trail in the harsh taiga,
Having two crackers.
We give our word to the exhausted ones.
Settle down from January.
But after living at home for a year, it’s awkward
We draw cards by hand.
We patch up old storm boots,
We put canned food in our backpacks.
And sadness interfering with pleasure
(No one will understand themselves),
Birthdays away from home
We are celebrating for the third year in a row.

These poems were published in 1958 in a thin collection 'Rainbow' with the subtitle 'Poems of Moscow State University poets. Literary supplement to the newspaper 'Moscow University'. And Yura himself soon died on a ski trip somewhere in the Sayan Mountains, caught in an avalanche.

Even after graduating from theuniversity, we made such trips once or twice with the same company. Only towards the end of the hiking epic, its aimlessness - the absence of any specific tasks - began to somewhat depress me. I felt this especially acutely during the winter Karelian hike, which ended unexpectedly: in a place where according to the map there was complete wilderness, we unexpectedly came out onto a newly paved highway, and it became pointless to continue moving further. It would seem that one should be happy about this outcome, but Andryushka Bobkov exclaimed in disappointment: "Well, it’s all over!" It turned out we were seeking difficulties for the sake of difficulties, overcoming obstacles for the sake of overcoming them. I expressed all this out loud, but received a stern rebuke from my comrades, accompanied by sarcastic advice to collect butterflies in order to find the desired achievment. I accepted the rebuke, but I internally decided that it was time to end this matter. And why, in fact, did it not occur to anyone to use the then mass hiking psychosis for some, as they say, "national economic purposes"? My last big trip after the university, one for which we "triconed" our boots, took place in the Caucasus.

(c) B.S. Gudkov
(c) M.L. Piskareva
June 21, 2013


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