Yuri Koptelov excerpts from an interview with Channel 1, 2013

03-11-2011

On the pass with Slobtsov 23.02-4.03 and Martyushev 6-17.04 groups

YK: - When, then, the students became agitated, and since I was leading weekend hikes, I was in the corner (meetup place, room - ed.), I heard that the Dyatlov group, had to either show up or report on the 12th (February - ed.) that they had left the route. 12th nothing, 13th nothing. I learned about this on the 18th or 19th. And then, I was prepared, I had clothes, a backpack, etc., everything was there, well, I thought that I could participate, especially since the the search group was leaving on the next day. The next day I came again on the 20th, let’s say, I heard that one group was being assembled, Slobtsov was leading it, I thought that he knows me a little, and I know him a little, my younger sister studied with him, my younger sister graduated from school. I say, well, in that case, I should get into Slobtsov’s group. I mean, let’s say it’s 21, I’m already at home, I’ve prepared all my things that are needed in this case, since I imagined where it would be, where the search group’s route would be, I prepared my things on the 20th, and on the 21st I came back to the institute, and I say: "I want to help with the search, can I join Slobtsov’s group?" They told me: "It’s possible, bring your equipment in the morning of the 22nd to the formation, you will be a reserve." I said: "Okay, I will show up as a reserve." I came on the 22nd in the morning. Slobtsov's group was lined up. I stood opposite the authorities that were approving the group, that included a doctor, and I am fully equipped, well, naturally before such an event, especially since the first group included practically the youngest, there’s a doctor there, he walked down the row, he approached a student, talked to him, and told him to step down. I filled the ranks in his place.

Correspondent: - Please tell us, you went on hikes yourself, of course. So tell us how the groups got together for the hikes?

YK: – Well, sine I was leading weekend hikes, when they were preparing, in the hiking meetup room (corner), already on the floor, there is a corner close to the construction (engineering faculty - ed.), everyone knew about it, and, let’s say, I decide to organize a hike, I explain the route, I am familiar with the route in advance, I decide when we go, make a plan, where do we start, when to we overnight, do we have firewood, or do we need to spend the night without fire, I write my last name: let’s go, the route is this and that, and everyone signs up below. This is how I got the people for the weekend. We decide when to meet at the hikers' corner, the group that signed up below was getting together, and we had already discussed the details, which means that we are taking everything needed to cook along the route, and that’s all, and since this is a weekend hike, i.e. let's say, some summer hikes, of course, could be with an overnight stay, let's say one winter overnight stay, as a rule, from morning to evening, well, with or without a fire. We agree on who buys what, who brings a bucket, who brings the axe.

Correspondent: – Do you think Igor Dyatlov’s group was fully prepared for the trek?

YK: – Well, that’s not the right word, they were mostly there, well, naturally, I don’t know the group, but as far as I understand, since the hike is so difficult, they practically didn’t take beginners there, they didn’t take beginners, they wouldn’t have taken me there, because even I, ah, a first category hiker, but they were a group of third category, even I was not included in the first category hike as a participant in such a hike.

Correspondent: – What year were you?

YK: – 4th.

Correspondent: - And they?

YK: – Well, there were in different years. It turns out there, so, that means two graduated, and Zolotaryov, and, the rest, means different courses, mostly fourth, third, well, third, fourth, fifth.

Correspondent: - Tell us how you went to the airfield.

YK: – The morning on the 22nd? And, well, in the morning, after we, ah, I got into formation, that means we got out, got on the bus, went to the airfield, there the plane was already ready for us, boarded the plane, sat down and that’s it.

Correspondent: – Who was with you on the bus at that moment?

YK: – I don’t remember, but who? Our group, and who, well, obviously there was one of the accompanying people, Slobtsov should know all this, he should know something about Sharavin, because they were close with Sharavin, Sharavin was an experienced hiker, he participated in higher category hikes, I didn’t, I took part in first category hikes only, let’s say, but in the summer, my friends and I went through the Altai Mountains, that is I organized a group, me and 7 girls, we went to Taganay, there were like traces and after that I went again there myself, and after that, I organized it myself.

Correspondent: – So next, you travel by bus, arrive at the airfield, and board a helicopter?

YK: – We boarded the plane and arrived, where we spent the night, which means that in the morning the weather was not very good, in my opinion it was windy, well, there wasn’t much snow, well, it was very windy, we had to wait a long time, so we talked. I remember, they said that we should have been taken out by helicopters with military pilots. They didn’t let us out for a long time, and after lunch we were finally put on a helicopter, I was flying on the second helicopter, which means we flew too, and, I just remember that already when we flew up to the place where we they threw it out, the situation turned out to be such that, well, since I was in the second helicopter, our helicopter just literally landed quickly, we quickly jumped out, threw away the equipment, jumped out ourselves when it rose into the air, it became dark above us, and only below, about 200 meters, already in the forest area, and there we were on a slope, some kind of hill, they dropped us off, well, the snow there wasn’t heavy, they dropped us off, less than knee-deep, and there was a fire burning. Those who arrived in the first helicopter, had already set up a tent and lit a fire, and here we spent the night, and this was already, that means, close to the river bank, well, it was under the snow of course, well, at least we were in the forest zone. Well, those who arrived first by helicopter, set up a tent and a fire. Our group was thrown out by two helicopters. But, 50 years later, I found out that there were no longer 9, but 11 of us.

Correspondent: – Who were these two people?

YK: – Hunter, Pashin, and hunter Aleksey Cheglakov, employee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Correspondent: – What were they doing at the time of the search, were they also searching? Did they spend the night in a tent with you?


- 2 -

YK: - From Slobtsov’s group, besides Slobtsov, I only knew Vadim (Brusnitsyn - ed.), that’s all. I met Sharavin only later on the route, during the search, so it turns out that I knew only two from Slobtsov’s group, I am the third, how many remained? I didn’t know 8 people, I didn’t know any of the 8 people, I didn’t know them only in the sense that I didn’t know them personally, and for me it was all the same, especially the conditions when we were in a dense forest in the morning, we were floundering up to our waists, struggling with the snow, we were doing great efforts, we couldn’t walk, we moved from bank to bank so that we can see some traces there, here’s a small imprint there - we’re going there, but there’s a bit of a continuation, well, that means we go there fast. The first day we cover, well, maybe someone remembers somewhere, from 10 to 14 kilometers. I’ve said 12 to 14 kilometers. Well, since I’m still an experienced hiker, in the sense that I, besides the fact that I participated as a student, I’m still a skier, orienteer, mushroom picker, berry picker, I’ve been a berry picker since I was five years old, i.e. it’s clear, that’s why I’m a time factor, especially since I had a compass, I could tell the direction we were going, and that’s it, we still spent the night, we had an overnight on the route. And then in the morning, after that second night, in the morning, little by little, we were following him, but it was as if he was following traces, it was clear to us that he was going to the upper sources of the river, and gradually the snow, the trees became scarce, less and less, small bald spots appeared in the forest, it became clear to us that somewhere we should already reach a clearing. And the very next day, when we almost began to emerge from the dense forest, there was already a helicopter, a plane, we heard a plane in the sky above us, so we quickly ran to an open space, the plane made a circle and flew away, that’s it. We walked some more distance, we hear again a plane flying, and we then quickly go to the little bump on such a light, not big one, lie down, make a code sign, I don’t remember exactly, either the letter "П" or a cross, well at least I remember that we laid down, the plane shook its wings, made a circle, and threw us a canister. As I remember, there was a note in the canister, also in order to attract this plane's attention, we fired from a rocket launchers, we had hand rockets, there was a pistol rocket, there were rockets, so, well, then he made a circle and threw out a canister, the note had approximately the following content: "Set up a base camp, a radio operator and Mansi are coming." This means that they are walking along our ski track, and will catch up with us. We also understand what it means for us that we have arrived already, and that we should wait for them to join us, but we still made a small push, found a good place on the bank of the river, already there it was clearly visible, we were close but the snow before made it not very clear, but here it was better, on the bank we stopped at a good place, set camp. The next day, it was decided to leave me in the camp, I remained on duty in the camp, maintaining the fire, cooking something. Well, because they knew that since I was cooking on the weekend hikes, I could cook something, well, they left me on duty. Sometime around noon, maybe 12-13, somewhere in the latter maybe, the radio operator came with a companion, анд they began to deploy the walkie-talkie and so on. Then maybe an hour or two later, Slobtsov and Sharavin came and said that they had found the tent, the tent was empty, there were a lot of things there, they took a diary, and a flask of alcohol. By the evening everyone had arrived, that means all the searchers, and in the evening we discussed what, how and why had happened, where could have our friends - hikers - escaped from the tent, and so on...

Correspondent: – Did hikers usually take alcohol with them?

YK: – Well, as a rule, we took in reserve, a very small amount, for frostbite, and, no, no, of course, well, that’s out of the question. Only NZ.

Корреспондент: – Whose flask was it? Was there a name written on it?

YK: – 800 grams, I have such a flask at home now, for example. I didn't see a name. They brought it to the tent. I saw it, they poured me there at the bottom in a mug, and that’s it, that’s all my participation.

Correspondent: – Tell us how Slobtsov left later?

YK: – How did Slobtsov leave? I don’t know, what I know is that that on the 5th, well, on the 3rd we were taken to the away our entire group, on the 2nd we loaded 5 corpses, but they didn’t take us, on the 3rd a helicopter specially flew for us and took us away all 9 people, and these 9 people had already arrived on the 5th, somewhere at noon, 12-13, something like that, have already arrived in Sverdlovsk.

Корреспондент: – Tell us how did you find the bodies under the cedar tree, how did you arrive there?

YK: – I was rested, since I was on duty, so I had a chance to recover, and Sharavin, who according to the information I later heard was a hunter, i.e. well prepared, he took part in hunting treks, i.e. he knew what he was doing in the taiga, and since I went on weekend hikes, they also thought that I could navigate and I could. So we were given a task, since Sharavin knows where the tent is, to go to the tent, and try to follow where could the group go, since there is no one in the tent, where did they all go? We got up very quickly, the weather was beautiful, clear and so on. Well, that’s how I remember the temperature, 10, maybe 12. It took us only 45 minutes to arrive from the base camp to the pass, then  we approached the tent, the mountain on the left is 1079 , that means there is a tent in front of us, and 12 kilometers in front of us is Otorten, it is quite further away, a lot of walking. Well, it’s 12 kilometers from the tent, there’s a valley on the right, which means we’re standing on the pass that connects height 1079 and height 880. We approached the tent and stood behind the tent behind height 1079, in front of the tent, we stood, which means and they and Misha began to reason about what could have happened, why was the tent was put up in such a place, it was inconvenient from the point of view of hikers, climbers, well, the mountains are an open place, less than 2 kilometers below , they probably had a base camp, they probably found a labaz there later, that’s it.


- 3 -

We began to think what could make them put the tent here, it’s not clear, but let's say they had some reason to put the tent like that, let’s move on then. Where could have they gone, let’s imagine that it was night, suppose they went to bed, they settled in, and something forced them to jump out of the tent, where could have they run? If they could not navigate in the dark, if they were perhaps blind, or not sighted or poorly sighted, perhaps they were thrown, where could they go, around the tent there is dense snow, firn snow, almost ice, we were somehow moving around the tent on skis, it was slippery, there was no need for us to take off our skis, it would have been slippery anyway, because we weren’t going to stop, we had to go further, well, naturally, we didn’t take off our skis. We thought, well, where are they, except down the slope, they would have nowhere to go, and then we decided to go around the tent on the left towards the grove nearby, I’m assessing it from our position, 200-250 meters from the tent there was a grove, small forest, i.e. not high, maybe one meter, meter and a half, up to two, somewhat dense, but small forest, i.e. low trees. We thought: "Let’s get there first, and then we’ll see." When we first went around, we went in that direction, which means there wasn’t a big drop here, after 7 meters maybe 10, there was a slight drop, about half a meter high, the transition is this steep, there we saw 8 pairs of tracks, parallel, deepened, deepened, i.e. they were deep, eight pairs, for some reason there was no ninth. Five pairs, then a big gap, and three pairs. We noticed something strange, it looked as if people were standing barefoot in this ice, it is necessary, firstly, to stand for a long time, and secondly, it’s strange, in such conditions in ice, firn, snow and suddenly there are deep footprints, we just noticed, and moved on. We went down to the grove, we tried to go into the grove, in case we saw footprints there, but before we got closer the snow had already become deeper, above the knee. We went into this thicket, but it was useless to look in this snow, we came out of that grove, from this place. when we came out, there was already a free place. In front of us there was already a kind of valley, leveled, shiny, fluffy snow, barely covering our our skis. Ahead, in front of us, there was only pure snow, a clear sky, and we looked from side to side, here and there, nothing to stop our eyes on, we didn’t notice anything special, not closer, not in front of us, not to the left, neither on the right, nothing unusual. And little by little, we began to slide and slide down the slope, we kept going, there was nothing unusual, no traces, nothing. There was talk that they were running there, they were running here, since they were running there, that means at least some kind of traces should be left behind, let’s say bodies, suddenly bodies were dragged, or people fell, there should be some holes, some furrows, there was nothing, there was smooth, even snow. In the end, we arrived at a vertical rise, let's say a slope, a steep slope sharply, sharply steep slope and thought, where do we go from here, left, right, we began to directly climb this slope, well, a meter, two, two and a half, maybe up to three meters high in front of us. When we reached the top in front of us there was again small forest, only sparse, i.e. behind us was dense, here the small forest was sparse, and we noticed to the left a tall tree. I was looking the left, Misha to the right, we both turned to the left, since there was a tree like that, like some kind of landmark, so we went to the left, around this big tree, we saw a clearing, we look, two corpses are lying with their heads towards each other, behold, one is lying with his feet towards us, there is a fire between them. You can see that the clearing is very lightly powdered with snow, literally a thin layer of snow. The corpses are practically lying in their underwear. When they ask me: "How much powdered?" Well, imagine, you are walking, the wind blows snow off the roof and you were covered in powder, this is how much was on them, More, I claim that they were lying on the ground, there was very little snow, because, on the one hand, the fire was not big, it was a little dusted with snow, and something like sticks across the clearing, i.e. the situation was clear that there was also very little snow on the ground. I even have the impression that there was no snow under the corpses either, and I write about this in my memoirs. They were lying there, like this, and here there was a fire, like this, well, we got there like this, and like this, here is the clearing, there they were lying like this, well, I’m describing, on the right there was yes, then, his face was brick-red, his nose was so dark, and we didn’t approach, we didn’t have to do this, we didn’t approach the corpses, because we understood that this was not our task, the investigators were to further decide what and how, to take a photograph, that one was lying with his feet towards us, this face was from afar, well, somewhere around five meters, maybe this part of the nose was missing, as if pecked. Yes, nutcracker. Well, while we were looking here, we heard the sound of a helicopter. And the first helicopter was already landing on the pass, then we quickly ran up to the pass.

Drawing by Koptelov


- 4 -

Correspondent: – And who arrived there?

YK: – Well, the first ones arrived, the prosecutors, the investigators there, accompanying them. When we had already climbed the pass, this helicopter had already flown away, and a second helicopter was approaching and landing. Then, when we approached the crowd, I don’t know where Misha went, I don’t know at all, on this day, on this day where Misha was I don’t know, so when we approached the crowd, when they realized that we were coming from below and that we are from Slobtsov’s group, they asked us where have we been, and we said that we found two corpses in a clearing near a tall tree. They said: "Show us." I said, sure if you want to find them you can follow our ski track, that’s where we came from, our ski track, go down the ski track and you will find everything, because our ski track is the only one, there were no more landmarks, that’s it. Well, then, they asked me the second question: "And where is the tent?" I say,  the tent is up there. "Can you show me?" I say: "Sure, let's go." So I was accompanying, well, maybe someone else was there, I was already doing my task (to show the tent - ed.), I no longer know who else was walking there, well, the photograph shows that Karelin and I are at the tent. In the tent, when I had already shown the tent, it means we talked there, they told me that I can go, so I went down from the tent. A second helicopter had already dropped off soldiers and officers, also dogs. There was already a well-trodden path, which means there were all sorts of things lying there. They told me: "Can you help the soldiers put up an army tent, show where the place for the base camp is?" I said: "Sure, but I have belongings in the base camp, I need to go there." They tell me: "It's ok, we’re picking up your things, the base camp has already been removed." I said: "Well, in this case, let's go" And I’m already at the head of a crowd of soldiers, which means I’ve got my bearings. I say: "Go there, there is a clearing, a more or less flat area, on the left you see dense forest, you can build a toilet there and take firewood. On the right - below, you see there, 200-300 or 400 meters, there is a river, you can take water." And all this, in this afternoon, by the evening we had already erected the first tent for the soldiers. And in the next morning I helped put up the second tent for the soldiers. We finished up with the second tent somewhere already at lunchtime and from that time on, I was no longer in the valley, and don't know what was going on there. I only found out later, let’s say on that day, that they found Kolmogorova, Dyatlov, and approximately, which means it was imprinted on me that on March 28th or 1st (March - ed.), they found Slobodin on the same line with them, already deeper under the snow, that's all. On the 2nd a helicopter arrived to pick them up, on the 3rd a helicopter arrived to pick us up, and on the 5th we were home.

Correspondent: – Did the investigator call you after that?

YK: – Me - no. I don’t know who did they call. We didn’t discuss such things among ourselves, because we didn’t need it at all.

Correspondent: - When you returned to Sverdlovsk from the search, did you once wonder what could have happened to the guys?

YK: - I didn't ask myself the question for a very long time. Why? Because from this search unit, I was there twice, I was there, I was at Slobtsov’s, and then I was back two weeks later at the end of March. And at the end of March, well, already there, as others describe, they pricked this snow with pins throughout the valley. That’s why I had two impressions, but I’m talking about the first one, when I was in Slobtsov’s group, I endured the first two parts of this search. First, I understood, it means, coming from the valley - a clear day, clean snow, smooth snow, there is no clue anywhere, everything is clean, free, and so on - I understood that the position where we found two corpses, and the fact that on the same day they found two more corpses that were lying, Dyatlov generally on the surface, and Kolmogorova... and Kolmogorov at a depth of only 10 centimeters, from this day I realized that the hikers were not running around the valley, they died somewhere near the tent. And the position of these four, and the fifth, which means one was found, I say, on the 28th or 1st, in the end it turned out, which means that people laid them out where they lay. Moreover, in order to put, especially the first two, by the fire, it was clear that they not only put them there, but also prepared a clearing on purpose, specially, they set up a scene, with a fire. These are the two points I have fixed for myself. And I, my life circumstances simply did not allow me further, or simply distracted me from this thought, I was not involved in the Dyatlov group case.

Correspondent: - Did you only see two bodies?

YK: – I only saw two, that's what I'm talking about. About those three my friends already told me that they found it in such and such a place, in such and such way, that's it.

Correspondent: - Can you please explain the diagram, how did you go?

YK: – Please. This means that this is the upper reaches of the Auspiya. Our base camp is approximately this place. I was on duty there. Sharavin and Slobtsov walked like this and found a tent. On February 27, Sharavin and I went up to the tent. Then, after some thought, we walked along this route, seeing this small forest.

Correspondent: – Didn't the location of the tent seem strange to you?

YK: – Well, I already told you that it seemed that it was not standing in a favorable place. Hikers usually do not pitch a tent on a barren place. On any hike, they try to stay in the forest area - there is firewood, there is water, there is no wind, and so on. Well, we thought: "It’s strange, okay." But the fact is that there is a tent here. What do we do now? That’s it, this is fixed. Now we need to understand where they could go. Could get away. And then we stood, in front of us is a valley, here is height 1079, here is the pass, here it connects with height 880. We observed this valley from here and decided: "Okay, let’s go down first, since we don't know what lies ahead, the valley is clear, there’s nothing to catch the eye, let’s try to go first to the small forest area. Here we were on skis walking through the snow barely covering our skis. As soon as we entered the small forest, it immediately became deep. Straightaway! Knee-deep and higher. Well, what do we do now? We walked ten meters there and said: "That’s it, there’s no point in going any further. There are no traces there anyway, if we can’t find any traces, if we don’t see them here, then what should we look for?" We left this zone, and there was a slight slope covered with dense snow, and we just advanced slowly. We slide, we slide, we looked to the left, we looked to the right - everything was clear, pristine, there was nothing to cling to. In the end, we arrive - there is a hillock in front of us. We began to rise, and there we saw a clearing, a cedar tree, and in the clearing lay two corpses and a fire between them. Everything is clean, white, powdered, just a little bit of snow lies on top of the corpses, on the ground and on the fire. I think that people put them here because... When they died, naturally, no one could have been there. People laid them down. But who, I don’t know. There were no traces. I didn’t see what the guys remembered because I didn’t go to this zone. I walked from over here, after one day passed. And we, Misha and I, went up like this and walked in a circle, in a circle like this along the top. We walked around like this, found no traces anywhere, and came back. We had a camp located in approximately this place, and just like that, he and I rode through the forest to the camp, here.

 

Карта Коптелова 2013

 

 

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