Ural Stalkers Flight from the Mountain of the Dead

Vadim Chernobrov, 1999

"But, upon an evil day,
Dire misfortune came their way!"
(P.P. Yershov "The Little Humpbacked Horse").

After Komsomolskaya Pravda published our plans to go to the notorious Mountain of the Dead, and we were wondering which version of the deaths on its slopes to concider as a working hypothesis and which thread of investigation to pull, the editorial office rang from Yekaterinburg: "You from Komsomolskaya Pravda are looking for the causes of all these deaths? It seems like we have stumbled upon the answer!"

We agree with the caller, Lyudmila Alekseevna Zhvanko on when, how and on what we will do on the Mountain with a frighteningly scary name. There was no disagreement about the timing. Almost all of the deaths there took place at the very end of winter, and from a scientific point of view it would be more interesting to postpone the trip for several months, but the general opinion was that we will not wait, we will go right after the crawlers and mosquitoes go away during the Indian summer, the period with the calmest weather in these parts... Our goal was not to add the list of those who died on the mountain slopes, but as it turned out later, the choice of travel dates was almost fatal...

Ural Kosmopoisk 1999
Chernobrov expedition in 1999

Sheer mysticism

It seems like on the Mountain of the Dead by a strange coincidence groups of 9 people died several times. According to legend, 9 Mansi were once killed here. So, in the winter of 1959 ten hikers gathered to climb the Mountain. But soon one of them, an experienced hiker, felt bad (his legs hurt) and he left the route. For the the assault remained only nine...

One might not believe in mysticism, but оn the 40th anniversary of the tragedy we didn’t really want to go a group of nine. When we met at Sverdlovsk railway station we turned up nine. Three participants almost immediately announced that they would not be able to go, and remaining six we breathed a sigh of relief. Having several hours till the schedules departure we went to the city to meet with those who knew the dead...

Chernobrov original map
Chernobrov original map

Variation of Chernobrov map in English
Variation of Chernobrov map in English

First we went to Valeriya Patrusheva, the widow of the pilot, who was the first to notice the bodies of dead hikers from the air. “And you know, my husband Gennadiy knew them well while they were alive. They met in a hotel in the village of Vizhay, where the pilots stayed - the group stopped there before starting off. Gennadiy was interested in local legends and began to dissuade them - go to other mountains, you have no business going to this peak, in  Mansi language the name means "Don’t go there" and "Mountain of the 9 dead!" But the guys were not 9, but 10, they were all experienced hikers, traveled a lot in the Northern Subpolar, did not believe in mysticism. Their leader - Igor Dyatlov - such a strong-willed person - Gennadiy even called him "stubborn", no matter how much he persuaded him, Dyatlov did not change the route..."

– 2 –

The hike was declared as a route of the third (at that time higher) category of difficulty with climbing low mountains. The route is quite difficult, but it is passable, nowadays many traverse and much more complicated routes. In general, in such cases they say that nothing boded trouble... Forty years later, we daddle along the Lozva river - the last route of the Dyatlov group, along which they went to the top. We encounter only pacifying nature all around, the majestic landscapes looks like a photo "wallpaper" and the complete silence around is deafening. You need to constantly remind yourself - just one mistake is enough to die in the midst of all this lulling splendor...

...The mistake of the Dyatlov group was that they neglected the warnings and went to a forbidden place... What mistake our group made - we were explained by the local aborigines later. Under no circumstances should we pass through the local Golden Gate - two powerful stone arches on top of one of the rocks. Even the convinced materialists noticed a quick change in the attitude of a local deity towards us or, if you want, call it nature. Almost immediately, a heavy downpour began, which did not stop for a week (an unprecedented event, local old-timers will tell us), the rivers overflowed the coast, an incredible mark for autumn, pieces of land under our tents began to melt catastrophically, and the raging Vladimirskiy rapids located downstream made our evacuation just a deadly pursuit...

What scared them to death?

However, forty years ago everything was much worse. On February 1, 1959, Dyatlov’s group began climbing to the top of “1079”, which was then nameless. Just now, everyone knows it as the Mountain of the Dead (in the Mansi language "Kholat Syakhl") and it is now called the Dyatlov Pass. It was here that on February 2 (according to other sources - February 1), under very mysterious circumstances, a tragedy occurred... They didn’t have time to get up before dark, and decided to put up a tent right on the slope. This alone confirms that the hikers were not afraid of difficulties: high on the slope, without the cover of the forest, it is much colder than at the foothills. They laid skis on the snow, set a tent on top according to all the mountaineering rules, ate ... In the declassified criminal case, the conclusion remained that neither the installation of the tent nor the gentle 15-18-degree slope posed a threat. According to the shadows length in the last photograph, the experts concluded that by 6 p.m. in the evening the tent was already standing. They started to settle for the night... And then something terrible happened!..

...Later, investigators began to establish a picture of what happened. In a panic of terror, cutting the tent with knives, the hikers rushed out along the slope. They ran out in whatever they were wearing - barefoot, in one felt boot, half-naked. The tracks went in a strange trajectory, converged and setting apart again, as if people wanted to run away, but some force again drove them together. Nobody came up to the tent, there were no signs of a struggle or the presence of other people. There are no signs of any natural disaster: a snowstorm, a tornado, an avalanche. On the border of the forest, the tracks disappeared, covered with snow.

Pilot G. Patrushev noticed two bodies from the air, made several circles above the guys, hoping that they would raise their heads. The first search team arrived (one of that group, now pensioner Sergey Antonovich Verhovskiy, we even managed to find) tried to dig snow in this place, and soon the terrible finds began.

Two of the dead lay near a poorly lit campfire, stripped to their underwear. They froze when they stopped moving. 300 meters from them lay the body of I. Dyatlov: crawled to the tent and died, looking longingly in that direction. There was no damage on the body... Another corpse was found closer to the tent. An autopsy revealed a crack in the skull, this terrible blow was dealt without the slightest damage to the skin. He died not from this injury, but also froze. The girl crawled closest to the tent. She lay face down, and the snow beneath her was stained with blood flowing from her mouth. But no trace on her body. An even greater mystery was presented by three corpses, found away from the fire. They were dragged there by still living participants in the ill-fated expedition. They died from terrible injuries: broken ribs, caved in head, hemorrhages. But how could internal injuries not affect the skin? By the way, there are no cliffs from which you could fall. The last of the dead was found nearby. His death, according to the criminal case, "came from exposure to low temperature". In other words, it’s frozen. [Gerstein M. Tragedy in the mountains / "Centaur Crossroads" 1997, N 3 (8), pp. 1-6]. However, not one of the published versions of the death is considered generally accepted. Despite numerous attempts to find an explanation, the tragic incidents continue to remain a mystery both to researchers of anomalous phenomena and to law enforcement agencies...

We searched for a long time for those who performed the autopsy. The surgeon Iosif Prutkov, who was the first to perform an autopsy, has already died by now, the others we met (Prutkov’s relatives, doctors A.P. Taranova, P. Gel, Sharonin, members of the regional commission) could not recall the details. But unexpectedly (it was meant to be!), in a train compartment we came across the former assistant of Prutkov, in fact the only living person who helped open those corpses, was doctor Maria Ivanova Solter. She remembered those guys very well, not only that, but she remembered them still alive (she was young then, she liked the sturdy leader). But, according to her, “there were not 9, but 11 corpses, where two more came from - I don’t know. I recognized them right away, in these clothes and saw them for the last time at the bus stop. They brought everyone to us, to the closed military hospital, one body they didn’t even show to us, they took it immediately to Sverdlovsk. Some military man was present during the autopsy, pointed at me and said to Dr. Prutkov: "Do you need her?" Prutkov was a very polite person, but that time he turned and said: "Maria Ivanovna, you can go!" They made me sign a non-disclosure all the same. They took signed statements from everyone, including drivers and pilots who carried bodies..."

Other shocking details began to emerge. Former criminal prosecutor L.N. Lukin recalls: “In May, we examined the surroundings of the scene with E.P. Maslennikov, found that some young trees on the forest border had a burned mark, but these marks were not of a concentric form or other pattern, there was no epicenter. This indicates a source like a strong heat ray, completely unknown, at least to us, energy acting selectively, the snow was not melted, the trees were not damaged. It seemed that when the hikers went more than five hundred meters down the mountain, this source attacked them individually..."

– 3 –

Rocket version

Persistent rumors spread among researchers that the hiking group was killed because people they had become unwitting eyewitnesses of secret weapon tests. The skin of the dead was, according to searchers, "an unnatural purple or orange color". And the forensic investigators didn't have an explanation about the strange color: they knew that even a month under the snow couldn’t stain the skin like that... But, as we found out according to M. Solter, the skin was "really just dark normal for a corpse".

Who and why in their stories "painted" the corpses? If the skin was orange, it would not be ruled out that the guys were poisoned by rocket fuel asymmetric dimethyl hydrazine (orange heptyl). And the rocket, it would seem, could deviate from the course and fall (fly) nearby.

A new confirmation of the rocket version appeared relatively recently, when a strange 30-centimeter ring was found in the area of the death of the Dyatlov group. As it turned out, belonging to the Soviet military missile. Talk of secret trials reappeared. A local researcher, Rimma Aleksandrovna Pechurkina, working in the Yekaterinburg Oblastnaya Gazeta, recalled that the search groups had observed “either rockets or UFOs” flying across the sky twice, on February 17 and March 31, 1959. With a request to find out whether these objects were missiles, she turned to Kosmopoisk in April 1999. And after studying the archives, it was possible to establish that in the USSR no launches of ISS were carried out in those days. On February 17, 1959, the United States launched the Avangard-2 solid fuel, but they could not observe this start in Siberia. March 31, 1959 with Baikonur launched the R-7, the launch was unsuccessful. Launches from Plesetsk were carried out since 1960, construction was carried out since 1957, theoretically from Plesetsk in 1959 they could produce only R-7 test launches. But this rocket could not have toxic fuel components.

There was one more fact in favor of the rocket hypothesis - south of the Mountain, modern hikers already stumbled upon several deep craters "clearly from the rockets". With great difficulty in the remote taiga, we found two of them and did some exploring. They obviously were not caused by a rocket explosion in 1959, a 55 years old birch tree grew in the crater (counted the rings), that is, the explosion thundered in the taiga no later than 1944. Remembering what year it was, it would be possible to attribute everything to training bombing or something like that, but... we made an unpleasant discovery with the radiometer that the crater was contaminated with radiation.

Radioactive bombs in 1944? What the... Bombs, really?

Radioactive trace

The forensic scientist L.N. Lukin recalls what surprised him the most in 1959: "When I reported the initial data to the first secretary of the CPSU regional committee, A.S. Kirilenko, with the prosecutor of the region, he gave a clear command - to keep the fidnings secret. Kirilenko ordered the hikers to be buried in closed coffins and to tell relatives that everyone died from hypothermia. I conducted extensive examination on clothes and individual organs of the deceased “for radiation". For comparison, we took clothes and internal organs of people who died in car accidents or died naturally death. The results were amazing..."

From the expert's conclusion: "The samples of clothing contain a slightly overestimated amount of a radioactive substance due to beta radiation. The detected radioactive substances are washed off during washing of the samples, that is, they are caused not by neutron flux and induced radioactivity, but by radioactive contamination."

Additional questions to the expert:

Question: Should there be (can it be) increased contamination of clothing with radioactive substances under normal conditions, i.e. without being in a radioactively contaminated environment or place?

Answer: Definitely not.

Question: Is it possible to consider that this clothing is contaminated with radioactive dust?

Answer: Yes, clothes are contaminated or radioactive dust dropped from the atmosphere, or this garment has been exposed to contamination when working with radioactive substances, or on contact.

Where could the radioactive dust come down on the dead? At that time on the territory of the Soviet Union there were no nuclear tests in the atmosphere. The last explosion before this tragedy occurred on October 25, 1958 in Novaya Zemlya. Was this area at that time bombarded with radioactive dust from previous tests? This is not excluded. Moreover, Lukin drove a Geiger counter to the place of death of the hikers, and it was "clicking a lot" ...

Or maybe the traces of radioactivity are not related to the deaths of the hikers? After all, radiation will not kill in a few hours and even more so will not drive people out of the tent! But then what?

In an attempt to explain the death of nine experienced hikers, a variety of versions were put forward - from ball lightning flying into the tent, to the detrimental effect of the technogenic factor. Local historian Oleg Viktorovich Strauh told us about the theory, that the group went into the area where secret tests of "vacuum weapon" were carried out. This caused the strange reddish skin tone of the dead, and the internal injuries and bleeding. The same symptoms are characteristic for a "vacuum bomb", which creates a strong discharge of air over a large area. When the periphery of this zone reaches a person blood vessels burst from internal pressure, and the insides of the body are torn to pieces.

– 4 –

For some time, the local Hansi were under suspicions, who once in the 1930s had already killed a female geologist dared to go to a sacred mountain that was closed to ordinary mortals. Many taiga hunters were arrested, but ... everyone was released for lack of evidence. Moreover, the mysterious incidents in the restricted area continued...

The harvest of death continues

Soon after the death of the Dyatlov group under mysterious circumstances that speaks in favor of the version of the involvement of special services in the incident, photographer Yuri Yarovoy, who took pictures of the dead bodies died with his wife in a car accident... A special services officer who, at the request of his friend G. Patrushev involuntarily started digging into this whole story shot himself in his bath...

In February 1961, in the area of the same Dead Mountain, in an anomalous place and again under similar more than strange circumstances, another group of hikers from Leningrad died. And again, there were supposedly the same signs of incomprehensible fear: tents cut from the inside, abandoned belongings, people scattering to the sides, and again all 9 of those who died with masks of horror on their faces, only this time the corpses lay in a neat circle around the tent... However, this is only a rumor, and no one remembered details, no matter how persistently we asked about it. No confirmation was found in the official organs either. That is, either the St. Petersburg group was "cleaned up" more thoroughly than the Sverdlovsk group, or it is only an urban legend. Just like another group of three supposedly lost here...

At least once again in the history of the Mountain, an indication of 9 corpses pops up, which is confirmed by documents. In 1960-61, a total of 9 pilots and geologists died one after another in three air crashes in the doomed area. Strange coincidences at a place named in memory of 9 dead Mansi. The last living pilot of those who participated in the search for Dyatlov group was G. Patrushev. Both he and his young wife were sure that very soon he would not return from a flight. “He was very nervous,” V. Patrusheva tells us, “He did not drink at all, but once I saw him pale and shaken dranking a bottle of vodka in one gulp and not even getting drunk. When he flew away for the last time, we both knew that it’s the last time. I became afraid to fly, but every time - if there was enough fuel - I stubbornly flew to the Mountain of the Dead. I wanted to find a clue... "

There are also other incidents under strange circumstances in the area. Local authorities remember how long in the 1970s they searched and did not find a missing young geologist, since his father was of an important ministerial rank, they searched for him with special partiality. He practically disappeared in plain sight in the presence of his colleagues... A lot more have gone missing since then. When we were in Ivdel in September 1999, it’s been just a month since the disappearance of a married couple...

Traces lead to the sky

The investigation back in the 1950s also considered a theory that will now be called a UFO. It is a fact that during the search for the dead hikers over the heads of rescuers, colorful sights unfold, fireballs and shining clouds flew over. No one understood what it was, and therefore the fantastic heavenly phenomena seemed scary...

Report to the Sverdlovsk City Party Committee: "31.3 04:00 Meshcheryakov who was on watch noticed in the southeast direction a large fire ring, which for 20 minutes moved towards us, hiding behind height 880. Before hiding behind the horizon from the center of the ring appeared a star, which gradually increased to the size of the moon, began to fall down separating from the ring. This unusual phenomenon was observed by all the personnel raised in alarm. We ask you to explain this phenomenon and if it is safe, since under the circumstances it left us with anxiety.
Avenburg Potapov Sogrin"

L. N. Lukin recalls: "While the investigation was ongoing, a tiny note appeared in the Tagil Worker newspaper that a fireball, or, as they say now, UFOs, was seen in the sky above Nizhniy Tagil. This luminous object moved silently towards the northern peaks of the Ural Mountains. The editor of the newspaper was summoned in the regional committee, and was asked not to publish anything else on this subject"...

To be honest, we didn't observe anything mysterious in the sky above the Mountain, as well as along the way near Vizhay and Ivdel. Perhaps because the sky was just covered by impenetrable clouds. Both the rain and the flood of a regional scale stopped only when we barely got out through the rapids on a catamaran popping at the seams. Then, when we were already making our way in the Perm region through the taiga, the God of the Golden Gate made it clear that he had forgiven us - when we were almost out of water a bear led us to her watering hole...

Probably all this is nothing more than a coincidence. And all the terrible incidents on the Mountain of the Dead are just a chain of accidents. We did not find the reason for the death of the Dyatlov group, although we realized that missile launches have nothing to do with it...

Already from Moscow I called the widow of the pilot to understand - so why did Patrushev voluntarily take a course towards the Mountains even when he was afraid to fly? "He said that something seemed to beckon him. Often he met luminous balls in the air, and then the plane started to shake, the instruments danced like crazy, and his head was aching. Then he turned away. Then he flew there again. He was very confident that he could make a land even on a top of a pole." ...According to the official reports, pilot G. Patrushev died 65 km north of Ivdel while attempting an emergency landing...

Vadim Chernobrov
The map is drawn after the original Chernobrov map

Vadim Chernobrov is called the chief ufologist of Russia. He died at the age of 52 from cancer. He was chasing UFO's all his adult life. Did radiation from the sightings caught up with him at the end? On the 40th anniversary of Dyatlov Pass tragedy he went on an expedition to the Mountain of the Dead, as he calls it, and published in his book shortly after. He left a very interesting legacy to the Dyatlov group case, one that we built on to this day.

Vadim Chernobrov
Vadim Aleksandrovich Chernobrov
(17.VI.1965 - 18.V.2017)


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