By Tim Binnall
In what may be disappointing news to those who advocate for a more exotic explanation, an intriguing new scientific examination of the infamous Dyatlov Pass incident supports the theory that the tragic event was the result of an avalanche. The 1959 case which saw nine hikers die under mysterious circumstances in Russia's Ural Mountains has been the subject of considerable speculation and debate for decades with all manner of possibilities for what could have caused their demise being put forward by researchers. The latest look at the Dyaltov Pass incident comes by way of a pair of highly qualified experts who wound up coming to a rather familiar conclusion.
Learning about the curious case for the first time back in October of 2019, professor Johan Gaume, who heads the Snow and Avalanche Simulation Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, became fascinated by the mysterious event and enlisted Alexander Puzrin, chair of Geotechnical Engineering at ETH Zurich, to see if their considerable expertise could be used to solve the mystery once and for all. In a newly published paper authored by the two experts, they argue that the tragedy was, indeed, the result of an avalanche and, remarkably, that the unexpected torrent of snow was actually inadvertently caused by the hikers themselves.
Specifically, they theorize, the nightmarish chain of events began when the hikers cut into a snow slab on the side of the mountain in order to set up their tent and be protected by winds. "If they hadn't made a cut in the slope, nothing would have happened," mused Guame in a press release detailing the duo's findings, "that was the initial trigger, but that alone wouldn't have been enough." As such, the two scientists propose that a downward airflow, known as a katabatic wind, likely caused an additional layer of snow to accumulate on the slope over the next several hours until the pressure became too much and the slab finally gave way in the form of an avalanche.
The researchers say that this scenario, which they explored using computer simulations and scientific modeling, answers the question of how such an event could have occurred if there had been no snowfall the night of the incident and also explains the injuries sustained by the hikers. "The truth, of course, is that no one really knows what happened that night," conceded Guame, who nevertheless noted that their study produced "strong quantitative evidence that the avalanche theory is plausible," which is far more than proponents of the more fantastic ideas such as a Yeti attack or UFO event have managed to accomplish.