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Disaster at the Djatlov Pass: Mystery finally solved?
The professional mountaineer and mountain guide Freddie Wilkinson, who was also not involved in the work, believes it is entirely possible that such harmless-sounding snow masses can cause physical injuries. “Some blocks of snow can be pretty hard, and it's very plausible that they can lead to blunt trauma,” he says.
"I am absolutely convinced that the tragedy was the result of the wind and snow build-up and the fact that they camped in the slipstream of a ridge," adds Wilkinson. “I've made this mistake more than once in my mountaineering career.” During an expedition to Antarctica in 2012, Wilkinson's team pitched the tents within a circle of wind-repellent snow walls they had built themselves. When his team returned to the camp after three days, they found that two tents that stood in the snow wall were completely buried under snow.
The avalanche that appears to have erupted on Cholat Sjachl on February 1, 1959, was an incredibly rare occurrence. But rare events happen - and this could only happen at this very point, at this very moment, on this one winter night.
Open questions - and material for speculation
What happened after the avalanche is speculation. It is currently believed that the team cut themselves out of the buried tent and fled in a panic to a makeshift shelter in the trees about one and a half kilometers down the slope. Three of them were seriously injured, but all were found outside the tent. Hence, it is likely that the stronger survivors pulled the injured out of their quarters in order to rescue them. “It's a story of courage and friendship,” says Puzrin.
Most of the nine team members who perished on Cholat Sjachl died of hypothermia, while others may have succumbed to their injuries. The state of undressing in which some were found remains a mystery (paradoxical undressing could be a possible explanation), as does reports that some of the bodies showed traces of radioactivity (which could be a result of the thorium present in the camping lamps) . The missing eyes and tongue could simply have fallen victim to scavengers - but that too remains open.
This new study doesn't try to explain everything that happened in 1959 - and the Dyatlov Pass case is unlikely to ever be fully cleared up, Gaume says. The study simply provides a reasonable account of the events that ultimately led to the deaths on Cholat Sjachl.
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