Brive1987 wrote: ↑
Matt Cavanaugh wrote: ↑
Brive1987 wrote: ↑
To be fair, there’s no evidence the Russkies were fuck ups - or out of their depth - which makes the incident all the more interesting.
These expeditions were considered normal rites of passage at the time. This party’s specific progress to date had been 100%. The diary records a strong group dynamic. They were on course and on track to their destination. They had, the day before, cached a good supply for the return trip. Their tent was effectively erected and positioned on a marginal-risk slope in reasonable weather. They were in the process of “boots off and eating” when the event occurred.
Their equipment was inadequate. Clothing was piecemeal mufti. Tent was two surplus army tents stitched together. The stove was cumbersome, jury-rigged and unsafe. Placed in the center of the long tent, those next to it roasted while those at the fard ends shivered.
They forgot to pack important supplies they meant to bring.
They ran out of food and money, so had to go hat-in-hand at a train station. As a result, one of them was detained by police for panhandling, delaying them by several hours.
That delay forced them to hitch. First an open-air ride in the back of a GAZ, during which several of them fell ill, then on a woodcutter's mule-drawn cart, though most of them had to trudge alongside.
They planned on staying in a remote mining camp and there restock supplies, only to find on arrival it was abandoned, with only a single, unheated building suitable for shelter.
The day before the incident, they encountered deep snow on the ground, which exhausted them and left them behind schedule. Instead of bivouacking in the woods with more snowfall threatening, they pressed on up the slope. Exhausted, they decided leave the stove behind.
Faulty orientation led them along the wrong path, which, on top of the day's slow progress, left them partway up the barren slope at dusk. Hastily, they had to shovel out a nook for the tent, which surely further exhausted them. With no stove that night, not only would they have been physically compromised, their outer garments would not have dried.
The prevailing theory is that cut in the snow on the slope directly led to the disaster.
I will come back to this, given every point made here is wrong.
The fundamental error in your approach is that even if granted, none of these points make a case for why the group left the safety and security of camp to die in the snow. Being fully “North-Faced” up, is of little use when you find yourself more than 500 metres down slope of your kit.
You would need to demonstrate their lack of preparedness indicated underlying ineptitude made manifest in their decision to leave. Or it made them exhausted and likely to make poor decisions. However, you fail to meet either of these two conditions.
Let’s consider some salient point.
Firstly, you need to be clear about your benchmarks
. in 1959, winter sports tourism in Russia was not common. You need to be careful in applying qualitative hurdles for the group to meet. Your complaint is just as relevant to Mallory and (Edmund) Hillary
Secondly the group was not inexperienced.
Dyatlov was one hike short of his Masters certificate, had participated in (and headed some) 9 expeditions. Lyuda had led a winter hike in the Northern Urals in 1958. Aleksandr was a tourism instructor in the Urals and had won 4 combat awards during the Second World War.
Thirdly, The group were provided detailed maps by the local head of an Exploration Company.
They knew where they were going (Mt Otorton) and how to get there.
Matt Error #1
You say “They ran out of food and money, so had to go hat-in-hand at a train station. As a result, one of them was detained by police for panhandling, delaying them by several hours.”
The account I have (based on their diaries) states they arrived on Day 1 at Serov at 7:00am, the next train to Ivdel was in 12 hours, the stations sitting room was locked and George struck up a panhandling song, a silly waste of time. He was detained for disturbing the peace. No money was raised nor was it required. They were on the train at 6:30pm
Matt Error #2
You say “That delay forced them to hitch. First an open-air ride in the back of a GAZ, during which several of them fell ill, then on a woodcutter's mule-drawn cart, though most of them had to trudge alongside.”
There was no delay, they arrived in Ivdel at midnight and slept in the train station as the bus to Vizhai left in the morning. They caught a bus to Vizhai which was an off-shoot of the Stalin Gulag system and in the boon-docks. They got there at 2:00pm and stayed in a Guest House. And watched a movie.
Their next goal was the 41st Site – used by loggers and geologists. The only way there was an open truck and yes Yuri caught a cold. "Several didn't get sick". And Yuri was keen to proceed. The party commented favourably on the hospitality shown to them at 41st Site.
Their next stop was the 2nd Northern – an abandoned labour camp used by geologists. 24 km away and in the absolute middle of no-where. The weather was described as warm and they enjoyed the trip as their packs were in the horse cart.
Matt Error #3
You say “They planned on staying in a remote mining camp and there restock supplies, only to find on arrival it was abandoned, with only a single, unheated building suitable for shelter.”
There’s no indication they expected to restock or enjoy any luxury at this point! They found a house with windows, a roof, and a stove. They cooked dinner and chatted till 3:00am.
Now they left (less one member who dropped out with back pain) to go overland.
You miss out the trip, pre disaster, I suspect because it challenges your thesis of incompetence.
Day 1 they left at noon, followed the Lozva River and made 15 km despite -8 temperatures. They lit the stove that night and slept “almost like at home”.
Day 2 they reached the Auspiya River and went upstream 3km
Matt Error #4
You say “The day before the incident, they encountered deep snow on the ground, which exhausted them and left them behind schedule. Instead of bivouacking in the woods with more snowfall threatening, they pressed on up the slope. Exhausted, they decided leave the stove behind."
On Day 3 (heavy snow along the Auspiya) they still made 17 km despite -13 degrees. Its not clear they were off any schedule. Yet.
Day 4 they left the river and went through forest towards the heights – again making 14 km. Here they ascended the wrong spur but came back down as it wasn’t practical to cache. Yes they fucked up but no, here they retreated to forest and rested.
Day 5 they cached 6 days of supplies for the return trip lightening their packs. They were in good cheer, taking time to create and leave a humorous newspaper behind. They only left at noon or later. The ascent was 30 degrees and weather was typically windy and possibly blizzarding. They were south of the pass but in any case had no time to descend to the forest and camp due to weather and time. The chosen camp spot was protected from the west winds by the NE spur of 1079. The tent was described as “pitched soundly and skillfully”. The stove was left in its case in the tent – not left behind. It wasn’t used because there was no wood. They had each brought 2 sticks of wood with which to boil tea. This was consistent with the previous evening.
The inside of the tent indicated they were well organised and in the process of having a meal when whatever happened happened.
tl/dr – you mix inaccuracy with mis-characterisation to produce a narrative which doesn’t address the actual cause of the disaster – the leaving behind of perfectly good kit for raw snow.
The group had experience and executed a well done route march in. They were in good cheer the day of ascent.
You end with “The prevailing theory is that cut in the snow on the slope directly led to the disaster.”
Well, that competes with 64 increasingly loony theories – but there is little to no evidence its correct and it doesn’t address many of the WTF elements of the case. So case open.
Their route - not sure whether they were going for Mt Otorton by valley or heights.
Marginally south of the Pass and clearly able to get to the forest.