The Dyatlov Pass incident sounds like the concept for a pretty fantastic horror movie, but unfortunately it isn't. The grim reality is that on Feb. 2 1959, nine college students hiked up the slopes of the Russian Ural Mountains but never made it out alive. That, of course, is tragic enough. What's more unsettling is that the students’ bodies were found scattered across the campsite in three distinct groups, some partially naked and with injuries including: crushed ribs, a fractured skull, and one hiker whose eyes had been gouged out and tongue removed. Not exactly the stuff you expect from, say, exposure to the elements.
No one has been able to fully explain this horrific scene, but now Discovery Channel and explorer Mike Libecki are giving it a shot with a two-hour special called "Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives" (airing Sun. June 1 at 9:00 p.m.) Okay, we may have lost you at "yeti," but have you got a better idea?
To come to the yeti conclusion, Libecki works from diary accounts, forensic evidence and recently-released files to piece together the events of that night. Investigators at the time chalked up the carnage to "compelling natural force," which is a polite way of saying "Hell if we know."
The crime scene (the slashed tent was found first with most of the victims' belongings untouched inside) left more questions than answers. Why was the tent slashed from the inside? Why would the victims leave their clothing behind in subzero weather? Could it have been a government top secret weapon that killed them? Maybe an indigenous local tribe that lashed out for trespassing on their land? Hey, here's an idea -- maybe one of the students went hella crazy and killed his or her friends, then committed suicide? Okay, that's not as cool as a yeti. And why did the Soviet government suppress the autopsy and other reports for 30 years? Oh yeah, that happened.
Mike first heard about the Dyatlov Pass incident on a climbing expedition in 2011 and since then has become obsessed with the case. “I’ve spent a lot of time alone in the mountains and have had my share of near-death experiences,” he said. “I know if I went missing, I’d want my family to know what happened to me.”
Libecki hired Russian translator Maria Klenokova and together they set out to one of the most remote and inhospitable places on Earth. Following the trail of evidence, Mike finds proof that the hikers were not alone – a photograph, taken by one of the hikers a day before they died that suggests that they encountered a Yeti. So there! Yeti! Ha!
"Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives" will air as a part of Discovery Channel’s Monster Weekend, a jam-packed weekend of programming devoted to creatures – from the creepy to crawly. Airing the night before on Saturday, May 31 at 9 PM ET/PT, is "Mini Monsters." Narrated by "Game of Thrones"' Peter Dinklage, the special follows a cast of animal characters from chipmunks to beetles to marmoset monkeys, revealing life on a different scale. Check out the full line-up of programming at http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/tv-schedule.htm