On January 28, 1959, nine graduates from the Ural State Technical University set out on a backcountry hike to Russia’s Ural Mountains, but never returned. The hikers were all experienced mountaineers who were expected to return by February 12th and, upon arrival, send a telegram to their sports club. A snowstorm formed, and the hikers were forced to set camp on the east slope of Kholat Syakhl, which translates to “dead mountain” in the indigenous Mansi language. When February 12th arrived, the sports club never received a telegram. However, being delayed during a mountain hike was common, so no rescue expedition was sent. Eventually, due to complaints of the hiker’s relatives, a rescue team went out to search for the hikers on February 20th.
Eight days later, the rescue team was baffled by what they had found. The hikers’ tent was covered in snow, and cut open from the inside, leaving their belongings intact. A set of eight footprints led to the edge of the nearby woods 9.3 miles away from the campsite, and after 1,640 feet, the footprints were covered by snow. The footprints ended near a cedar tree, where there were remains of a small fire. The first two bodies were found near the fire, wearing only their underwear. Between the woods and the camp, another three bodies were found, indicating that they were trying to make their way back to the tent. The search for the remaining four members took two months, and when their bodies were found, they were four meters under the snow in a ravine located 246 feet further into the woods. Unlike the others, they were completely dressed. It seemed that the first to die had given up their clothes to their friends. It was concluded that they had all died of hypothermia, but the discovery of the four bodies found in the ravine shifted the narrative of the entire incident. Three of the ski hikers had fatal injuries, such as major skull damage and major chest fractures that could only be attained by an extremely high force. The fourth body was found without her tongue, eyes, part of the lips, and a fragment of skull bone, and her hands had extensive skin maceration. An entire investigation was launched, but, was ceased after four months due to the lack of a guilty party. Their deaths were said to be caused by a “compelling natural force,” and the case files were sent to a secret archive.
A popular theory claims that the incident was caused by a military test. This theory states that the injuries on the hikers could have been caused by parachute mines that detonate while still in the air rather than on the earth’s surface. This theory coincides with reported sightings of glowing orbs floating or falling in the sky near where the hikers’ campsite was the same night they had died.