He said that because he knew the history of the site, he felt a “kind of macabre atmosphere” in the pass, which takes days to reach from the city of Ivdel, itself a day by train from the city of Yekaterinburg. “You’re all alone up there.”
Mr Born said he was “very excited” about the documented evidence of an avalanche, but said mysteries about the case would always remain. “At some point with this Dyatlov mystery,” he said, “you have to be open-minded about the fact that there are some things you’ll never understand.”
Gaume said the wind helped explain why no avalanche had been previously documented in the area, even though indigenous people, the Mansi, live in the region. “These avalanches are released in conditions where people don’t go out because it’s so windy, so stormy, and hours later the wind has covered the tracks,” he said.
The latest article by Mr. Puzrin and Mr. Gaume, published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment, has not been peer-reviewed. And two avalanche experts not involved, Karl Birkeland and Doug Chabot, were skeptical, saying that although the Swiss scientists had shown how it could have happened, it still seemed unlikely.
“We believe that the avalanche hypothesis cannot be completely ruled out, but it is not the most likely scenario,” said Mr. Birkeland, director of the US Forest Service’s National Avalanche Center. “While it is remotely possible, we would suggest it would be highly unlikely.”
He and mr. Chabot, the director of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center in Montana, said evidence of an avalanche near the tent site “isn’t really relevant” because safe terrain can directly border on dangerous conditions.
They also expressed concern about whether the terrain was steep enough. Despite the 3-D mapping, they believe the slopes in old photos “are not steep enough for an avalanche,” Birkeland said.