9. The Infamous Tent
Whatever spooked the hikers that fateful night in 1959 caused them to perform many erratic actions. One of the most confusing was the cutting of their tent and the leaving of important items. The tent was cut open from the inside. Many researchers have asked the question, “What could make these campers so frightened that instead of simply opening the tent, they were forced to quickly cut a hole for escape?”
Along with their apparent need to create an immediate escape point, the hikers left almost all their material goods, including cold weather gear, in the tent. In February, the Ural Mountains have an average temperature of –16.6 degrees Celsius (2.1 °F), well below the freezing point. Jackets, gloves, pants, and other warm clothing were nevertheless left in a hurry, as well as navigation supplies such as compasses. The tent also contained three axes and two Finnish knives for basic camping practices such as woodcutting. Even with items that could be used as weapons, the hikers still fled in a terrified panic. Strangely, one hiker, Semyon Zolotaryov, fled the tent without any clothing or gear but took his camera.
In the middle of winter, nine experienced hikers became so frightened of some unknown threat that they risked hypothermia and exposure to escape a terrible fate. When the thought of freezing was better than an imminent death, one must ask: What could be that frightening?