The first proposed explanation for the hikers' deaths was an attack by the indigenous Mansi people for encroaching on their land, but there was little evidence to support that theory, especially considering the injuries that caused the deaths of the hikers couldn't have been caused by other humans.

Other theories have ranged from an encounter with aliens or a yeti to secret military testing by the Russian military. The most accepted theory is that the hikers were killed fleeing from an avalanche. The investigators who looked into the deaths of the hikers could only conclude that they were killed by, "an unknown compelling force."