06 May 2020

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident

By Donnie Eichar
Literary Nonfiction

My Review

A 2020 Top Rated Read

Dead Mountain is the true story of ten experienced Russian hikers from the Ural Polytechnic Institute who ventured into the Ural Mountains in 1959 to gain a Grade III hiking certificate. When one of them is forced to turn back due to ill health, the remaining nine — seven men and two women — continue on but encounter “an unknown compelling force” which causes them to flee from their tent in the middle of the night in -25 degree temperatures. No one was properly clothed or wearing shoes. Their tent was slashed from the inside, suggesting a frantic scramble to escape. All nine perished in sub-zero conditions.

But what caused them to leave the safety of their tent? Over the decades numerous theories have been suggested, ranging from the plausible — an avalanche, military weapons testing, an attack by armed men — to the downright unbelievable — aliens, yetis, the supernatural, orbs in the sky. In Dead Mountain, American author Donnie Eichar travels to Russia to retrace the hikers' journey and put forward his own theory.  

I first heard about the Dyatlov Pass Incident through publicity surrounding this book. The story was fascinating and I wanted to know more. Eichar's narrative is compelling and insightful. Backed by scientific evidence, he puts forward a believable and what I consider most likely explanation.

The book contains poignant photographs taken by the hikers during their trip and of the search to locate and recover their bodies in the aftermath. Eichar interviews Yuri Yudin, the hiker who turned back due to ill health. It was a decision that ultimately saved his life.

I thought Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident was a carefully researched, empathetic, gripping read.      

Book Source: Purchased copy
My Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books; Reprint edition (1st Oct 2014)

The Blurb

In February 1959, a group of nine experienced hikers in the Russian Ural Mountains died mysteriously on an elevation known as Dead Mountain. Eerie aspects of the incident — unexplained violent injuries, signs that they cut open and fled the tent without proper clothing or shoes, a strange final photograph taken by one of the hikers, and elevated levels of radiation found on some of their clothes — have led to decades of speculation over what really happened.

This gripping work of literary nonfiction delves into the mystery through unprecedented access to the hikers' own journals and photographs, rarely seen government records, dozens of interviews, and the author's retracing of the hikers' fateful journey in the Russian winter. 

A fascinating portrait of the young hikers in the Soviet era, and a skillful interweaving of the hikers narrative, the investigators' efforts, and the author's investigations, here for the first time is the real story of what happened that night on Dead Mountain.

The Author

Donnie Eichar is an American film producer, writer, director and author. His book Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story Of The Dyatlov Pass Incident is a New York Times/Wall Street Journal best-seller and has been translated into seven languages. 

Eichar served as co-director and co-executive producer on the groundbreaking true crime documentary series Killing Fields with Tom Fontana and Berry Levinson and showrunner/executive producer/director on People Magazine Investigates, The Case Of: Caylee Anthony and Soaked in Bleach.

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