Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar – A Book Review

Dead Mountain

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, unsettling and unexplained causes of death, a strange final photograph taken by one of the hikers and signs of radioactivity, 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, government case files, dozens of interviews and the author’s retracing of the hikers’ fateful journey in the Russian winter. A fascinating portrait of the young hikers and a skilful interweaving of their story and the author’s investigations, here for the first time is the real story of what happened that night on Dead Mountain.

 

Author: Donnie Eichar

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Genre: Historical Non-Fiction

Pages: 288

Release Date: 01/11/2014

My Chosen Format: Paperback

My Rating of ‘Dead Mountain’: 

Purchase: Amazon UKAmazon USAudible UKAudible US

 

Review:

For me, The Dyatlov Pass Incident has been one of the most intriguing unexplained cases that I’ve ever come across. What could be more of a head scratcher than nine experienced hikers, on an expedition to achieve the highest rating a hiker can be awarded, being found dead with unexplained injuries and having cut their way out of their own tent (in temperatures they knew would kill them if exposed for long) and fled into the night wearing very little? In most cases, the hikers had fled barefoot.

Having happened in Russia, there was not much information easily accessible around the time of the incident but, in modern times such things are far easier to delve into. Donny Eichar, the author of this book, essentially gave up most everything in his life at the time (including being away from his wife and new born child) to go to Russia and search for answers, re-creating the Dyatlov hikers’ journey as best he could along the way.

The incident itself happened in the fifties so its easy to view it as a case study with that sense of detachment that you can apply when things of such a tragic nature happen to other people with no bearing on your life. In Dead Mountain, Donny does an excellent job of robbing you of that feeling of disassociation. Throughout the book you see pictures that were taken by the hikers and you read their diary entries leading up to that fateful February night.

In short, the author does a wonderful job of making these kids, along with their hopes, desires and questions about life, a life that, unknown to them, they would never get to experience, feel so very real and close to home. The very first page before diving into the book does an excellent job of that with its quote from the sole survivor, Yuri Yudin, who was forced to turn back early due to medical concerns. The quote reads: “If I could ask God just one question it would be what really happened to my friends that night?” This quote comes directly after a full-page display of the hikers’ pictures and really helps you feel the overwhelming sadness Yuri must have felt.

There are, naturally, as many theories about what happened to the hikers as there are people to give such theories. Some of the more famous include the abominable snowman, abduction and secret weapons tests by the Russian army (this due to the radiation particles found on their clothes), alien abduction/sightings of space craft etc … The only thing that is certain is that something terrified those nine kids to such an extent that they felt running into certain death was far preferable than staying to face it.

Through his modern day recreation of the historical events, Donny Eichar does his best to explore the most likely reasons and debunk/prove them as best as he can. He does this with the aid of people who were closely involved with the case at the time.

Everything that an enthusiast of the Dyatlov Pass Incident could want is in this book. It features as much as is humanly possible of the hikers leading up to their final night, aspects of the case including public outcry after the handling of the events and, in the final chapter after he made his conclusion as to what really happened, the author writes a five or six page recreation of how he views the hikers’ final night to have unfolded. From the moment they took off their boots until the very last breath was drawn.

All in all, Dead Mountain has turned an exciting spectacle into a mystery steeped in sadness that has the potential to touch anyone who reads it. You can’t help but feel a pang of sadness when you read a line in the final diary entry along the lines of ‘I wonder what tomorrow will bring for us’ knowing full well that those poor kids had seen their last sunset. You also can’t help but feel for Yuri Yudin and the survivor’s guilt he must have had to endure until his eventual death some sixty years later.

Dead Mountain is an essential read for anyone with even the slightest interest in the Dyatlov Pass Incident or, indeed, in the unexplained. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

 

11 thoughts on “Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar – A Book Review

    1. The one he claims to be the reason is probable and science seems to back it up. The romanticist in me likes the idea of the unexplained. The beauty of this tragedy is that, no matter what one theory claims, there’s always going to be the unexplained nature of it. As those nine hikers are the only ones that will ever truly know.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This story has always intrigued me enormously. I have seen a horror movie based on this incident which is how I first came to know about it. I have been wanting to buy this book ever since, but as happens sometimes with things I kind of forgot about it, so it’s nice to see it featured here. This is definitely one of the most bizarre events that has ever happened in the world, and I don’t think we will ever truly find out what happened. Great review as always! 😀

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    1. Any true unexplained phenomena really excite me. This, along with the mystery on the Money Pit at Oak Island is one of my favourites. I heard about this book on the ‘Astonishing Legends’ podcast. Bought it straight away as I’d have forgotten to haha

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  2. I’ve been meaning to read this for so long! I first came across the Dyatlov Pass incident through the Astonishing Legends podcast and it’s haunted me ever since. It’s such a bizarre case where nothing adds up or makes sense. I’m glad to hear that the author did a good job of making the kids feel real. I think all too often with tragedies like this it’s easy to forget that the victims were actual people. Weren’t they supposed to be reopening the case a bit ago? Anyway, great review. I’m going away this weekend so I might download it on my new Kindle to read on the train!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you enjoy it when you get around to it. I kept looking back at the full page pics of the kids to keep me feeling grounded in the fact it was factual and not a myth. Still feel dreadful for them. The terror they must have experienced on their last night must have been awful.

      This has made me realise how much I enjoy non-fiction 🙂

      Not sure about the case re-opening. There’s so much interest and so many theories that I doubt it’ll ever truly close

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      1. I’ve just downloaded it, so I’ll hopefully be ignoring all the other books on my TBR list and starting it this weekend 😁 Yeah, whatever happened to them, be it something supernatural, natural or military related, the terror they must have felt is unimaginable.

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  3. So what d’you think: aliens, secret testing, yetis, or something else? To me, this is obviously a Yeti thing. My sister loves this book, so I guess I’ll add it to my TBR. Thanks for the rec!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I honestly don’t know. One of the scientific explanations sounded plausible … but I’m not sure it would have affected all 9 in the same way.

      I just think ‘unexplained’ is the best way to label it. Whatever it was, it was horrifying enough for those kids to cut their way out of their tent, essentially making it useless if they came back to it. I can’t imagine too many things scarier than a Yeti stood at the opening of your tent.

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