Book Review: Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story Of The Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar
In February of 1959, in the midst of the Cold War, a group of nine Russian university students, led by Igor Dyatlov, traveled deep into the Northern Ural Mountains to climb Otorten Mountain. They were never seen alive again.
When they did not return, search and rescue groups headed into the remote area. What they found was shocking. At 1079 meters on Dead Mountain, the hikers had cut their way out of their own tent in the middle of the night and fled for their lives through snowy, mountainous terrain in sub-zero temperatures in their bare feet.
It took four months to recover all 9 bodies, which were found in three separate groups over a mile away from the tent. Six had died of hypothermia and three died of blunt force trauma wounds. Their clothes were shredded. One hiker was missing her tongue. Their clothing testing high from radiation. And the tent remained intact.
The entire thing sounds a bit bizarre – kind of like the start of a horror story. The Dyatlov Pass Incident is one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time. What caused these very experienced hikers and skiers to flee their tent in the middle of the night in frigid temperatures without shoes? I would never do that.
During the investigation, the government attempted to divert attention away from the incident. With the final, official report stating the cause of the incident was an “unknown compelling force” – a beautifully vague conclusion. The Soviet Russian government proceeded to close the entire region for three years after the investigation was closed. It all sounds a bit fishy.
To this day, conspiracy theory abounds – Was it armed men? Secret weapon testing? Low angle avalanches? Evil aliens? A native Mansi attack? Military missile tests? A meteor blast? Or wild yetis? In the 1990’s, the Russian government released previously classified documents about the Dyatlov Incident, but the mystery of what happened February 1-2, 1959 is still unsolved.
There are many books and countless websites detailing the events of the Dyatlov hiking and skiing party, but I had never heard of the Dyatlov Incident until I picked up Donnie Eichar’s book. Always a sucker for conspiracy theories, intrigued by the cover featuring ski tourers, and fascinated by mountains, I decided to give it a read. The book certainly did not disappoint.
Eichar, a writer and documentary film maker, devoted years of his life to try to solve the Dyatlov Incident. He traveled to Russia multiple times to interview relatives and former hikers, he retraced the groups steps to Dead Mountain, and he did it all without speaking very much, if any, Russian.
Based on compelling evidence, Dead Mountain shines a new light on a true mountain tragedy. The novel mixes the facts of the incident with a touch of speculation that results in a potential conclusion to a mystery that may never be solved.
Driven by a need to solve this decades old mystery, Eichar, with the help of a wise scientist from NOAA hypothesized a theory based on infrasound caused by weather. Without divulging all the details and spoiling the book, it’s a plausible answer to what really happened. It’s amazing how the use of modern day science presents a surprising conclusion decades after an untimely mountain tragedy.
Eichar’s book, Dead Mountain, was published in 2013. It’s 288 pages and just recently became a New York Times bestseller. Learn more about Dead Mountain and the Dyatlov Incident on the book’s website – DeadMountainBook.com. There you can find maps, photo galleries, and even a trailer for the book.
I couldn’t put this book down. It’s definitely worth a read.