Wednesday, March 1, 2017

REVIEW: Dead Mountain

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

In January 1959, a group of 10 experienced Russian hikers took a trek together in the northern Ural Mountains. The route they were traveling was the highest difficulty -- a Grade III -- because they wanted to be certified to lead expeditions. They were to document their journey in photographs and journals for the certification. All were quite bright -- engineering and economics students. They were all fit and loved trekking through the mountains. But this trip would be different. This time, only one of them would return home.

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident details the Russian students' mysterious deaths.

I first heard about this strange, unsolved mystery on a podcast. The hosts gave the facts and then discussed different theories as to what happened to the students. This book was mentioned in their list of source material. After reading it, I can understand why. Author Donnie Eichar became obsessed with the story himself after hearing it, and traveled to Russia to talk with people that knew the group and to hike to the area where their bodies were found. He met the families of some of the students and even interviewed Yuri Yudin, the student who survived because he was not healthy enough to complete the entire trip.

Eichar outlines in his book that the families of the hikers had to beg local officials to begin looking for the missing students when they failed to return from their trip on time. The officials said that they supposed the group was just delayed...that the trip took longer than they intended and that they would just be coming back late. But the families persisted. When the time stretched to more than two weeks with no word from the missing students, helicopters and people were sent to the area to search for the missing group. First their campsite and tent were found. The tent was torn and covered in snow. Personal belongings were still inside, including boots, skis and other necessities. The search continued until the first bodies were discovered nearly a mile from their campsite. Strangely enough, most were wearing no boots and a couple of the bodies wore only undergarments. Why would they have fled their camp into the bitterly cold winter night without wearing boots or proper clothing? Five bodies were found relatively quickly, but the remaining bodies were not recovered until spring.

The mystery is compelling. Nine young fit people trekked into the mountains, only to be found days later dead in the snow, having fled their camp in the middle of the night. Some had strange injuries including a skull fracture, a missing tongue and eye injuries. There have been many theories over the decades since the incident.....severe wind shear, an avalanche, yeti, UFOs, Soviet military weapons testing, an unknown assailant.....

The photographs in the book are haunting. Beautiful pictures of a group of University friends enjoying a long journey in the mountains. Smiling, laughing, posing.....more serious photos meant to show proper formation and dress for the mountain guide certification they all wanted. Then photos of the search parties, the damaged tent, personal belongings strewn over the snow.....and frozen bodies.

What happened that cold, snowy night in the Ural Mountains? The story is truly fascinating and Donnie Eichar presents well-researched facts and information about the group, their trip and his journey to Russia to walk the same path.

I'm not really expert enough to form an educated opinion about the different theories. But I do know it had to be something terrifying and sudden for the entire group of skilled survivalists to run from their tent without even putting on warm clothes first.

I definitely recommend this book for anyone who enjoys reading about unsolved mysteries, unexplained deaths and life in Soviet Russia. Eichar does not include any graphic photos of the bodies. It is all documented in a respectful manner. The book is well-written and an interesting account of the incident. In the end after all his research, trips to Russia and meetings with scientists, the book closes with Eichar's opinion about what might have caused the nine experienced hikers to die. I found his conclusion interesting and plausible.

For more information on the author and his book,check out his website at:

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