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

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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

288 pages, Hardcover

First published October 22, 2013

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About the author

Donnie Eichar

1 book119 followers
Author Donne Eichar is an acclaimed director, producer and writer of film and television.

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Profile Image for Matt.
936 reviews28.6k followers
March 27, 2022
“The sun is dropping. The searchers don’t have much time before they must turn around and rejoin the rest of the team at base camp. Weather conditions are volatile in the northern Urals – snow can fly in fast and thick without warning, and hurricane-force winds are a persistent menace. Though the morning had given them clear skis, threatening clouds have since collected, and the wind is already whipping snow from the ground in prelude to a storm. It looks as if it may be another day lost. But then, through the disorienting blur, the men spy something that is neither rock nor tree – a dark, gray shape. As they draw closer, they find a flapping tent. Though its twin poles stand obediently in the wind, a section of the tarpaulin has surrendered under the weight of recent snows…”
- Donnie Eichar, Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident

How’s this for a mystery?

In February 1959, nine Russian hikers ventured into the Ural Mountains and never returned. When searchers went looking for them, they discovered a distressing scene. The hikers’ tent had been cut open. Despite ample supplies, the hikers’ bodies were found outside the tent only partially dressed. Six of the hikers had succumbed to hypothermia, but others showed signs of head trauma. One of the corpses had a missing tongue. Of course, since this was the Soviet Union – land of nuclear mishaps – some of the hikers’ clothing showed signs of radiation.

It presents as quite a puzzle. Like something you might hear on Coast to Coast A.M., when you’re driving cross country late at night, and all the rest of the world is asleep.

Unsurprisingly, there have been many different theories as to the fate of young Igor Dyatlov and his eight companions. They range from the mundane (avalanche) to the insane (aliens). In between people have posited that the hikers were attacked by wild animals; that they were murdered because they saw some sort of secret weapon being tested; or that the radiation on their bodies somehow ties into a vast web of interlocking plots that coalesced on the slopes of the Holatchahl Mountain and required the slaughter of the seven men and two women, all of whom were students at the Ural Polytechnic Institute, and who belonged to a hiking club seeking their Grade III certification.

23 year-old Igor Dyatlov, who lent his name to one of mountaineering's enduring mysteries

Dead Mountain is documentarian-turned-investigator-turned-author Donnie Eichar’s attempt to solve a riddle that has fascinated people for years.

Eichar tells his story in alternating chapters that toggle between the Dyatlov group’s final excursion into the Urals, and Eichar’s own search for answers. Both the present and latter day sections demonstrate Eichar’s commitment to his project. He twice traveled to Russia; he retraced the footsteps of the hikers; he got hold of the complete police files and had them translated; he spoke with local experts; and he even scored an interview with Yuri Yudin, the tenth member of the Dyatlov group who had to turn back before his friends marched off into snow and death and the queer immortality that springs from certain tragedies.

One of the last photos of the group. They seem to be appearing from a storm. Another photo shows them, perhaps more accurately, disappearing into a white shroud

No one survived those final terrible moments on the Holatchahl. Yet the hikers left behind just enough evidence for amateur sleuths to pore over, analyze, and extrapolate from. Since Dyatlov’s group was going for their Grade III hiking certification, the hikers kept a diary that was inscribed daily by various members. There was also their camera, found intact, with a number of pictures of happy young people unaware of their own looming deaths, of the sand running silently through the glass of their lives. It’s hard to look at the pictures now with any kind of objectivity. They are old, in black and white, and tinged with foreboding, so that even a relatively normal frame of skiers skiing in a line takes on a haunted aspect. (It should be noted that Dead Mountain is generously illustrated with photos that are interspersed throughout the book).

Eichar’s book promises to reveal the “untold story” of the so-called Dyatlov Pass Incident, and he fulfills that promise by carefully presenting his own version of what happened.

Investigators at the scene of the Dytalov group's final campsite

I will pause here to state an abiding principle of mine: that true-life events are not spoilers. This is something I believe in strongly. People do not live their lives, they do not strive and struggle and sometimes die, in order to fulfill the entertainment needs of voracious, on-demand media consumers. To append spoiler tags to the dramas of actual human beings strikes me almost as immoral, dehumanizing.

Now, with that said (and after that extra-special glimpse into my thought processes), I will break my own rule and avoid any more discussion of Eichar’s conclusions. Since this book is carefully structured to build to the reveal, it’s unfair to give any indication of where its heading. Suffice to say, UFOs are not involved. Yet Eichar’s hypothesis is just weird enough to be a perfect fit for this strange tale. Best of all, Eichar provides a final chapter in which he speculates, in narrative form, about exactly what he thinks caused the hikers’ deaths. It is really a rather brilliant intertwining of forensic evidence and educated guesswork, and makes for a powerful denouement.

There is something that draws us to unexplained death. Just recently, I came across a long-form article written about Lisanne Froon and Kris Kremers, two young Dutch girls who went missing in the Panamanian jungle. Ten weeks after they slipped out of our reach, bone fragments and a backpack were discovered. The backpack, in eerie echoes of doomed Dyatlov, held a camera. It contained time-stamped images of a hike that started with smiles and sunlight. By the end, eight days after the girls were swallowed by the jungle, the camera's subject has changed dramatically. Now there are photos taken in complete darkness, photos that are trying desperately, unsuccessfully, to tell us something very important.

We have this collective idea that the world has gotten very small. That we are always connected and never alone. That we have solved every last enigma, answered every last question. But that’s not true at all. Especially when it comes to death, what Shakespeare called the “undiscovered country.” We can go to Mars and to the bottom of the deepest sea, but we cannot look a second past the moment of death. I wonder if in the compulsion to seek answers to the deaths of others, we aren’t actually looking to answer those questions about ourselves.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,615 reviews10.7k followers
July 1, 2022
Dead Mountain is an eerie recounting of the Dyatlov Pass Incident, exceptionally well-told by Donnie Eichar.

I find this incident to be one of the most haunting unsolved mysteries of all-time.

In February of 1959, nine experienced hikers set out on a challenging back-packing excursion in the Russian Ural Mountains. Ultimately, one lone hiker survived, but only because he departed early due to medical complications.

The young people involved were all college age, with the exception of one, and were members of a hiking club at their university.

Led by Igor Dyatlov, their goal for this particular hike was to receive a Grade III hiking certification, because of this the mountaineers kept copious notes and took photo documentation of their journey.

When they didn't return home on the date expected, people naturally assumed they must have run into complications that delayed them, but they would arrive any day.

That day never came. A search party was sent out and what they found is extremely shocking and mysterious, spurring numerous theories as to what caused the hiker's demise.

I won't go into the horrific details of the discovery of the bodies, just know everything from government conspiracies, armed men, chemical attacks to aliens, were considered as the potential cause.

Donnie Eichar became interested in the case, like many of us, after hearing of the mystery by chance. As a documentary filmmaker, his natural instincts were to do whatever it takes to learn more.

Eichar connects with individuals inside Russia still interested in the case, travels there, pours over the old travel diaries and photos, interviews people involved, including the sole survivor and even hikes the same path the group took.

With the book, we alternate between Eichar's historical retelling of the incident as he understands it, and his personal journey over the course of his investigation.

Even though I had read and watched quite a few videos on this incident, I found Eichar's theory behind the mystery to be wholly unique, interesting and quite possible. While there is no way to say this is definitely what lead to their deaths, it is a very strong theory.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys learning about unsolved mysteries; bonus if you are a hiker, mountaineer or rock climber. Eichar's writing is engaging and he truly presents this tale with respect and grace.

Profile Image for Debra .
2,422 reviews35.2k followers
January 6, 2020
"Why would nine experienced outdoorsmen and women rush out of their tent, insufficiently clothed, in twenty-five degrees-below-zero conditions and walk a mile toward certain death? One or two might have made the unfathomable mistake of leaving the safety of camp, but all nine?"

That really is the question in this book. In 1959 a group of nine experienced (7 men/ 2 women) hikers in the Russian Ural Mountains died mysteriously in an area known as Dead Mountain. Their deaths have remained a mystery. Many have come up with theories (the military, light orbs, infrasound induced panic, avalanche, katabatic winds, a local tribe, and in this book the Author presents his own theory which makes a lot of sense and seems logical.

I found this to be an interesting read. The pictures, taken from the cameras the hikers left behind, were and added bonus as was information taken directly from the hikers journals. Their day to day activities have been described and the Author spoke to those who had contact with them, were related to them, or were part of the investigation.

When the hikers did not return on the date they specified, people began to get nervous but knowing delays can happen they waited a little longer until a volunteer team was assembled to go looking for them. Later the military would become involved sending in investigators and helicopters.

"Their bodies were eventually found roughly a mile away from their campsite, in separate locations, half dressed in subzero temperatures. Some were found facedown in the snow, others in fetal position; and some in a ravine clutching one another. Nearly all were without their shoes.

I found this to be a well written and well researched book. The mystery of what happened to these hikers is compelling and thought provoking. What would cause them to cut through the back of the tent and go out into the freezing night? These men and women were experienced and strong. They were in good health and had youth on their side. Something horrible must have made them flee the safety and warmth of their tent. This book presents its theory and it is a sound one but again, we may never know.

"With no eyewitnesses and over a half century of extensive yet inconclusive investigations, the Dyatlov hiking tragedy continues to elude explanation."
Profile Image for Rowan.
118 reviews232 followers
June 27, 2017
I read this book over a weekend and found it impossible to put down! Since then, I have been devouring any piece of information I can find on the Dyatlov Pass Incident. That alone is testament to the passion and infectious enthusiasm for the case that Donnie Eichar has put into this book. Trying to solve the mystery behind “an unknown compelling force” kept me gripped throughout!

One of the first things you notice is the respectful tone of the book. Each chapter follows the story of the hikers, the searchers/investigation and Eichar’s own adventure to the Urals. While the timeframe jumps around slightly, the book soon finds a nice rhythm and Eichar manages these different narratives brilliantly – it results in a book that never treads water.

The use of photographs throughout really brought the story and hikers to life, making me feel like I was standing witness to their 1959 journey. Each member of the Dyatlov group is introduced and brought to life by Eichar’s attention to detail – all of a sudden, these are not merely 9 people who mysterious perished, but individuals I felt a personal connection to. It made the tragedy seem so much more upsetting and unsettling.

The author’s adventures and investigations in Russia itself were some of the most exciting. I couldn’t help but wish that Eichar had created a documentary about this (he’s a filmmaker too). His interactions with Yuri Kuntsevich (President of Dyatlov Foundation) and his wife, were equally parts heartwarming, intriguing and gripping – especially when Yuri Yudin (the only surviving Dyatlov member) starts making an appearance! Donnie’s interactions with the Russians often interjected some humour into what was otherwise a tragic story – the image of Oleg and his “Russian snow bath” still makes me laugh!

The book seemed to bring about even more questions involving the mystery: What made the experienced hikers abruptly abandon their tent? What was the bright rocket, thundering sound and bright orbs witnessed in the area? Why did the authorities treat the victims’ families so badly in the aftermath? Why did the KGB attend their funerals? Why did the lead investigator suddenly go to Moscow, then return and abruptly abandon his inquiries into the orbs, lights and UFO theories?

Things just got stranger as the book progressed and high levels of radiation were found on the hikers’ bodies. Stranger still, was Lev Ivanov (lead investigator) being convinced the orbs in the sky were connected to their deaths.

The book took a fascinating turn towards the end as scientific explanations behind the mystery were explored. It was fascinating when the author met with atmospheric physicists at a high-security research location in the U.S! Without spoiling anything, the scientific theories made a lot of sense – and I never would have thought reading a Lemmy Kilmister biography years ago would help me understand it!

It seems the infamous “unknown compelling force” really was the closest conclusion (given science and technology) at the time that investigators could have concluded. The author’s final chapter recreated events on the hikers’ final day (based on conclusions drawn from other parts of the book). It gave the mystery as much closure as it probably ever will and most importantly, ended very respectfully. One of the best books I’ve read this year!

Rest in Peace Igor, Yuri, Zina, Alexander, Sasha, Lyuda, Rustik, Georgy, Kolya and Yuri. You were the Grade III hikers you aspired to be and so much more.
Profile Image for Michelle .
913 reviews1,408 followers
June 18, 2019
A couple months ago I came across this article from Atlas Obscura titled the 10 Must-Visit Spots for Mystery Lovers which immediately piqued my interest:


I was completely unfamiliar with what has become to be known as The Dyatlov Pass Incident and I immediately wanted to find out what I could about this chilling unsolved mystery so I began to Google any and all information and that search brought me to this book which just happened to be available at my local library.

Nine Russian professional hikers, 7 men and 2 women, set out to hike into the Ural Mountains. On February 1st, 1959 it appears these hikers escaped into the night without so much as shoes on their feet in -25 degree weather and 40 MPH winds only to be found dead within a mile radius of their tent. Six of their deaths are proven to be from the elements and hypothermia but the remaining four? Well this is where it gets interesting. All are victims of blunt force trauma, internal hemorrhaging, and one unfortunate victim even has their tongue removed. Upon further investigation it appears that their tent, which remained secure, was found to have shreds in the back made by knives, but not from the outside, it's as if they were trying to escape from the inside. High levels of radiation were also found in their clothing

The theories ranged from Mansi killers, military cover-ups, fire orbs, snowmen, aliens but ultimately no theory has yet to be proven. The families were left with this explanation:

" “an unknown compelling force.” For the next forty-plus years, the families and friends of the hikers would have nothing more than this cryptic summation to explain the secretive behavior of their government and the harrowing deaths of the people they had loved."

The author here presents his theory for what he believes happened and it's definitely plausible but like all great mysteries we really will never know and I find that so fascinating! Worth the read!
January 3, 2022
Dead Mountain, in the Ural mountains, seems aptly named as this is where nine Russian hikers died on a 1959 expedition. What makes this story so compelling are the inexplicable circumstances surrounding their deaths, which remains unsolved to this day.

The hikers appear to have fled their tent in the middle of the night in sub-zero weather, without shoes and scantily clad. What would cause experienced hikers to do something so irrational and foolhardy? When a search party found the hikers some weeks later, autopsies revealed that several of the hikers experienced unexplained traumatic physical injuries. There were other strange details at the scene, which eliminated a natural occurrence as the cause of death.

Several theories have been debated over the decades, which include an avalanche, animal attacks, a military conspiracy, attack by the indigenous Mansi people, and nuclear experiments. The suppression of information about the incident by the government fueled conspiracy theories.

The problem is that all these theories have evidence to the contrary, and none hold up to close scrutiny. The author, with access to the hiker’s diaries, official records, as well as interviews, decides to retrace the hiker’s steps and develops his own theory. Despite the GR blurb claiming that: “here for the first time is the real story of what happened that night on Dead Mountain”, I’m not sure that is true, but it is certainly an interesting theory.

The story of what happened to the hikers alternates with excerpts of the author’s experiences as he made the trek. Well-written and thoroughly researched, I found this incident so compelling I was inspired to find out more and watched a documentary on Amazon Prime, An Unknown Compelling Force which I found fascinating. I love it when a book leads me down a rabbit hole to find out more.



This was a buddy read with my friend Marialyce and one we both enjoyed. Thanks to the friends whose reviews compelled me to pick up this backlist title, with Jenna being the latest - thanks friend! The bottom line is we will never know what really happened, but for those of us fascinated by unsolved mysteries, this is an engrossing account of the tragedy.
Profile Image for Trudi.
615 reviews1,456 followers
July 15, 2015

This is one creepy-ass unsolved mystery, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. The true story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident and the inexplicable deaths of nine experienced hikers is one of those strange but true tales that leaves a person shuddering from the heebie-jeebies.

Remote and inhospitable Ural Mountains, Russia. February 1959.

A group of nine university students -- 7 men, 2 women -- set up their tent for the evening.

The experienced hikers begin the ritual of settling in for the night ahead, removing packs and boots and outer layers of clothing.

The stove in the middle of the large canvas tent remains unlit. Whatever happens next, occurs before the evening meal.

For reasons unknown to this day, all nine hikers suddenly abandon their tent and go running out into the frigid night improperly clothed and in sock feet. So desperate were they to get away, some of the hikers cut their way out of the back of the tent rather than go out the front.

When the bodies are later recovered some have died from hypothermia, others are found in a deep ravine with violent injuries such as crushed ribs, fractured skull, and one of the hikers is missing her tongue.

What force or event could have possibly compelled nine seasoned hikers to all lose their shit at the same time and act in such an erratic and life-threatening manner? To leave the sanctuary of their tent and flee into the frozen night barely dressed to certain death?

It has been established that it was no avalanche. So what else does that leave?

Over the years, theories have abounded, from the plausible and sane to the completely nutty. Donnie Eichar goes on a quest halfway around the world to retrace the steps of the Dyatlov group searching for the truth of what happened that night. In his quest he meets some colorful Russian characters, including a tenth member of the Dyatlov group who turned back at the last minute, a decision that saved his life.

This book is really three narratives woven together -- 1) the Dyatlov Incident pieced together from photos and journals the doomed hikers painstakingly kept along the way 2) the search and rescue which followed and 3) Eichar's trips to Russia and his own trek to Dead Mountain.

As I followed in the hikers' footsteps, reading their journal entries, seeing their smiling faces in the photographs, I couldn't help become emotional for the horror I knew was waiting for them. It's a story that's as sad as it is unsettling.

After three years of research and exhaustive interviews, Eichar is able to put forth an interesting theory about what exactly happened that night, one that certainly has more substance than UFO's or the Abominable Snowman. Yet, it's still only a theory. The maddening, pull your hair out aspect of this story is that we will probably never know what happened that night. It is a secret that the young hikers took to their untimely and tragic graves.

Photo: Yuri Yudin hugging Lyudmila Dubinina as he prepares to leave the group because of illness, as Igor Dyatlov looks on smiling

Profile Image for Dem.
1,190 reviews1,131 followers
July 25, 2017
An Excellent Read.

Thank you to Mr Donnie Eichar for finally satisfying my curiosity on the Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident. I had come across this story on a couple of occasions but had very little information on it and was so glad to have located this book while searching for a completely different book on the internet

" 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 included 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 has 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

When I started reading this book I just couldn't put it down as the research and information supplied by the author was excellent. I love how he set the scene from page one and engrossed the reader with straight forward details and facts so much so that I felt I was hiking along with these young people and I felt a connection with the story throughout. I love how Donnie explores all the theories put forward throughout the years and how he finally manages to give a credible and excellent explanation for the deaths of the hikers.

This was one of those books that had me totally engrossed and when I finished it I must admit I spent an hour researching the Internet for photos of the mountain and places named in the book. The book does have photos and a map which I always find so useful. I just couldn't stop thinking about the Incident or the book and for me thats a 5 star read.

This is an extremely interesting and well written account of the Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident and for anyone interested in reading true life adventures.
Profile Image for ALet.
292 reviews240 followers
January 6, 2019
It was interesting, but I didn‘t really care about research. Theories were intriguing and his explanation was fascinating and easily understandable.
Profile Image for Diana | Book of Secrets.
798 reviews595 followers
March 27, 2023
I first heard about the Dyatlov Pass Incident a few years ago, and since then I've been fascinated by this unsolved Soviet-era mystery.

The backstory: In January 1959, a group of 10 hikers (eight men & two women), mostly current and former students from Ural Polytechnical Institute, set out on a skiing expedition through the northern Ural Mountains in Russia. Nine of them died under suspicious circumstances on February 1 or 2, all of them having abandoned their tent during the night in sub-zero temps without shoes or proper outerwear. The 10th hiker survived because he had turned back for home days earlier due to health issues.

What would cause all nine experienced hikers to run from their only shelter in the dark of night without adequate protection from the freezing elements? What about the internal injuries found on a few of the hikers, along with radiation in their clothing? In May of 1959, the lead investigator concluded that the party died due to an "unknown compelling force," but of course that really doesn't answer anything.

The author's account of this tragedy in DEAD MOUNTAIN is thoughtful, compelling, and well-researched. He tackles the main theories about what may have happened, including avalanche, murdered by outsiders, secret weapons testing, UFOs, and even Yeti attack. In the end he presents his own theory of events which I found quite plausible.

I loved the inclusion of expedition photos and diary entries from the hikers, which added a deeper human element to the telling of the Dyatlov Group's tragic story. A captivating and haunting read for unsolved mystery fans.
Profile Image for Lori.
371 reviews439 followers
March 25, 2022
What happened to the nine hikers that died in very strange circumstances in Siberia at Dyatlov Pass -- named for the exhibition leader Ivan Dyatlov -- has been one of the most compelling and puzzling unsolved mysteries of all time. It's been widely covered in mainstream and outdoors press, there are multiple websites devoted to various (generally crackpot) theories, several documentaries have been made, at least one horror movie (in English Devil's Pass, there may be more), and a number of photos on line including those taken by the hikers (one of which has given rise to its own theory) and of the bodies in situ as well as at autopsy. Some are in the book. Eichar:

There was, of course, the central mystery of the case, with its bewildering set of clues. Why would nine experienced outdoorsmen and -women rush out of their tent, insufficiently clothed, in twenty-five-degrees-below-zero conditions and walk a mile toward certain death? One or two of them might have made the unfathomable mistake of leaving the safety of camp, but all nine? I could find no other case in which the bodies of missing hikers were found, and yet after a criminal investigation and forensic examinations, there was no explanation given for the events leading to their deaths.

The Dyatlov Pass incident is one of the all-time most compelling mysteries for several reasons. Nine experienced hikers, eight of them friends in the same engineering program, going for their master guide certification on a barren mountain in tough terrain, all died and the location and condition of the bodies when they were all found proved extremely odd. They had almost certainly been sleeping and then out they all went. At least two undid a few front latches and left that way but somebody or a few made slashes and cut their way out the back of it..

The tent was found first, one month later, poles still standing, collapsed from the weight of snow. Inside things were in perfect order, skis lined up where they'd slept on them, cookstove not assembled because skiing on ice and hiking in crunchy snow almost all the way and on that last day pitching the tent where they did left them too tired to tackle it, so they ate something simple. Trip diaries were in the tent, legible, cameras with developable film. And leading away from it not seeming to be in a hurry, footsteps of bare or socked feet together, then diverging. Utterly bizarre circumstances and there would be many more as bodies were found.

Some things were explainable, though the families, friends and other interested parties didn't buy it. This was Soviet Russia, Siberia, no witnesses, and case files withheld not because the government was likely involved in any way but because that's how things were done. They wanted to bury the bodies on the mountain -- nine of their best youth, didn't look good to bring them back and call attention to their deaths. Having lost that battle Russian officials took control of the funerals. It all seemed suspicious, conflicting accounts, rumors. It was their way.

But after glasnost when Gorbachev released all of the files, nothing seemed to have been withheld.
The cause after thorough examination, was ruled "an unknown compelling force."

Ever since 1959 people all over the world have tried to account for what happened. Eichar, who is a documentary film maker and had not written a book before, presents the facts in a cohesive, informative, well-organized and neutral fashion. He lets the reader get to know the hikers, get a feel for their expedition from the outset, describes the trek and how they navigated it in vivid prose that reminds the reader he's a visual artist and, using excerpts from their diaries and photos from their cameras and with his simple, effective prose style guides us through their exhausting but exciting experience up until they perished. He went on his own guided exhibition to Dyatlov Pass, recreating how the nine got there, where they stayed. It works.

The author going then being there adds detail and color to the book and never subtracts because unlike some others who have made a name or money off this mystery, at no time does he make it about him. The book Dead Mountain has an admirable aura of mounting dread that's organic without added drama from Eichar. The true story is inherently suspenseful, confounding, eerie and perhaps terrifying depending on the reader, and the author doesn't add to it by manipulating the material as some have. Dyatlov Pass had not given up its secrets.

But Donnie Eichar had a theory. He holds it until the end of the book, a decision that makes this book ten-star-worthy for me. There's a popular documentary, An Unknown Compelling Force, which I watched the day after I finished the book. Because the book was so fresh I got mistake after mistake and it dawned on me quickly that the filmmaker(s) had an agenda. Their conclusion is ludicrous, not supported by the facts, his experts not credible.

Not so with Eichar's. Its scientific, it's plausible and because of the fine way he's presented the mystery it was even more so and a relief too. Could be, absolutely. This is the place to thank my friend Jenna, whose review of Dead Mountain HERE...

(I don't know how to do it the normal way ;)

...is the reason I read this. I brought up a a new theory from 2021, one published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Jenna asked me if I'd read Eichar and I said no at which point she asked then how can you be so sure the new theory is correct. Of course she was right. Without Jenna's intellectual integrity I'd never have read Dead Mountain.

She respectfully reviewed it without spoiling Eichar's theory and so I'll do the same. I'd never read Eichar's scientifically sound conclusion because it's not everywhere Dyatlov is discussed, like yetis and aliens are. I was even more impressed when, having read the book, I searched and could not find a single scientific refutation of his explanation. Color me impressed.

The 2021 theory is much more widely known. I won't spoil that either for those who don't know and I highly recommend you read Eichar's book first. But I knew much of it before I read Dead Mountain, so if you've already read Eichar or don't intend to and want to know, I've provided links below.

the peer-reviewed article in Nature, which can be read between the slits if you don't want their cookies: https://www.nature.com/articles/d4158...

and an article in National Geographic filling in details not in the Swiss researchers' strictly scientific publication, details about the clothing and bodies and other things. U.S. Nat Geo won't allow it to be read without cookies but the U.K. version is generous:


And imagine my surprise when I finally sat down to write this review and learned that the Swiss scientists have made two more trips to Dyatlov to test their theories and, it's been announced today, have found things to bolster it. This follow up was published in Nature today! and if you don't want the cookies can also be read through the slit ;):



I am so glad I read Eichar. Thank you, Jenna, for your standard of intellectual integrity. It's a ten-star, exciting book with a conclusion that I find credible. His experts are solid. It's a phenomenon I'd never heard of, and doubt many people have, and for this singular tragedy that makes it seem fitting. I'm also persuaded by the Swiss scientists. Their mechanism is far more common, their research more extensive and it fits the forensic evidence a bit better. But it doesn't mean that Eichar and his experts got it wrong.

From 1959 until Dead Mountain was published in 2013 there wasn't a single credible solution posited. Now it's 2022 and we have two. We can choose to choose between them or not. Personally, having read the facts laid out superbly by Donnie Eichar, I'm fine with two incompatible, plausible explanations. Because Dyatlov Pass is never going to give up its secrets.
Profile Image for Kayla Dawn.
291 reviews902 followers
June 20, 2019
3,5* - overall this was a really interesting read. I enjoyed the writing style and the way Eichar covered his story, the one of the investigators and the one of the hikers (as far as that was possible). That made it easy to understand and kept up the suspense.

But I'm not sure if I'm satisfied with the conclusion of his theory. And I'm a little disappointed that he spent all that time laying out the timelines but his actual theory on what happened was only discussed in the last 20 pages or so. He didn't really spend much time on explaining and convincing the reader of his theory.
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
811 reviews1,268 followers
December 21, 2021
File:Фото членов тургруппы Игоря Дятлова.jpg

(Gravestone commemorating nine hikers who mysteriously died on Dead Mountain in the Urals)

What a thrilling search for answers to a decades long mystery

I enjoy hiking and I love cold weather. Still, I don't think I'd ever sign up for the trek these nine young Russians embarked upon back in December of 1959 in the Ural Mountains.

Temperatures hovered between -20 and -40 F, with fierce winds and stinging snow. Aside from the frigid weather, the hikers had to be on alert for deep crevasses they could plunge into and avalanches that would bury them alive. 

Their journey was to take sixteen days, after which they would be awarded Grade III certification, the highest hiking certification in Russia at the time. 

Family members became alarmed when the day of their return arrived... but they did not. These young people were all experienced hikers, used to tough terrain and freezing temperatures. 

Another week passed before authorities sent out search teams. Eventually their frozen bodies were found a mile from their tent, most without coats or boots on their feet. 

What could possibly have forced these young people away from their tent in deadly cold weather, without proper clothing?

For five decades, their deaths have remained unsolved. Various theories circulate, everything from aliens to nuclear weapons to murder by the Masi, a local indigenous group. 

When journalist Donnie Eichar heard of their plight, he knew he had to travel to Russia and follow in the youth's footsteps, to see what answers he might find. 

Dead Mountain is a riveting account of the hiker's last days. The author alternates between the past and the present, relying on the young people's diaries and the photographs they took (many of which are included in the book), and interviews with the locals. 

Mr Eichar slowly chips away at all the various (conspiracy) theories and presents a most believable one of his own, based on a scientific analysis. 

Anyone who enjoys unsolved mysteries or adventure stories will find plenty to appreciate in this book. It is a page-turner, very well written and engaging. 
Profile Image for Marialyce (on our way to Venice).
2,038 reviews709 followers
January 4, 2022
Dead Mountain, the name alone might scare one. However, nine intrepid hikers decided to take on the mountain and not a one of them survived the incident. What exactly happened to these young experienced hikers and how does one explain the conditions under which their bodies were found?

The time was 1959, while Russia was still under the arm of being the Soviet Union. Jump to the present and the author, Donnie Eichar, and others have decided to retrace the steps taken by the nine to see if they could find the reason for the unexplained deaths. The circumstances are eerie, finding the hikers having fled from their tent, in temperatures 20 to 40 degrees below zero, ill-equipped to handle the cold. Many of them were scantily dressed and when discovered had often come to violent ends. Interestingly, their clothes contained higher levels of radiation, and a frightening last photograph was found. Various theories abounded as to the why of this bizarre happening. Could it have been nuclear tests, and alien invasion, an attack by the local Masi tribe, or something else?

Donnie Eichar was determined to know and so he enlisted the journals, the records, and experts on science, hiking and weather conditions who lent a hand to a theory that seemed quite different than any that had been proposed.

I was glad to have read this story with Jan and though at times repetitious, this story was interesting and provided many details of a trip that cost so many their lives. It has always amazed me that people would find such pleasure in such a death-defying sport. The weather alone would have happily kept me indoors in front of a roaring fire. Jan and I both agreed that we do not do well in temperatures below 60! Although Mr Eichar's solving of this mystery left doubts in our minds, perhaps we will never really know the real reason for this unfortunate loss of such young lives.

This was a quick read and one that would be well received by those who enjoy hiking and searching for the unsolved mysteries of the world.
Profile Image for NAT.orious reads ☾.
871 reviews361 followers
March 12, 2020
4.5 relieved STARS ★★★★✬
This book is for you if… a significant amount of your brainpower has been used to analyse and over-think what happened to the 9 experienced hikers in that night that connected February 1st and 2nd of 1959 in the Ural Mountains. You will not find wild and unscientific speculations, but facts and science. Mystery and true crime fans will devour this - and if you're one of them, you've probably heard of this incident already anyways.

I am very happy about this book. In the midst of countless podcasts and books that hype the Dyatlov hikers' unlucky demise, I finally found something that's less obsessed with wild and unscientific fantasies but with actual explanations.

Last year, I listened to the German true crime and mystery podcast Behind Closed Doors which has since been terminated, and the Dyatlov Pass Incident was one of the first topics I came across while doing so. To this day, it is the one mystery that has stuck with me, persistent like these prickly green burdocks that simply insist on accompanying you anywhere once they attached themselves to your clothes. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you now I thought about this several times a week, discussing and speculating with friends ever since first coming across it. I am glad Donnie dared to ask and answer the question that's been haunting most of all the family and friends of the Lyuda, Zina, Igor, Aleksander, Tibo, Sasha, Rustik, Georgiy and Yuri:

What led 9 experienced hikers to leave the security of their tents at night, going out into the pitch-black night of the Ural mountains, clothed insufficiently and thereby forfeiting their lives to deathly insures and hypothermia?

At one point I was increasingly unsettled by the direction these discussions took: weird experiments that got out of hand, hence the Russian government acting suspicious about the whole thing, yetis, aliens, drugs... you name it, it came up.

I began to search for a book that might go in a different direction, and I found it. Donnie Eichar's Dead Mountain skips past the silly theories that - consciously or not - disrespectfully aim at making a spectacle out of the 9 hikers' unlucky end. He pays such nonsense tribute in only one short paragraph:

‘If one is going to fall back on malevolent alien visitors without backing it up with evidence, one may as well throw ghosts, the hand of God and devious subterranean gnomes into the mix. Aliens were off the table.’

Are you ready to find out what actually happened that night in 1959? Because I sure as heck was and Donnie did not disappoint.
writing quality + easy of reading = 4*

structure = 4*

enjoyability = 5*

insightfulness = 5*
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,157 followers
December 1, 2014
The Dyatlov Pass Incident

In this riveting and informative non-fiction read, Documentary Filmmaker and Author, Donnie Eichar, pieces together the mystery of WHY nine young experienced Russian hikers left their tent after dark without shoes or proper clothing in sub-zero temperatures back in 1956. It was determined that six died of hypothermia, the remaining three of brutal injuries......one even missing a tongue, but.......WHAT REALLY HAPPENED?

Eichar does a great job of investigating and succinctly outlining the day-to-day activities of the group with the use of old case files, journals and interviews plus provides diagrams and interesting photographs of the hikers throughout their journey taking the reader to an eerie, frightening and believable theory.

An excellent read!

Profile Image for Rori Rockman.
461 reviews15 followers
February 1, 2017
I zipped through this book because I found the subject matter fascinating, but the presentation of the material definitely disappointed me. I had two major problems with the book:
1. A LARGE chunk of the book was devoted to the author telling his own story about traveling to Russia, preparing to hike the Ural Mountains, and other stuff not too related to the mystery surrounding the Dyatlov Pass incident. The reason I read this book, and probably the reason a lot of other people read this book, is to read about the mysterious deaths of the hikers and the theories surrounding their deaths. I don’t much care about some guy’s recent, uneventful trip to Russia and hike through the mountains.
2. I was disappointed with the way he presented the various theories on what happened. I’ll spoiler this part, in case people don’t want to hear my opinion on his theories until after they’ve read the book.

To summarize my review: This book was written as three intertwined stories: the story of Eichar’s experience writing the book in Russia, the experience of the hikers on the hike, and the experience of the search party looking for the hikers. The theories on the incident are tucked in at the end, and only one theory is explored at any length.

I would have preferred for the book to be written like this: keep in the story of the hikers, keep in the story of the search party, and remove the modern day story. Instead, replace all that content with expanding upon and exploring multiple theories in depth, writing out maybe a few alternate histories, and exploring the strengths and weaknesses of each one, rather than proposing one theory as the most likely one.
Profile Image for Josh.
307 reviews160 followers
February 4, 2019

We are fragile beings. The camaraderie of a group, their emotions, their smiles only last so long: Through photographs, the eternal message of latter days.

When a book stays on your mind continuously for several days, you have to then try to reason why. Why am I still thinking about this? Why does it seem to affect me more in the long run than when I initially read it?

Humans, as a whole, are curious; the search for knowledge is innate and a troublesome curmudgeon, never letting go. When there is a situation that we can't understand, can't reason out inside our minds, the mystery haunts us until we can come to a reasonable rationalization...

This is what Donnie Eichar has done with Dead Mountain.

When nine hikers go missing on Holatchahl Mountain in Sverdlovsk, Russia (now known as Yekaterinburg) in 1959 and are found shortly later with an undeniable set of questionable circumstances, the enigma unfolds into conspiracy theories (UFO sighting, military testing, local indigenous murders) to an initial conclusion of the hikers had died as a result of "an unknown compelling force".

Eichar takes years of records and interviews, first person accounts, and his own mission to visit the site of the incident to present not only a rational conclusion, but one that could've alluded investigators at the time due to a previous unknown circumstance that has only now been researched in recent years.

We may never know the complete truth, but from everything I've read on this subject, this seems the most realistic outcome.


UPDATE 02/04/19: The case has been reopened: https://www.rt.com/russia/450501-dyat...
Profile Image for Jessica .
2,129 reviews13.8k followers
April 28, 2021
This story was so intriguing and I loved the three narratives woven together. I couldn't put this book down and loved the last chapter! I need to find more books like this!
Profile Image for exploraDora.
553 reviews270 followers
August 25, 2022
***4 stars***
“I don't remember Sherlock Holmes ever mentioning what you are supposed to do when you've eliminated everything improbable, and nothing is left.”

I learned about the mysterious deaths of the Dyatlov expedition from my reading bud Natalie and I was instantly intrigued.
And it's a story that stayed with me long after the last page.

The story: nine young student hikers died together one night in the Russian Ural mountains under some quite strange and inexplicable circumstances. Their bodies were found without clothing or shoes, some with peculiar injuries (one was even missing part of the tongue) at months apart and in different places. There are zero explanations anyone can provide for decades.

Enter Donnie Eichar, an American documentary filmmaker, who one day stumbles upon a mention of this incident and becomes fascinated with it, so much that he decides to travel to Russia to investigate. There he examines every piece of evidence he can find, leaving no stone unturned.
Note that this is more than 50 years after the events and yet he manages to come up with a plausible theory. He also does a great job of transporting the reader back in time and also bringing us right along his journey.

This was a compelling and satisfying read that I would highly recommend to those drawn to extreme outdoor mysteries.
Profile Image for Jen CAN.
506 reviews1,486 followers
March 7, 2016
In 1959, 9 experienced hikers disappear in the Ural Mountains. What becomes a search and rescue mission, unfortunately becomes a recovery one. It takes months before all of the bodies are located. Speculation and theories surround the mystery of what happened to make them leave the security of their tent, in subarctic temps, scantily clad, and bring them to their death. It was well researched and fascinating. This is Eichar's take of what he suspects happened to them. We may never know exactly but this seems to be the theory that comes closest to the truth. However, that being said, I'm still left with a feeling of not being satisfied. As they say, proof is in the pudding. I give it a 3.5.
Profile Image for Renee Godding.
641 reviews633 followers
December 1, 2018
Rating: 4 stars

In February of 1959, a group of young but experienced hikers embarked on a track through the Ural mountains in Russia, never to return. Over the months that follow, their bodies are located one by one, painting a confusing and horrifying picture of the events that affected the group. A frenzied escape from the safety of their camp wearing little more than underwear, curious evidence like clothes emitting radiation and injuries that seem to defy explanation… All of this has made this case the subject of much speculation over the years. Theories range from accidents to foul play, from Soviet soldiers to Russian Yeti’s, and from secret weapons testing to extraterrestrials.
In Dead Mountain; the untold true story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident , investigative journalist Donnie Eichar sets out to explore all theories and find the truth among the speculation.

Investigative true crime can be a tricky genre; these are real events, with real people, who often still have real (living) relatives. To me, treating the case and people at hand with the due respect is always one of the first things I look for in books like this. I’m happy to say that Donnie Eichar handles this very well.

People come before sensationalism in this book.

Quite literally the books opens with introducing us in depth to the people in the group. I really did appreciate this. The hikers become real people to the reader, not just faceless puppets in a sensational mystery. Although some of this information may be a little too much for some readers (this really depends on taste), I enjoyed this part and I think it shows how dedicated Eichar is as an investigator. He has talked to the people involved, and thoroughly did his research.
This also applies to his investigation of the theories, and the final conclusion he comes to. Eichar addresses many of the popular theories with an open mind and argues why he feels one is more or less likely than the other. Afterwards he presents his own (well researched!) theory, which in my opinion is the most plausible yet.
This is not a definitive plea for his case: in the end the reader is left to draw their own conclusions, which can feel a little unsatisfying. Then again: what other way can you feel about a case that will probably never be definitively solved.
My biggest criticism of the book was the pacing. As mentioned: the start goes very in depth on all the hikers backstories, and although interesting, is quite slow. There were moment here where I found myself a little bored, especially around the (first) description of the group embarking on their trip.
This was in stark contrast to the final chapters on the theories. Some of those were quite short and fast. I would have liked a little more depth here, possibly at the expense of some of the earlier parts.

It’s 2018 as I’m writing this review, and in all honesty: all theories described in this novel can be found with a quick google search. It really is the story of the people and the in depth explanation where this book shines. If you are mildly curious and just want a quick glance of this case, this book may be to in depth and you might be satisfied just by reading some articles online. If you know a little about it and (like me) were fascinated by what you learned, this book might be for you.
Profile Image for Deborah Rogers.
Author 14 books193 followers
February 6, 2020
Dead mountain was awesome. I really loved this spellbinding tale and mystery. Set against the backdrop of Siberia, an American journalist travels there to find out what happened to a group of young mountaineers in the 1950s. It's a gripping read and extremely well written. I would recommend it for fans of Miracle in the Andes, and Shackleton's diaries.
Profile Image for Leslie Ray.
187 reviews95 followers
April 3, 2020
In February of 1959, a group of 9 Russian experienced hikers, attempt the trek to the top of what the local Mansi tribe refers to as "Dead Mountain". They never make it and were all found dead around a mile away from their tent, in various stages of dress, and mostly all missing their shoes. Their tent was forensically evaluated with the conclusion that it was cut from inside and seemingly in panic.
This story pops up periodically on shows about seemingly paranormal events, mysterious deaths, etc. The author travels to Russia to retrace their steps and meet with various experts to apply a scientific answer to what prompted them to leave their tent in sub-zero temperatures in obviously a hurry as they were obviously not bundled up for any type of excursion outside.
From what I've seen of other reviews for this book, if you have researched this incident prior to reading this, you may not be satisfied with the conclusion and some of the facts. If you want to delve into a mystery, that has held the fascination of generations, in Russia, and all over the world, this is a well-thought out journalistic perspective of this tragedy.
Profile Image for Beatrice Apetrei.
34 reviews94 followers
September 30, 2019
I've first heard of the Dyatlov Incident years back, after boringly searching for horror movies. I found the one entitled The Dyatlov Pass Incident, which was released in 2013, and I actually enjoyed it *i'm a sucker for horror movies, no matter their imdb rating*. I saw the "based on real events" marker and found myself curious of what had really happened.
A few hours later, I was googling non-fiction books about the incident and found this one. Dead Mountain written by the american author Donnie Eichar seemed to be one of the best, so I figured I should try it out.
Currently I am only 35% in, but can't wait to read the rest! Very well written and documented book! I am quite sure I will love this.

Full review coming after it's finished!

I finished it! And gods, was this beautiful!
The Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident is made of 3 different timelines:
1. We follow the author, Donnie Eichar, in 2012 - 2013, on his travels around Russia, in order to find as much information as possible on the case.
I believe, this has the biggest consistency, the book seems to solely focus on this part. Which is ok, I was not disturbed by it, even tho' in the review section I can clearly see not everyone had the same attitude towards it.
2. We are introduced to the discovery of the 9 bodies by the search team, a few weeks after the Dyatlov Pass Incident happened.
and 3. *the most heartbreaking* we see the preparations and the journey of the 10, later 9, hikers.
It was very beautifully written. *It makes you want to turn page after page and it felt nothing like a non-fiction. I had to check it. *
And it was sad, a very sad truth. Even though I had read the case on google days prior, I was not expecting to feel like this: Heartbroken.
You see... Eichar shows you how beautifully they prepared for the trip and how they would sing every night and laugh, take hilarious photos, even hours before their deaths! He showed us how unprepared and how NOT ready to die the 9 hikers were.
Their ages were between 20-25, with only Sasha being of 37. 20 years old! They had the whole life ahead of them, they had dreams and expectations, and they lost them in one night. All of them!
It haunts me even today... the thought of how they might have died. How they would be calling to each other, trying to see through the dark. How some of them had to see their friends die, how the cold crept in, slowly, through their feet and up their whole body.
It is terrifying to even imagine the pain they had to endure, because they wanted to survive! Zina tried to get back to the tent and died trying.
I had no problem whatsoever with his ending theory, it can work, it is a great possibility, but we might still never know. Their surviving relatives deserve to know how it happened, but they better know that these children, students, were brave and tried to live.
I highly recommend it! Though, you should expect for it to haunt you for the following days. I know it's happening to me.

Profile Image for Amanda.
840 reviews343 followers
December 21, 2016
This was an excellent nonfiction. I think this is as close to a true crime book I've read - due to the mystery surrounding the deceased Dyatlov hikers - and I enjoyed myself so much I think I'll have to start reading true crime! Eichar is foremost concerned with humanizing the nine hikers who died at the foot of Dead Mountain in 1959. This is not only humane, but very effective for storytelling as soon I was as invested in learning what happened to Igor and Zina and Georgy and the rest of the hikers as Eichar and everyone else investigating the incident was. The book is split into three timelines that eventually converge at the end of the book: following the hikers in 1959 whilst they are alive, following the ensuing investigation in 1959 once they are missing, and following Eichar as he investigates the mystery. This creates suspense at each of the timelines throughout the reading experience, which made me not want to put down this book. It is highly readable, full of important photographs and fairly short. A perfect foray into nonfiction, and especially atmospheric if you read it during cold weather!
Profile Image for Mindi.
862 reviews271 followers
March 4, 2019
I'm learning that people either know about the Dyatlov Pass incident and are obsessed with how creepy and inexplicable it is, or they have never heard about it. This is going to be a spoiler free review, since the author presents what I think is the most plausible explanation for the occurrence, but I'm not going to give that away. So if you are one of those people who have never heard about this strange case, feel free to read on. I'm going to bet you will want to know more after you do.

In February 1959, ten college students, friends, and experienced hikers set out for the Russian Ural mountains to earn Grade III hiking certification. They needed to cover 186 miles of ground, with a third of of those miles in rough terrain. The duration of the trip must be a minimum of 16 days, with eight of those days spent in non-inhabitable regions, eight of which in a tent.

It took them a number of days to reach the wilderness, and by then the tenth member of the group, Yuri Yudin, was in considerable pain from rheumatism and decided to turn back at the last sign of civilization. He would never see his friends alive again.

After bidding their friend farewell, the group of nine hiked through snow for an entire day, then set up camp for the night. On February first, they set out again, and once it started to become late in the day they decided to stop and set up camp again. They kept a group diary that contained no entries past that day, and took a total number of 10 photos on their final day alive. Nothing in the diary or photos would give any indication as to what happened to the students that night.

After the hikers failed to return to their university an extensive search and rescue operation began that would soon end in tragedy. All nine of the hikers were eventually found dead, and their bodies and campsite left more questions than answers as to what happened to them the night of the first.

At some point in the dark that night all nine friends would flee the tent suddenly, with someone actually cutting the back of the tent from the inside in order to escape faster. All of them were not dressed for the freezing cold weather, and none of them were wearing shoes. They were found buried under snowfall in groups of three, most of them having succumbed to hypothermia, but three of the hikers had fatal injuries, and one of the women was missing her tongue. It would take rescue workers two months to find the final four hikers.

For decades people have speculated on what could possibly have caused nine experienced hikers to flee their tent in the middle of the night with little clothing and no means to find their way back in the dark. All of the theories, from the ridiculous (aliens, a yeti), to those that seem more likely (an avalanche) have all been deemed unlikely.

This book is divided into three parts. The actual details of the hiker's trip as documented in their group diary and photographs, as well as Yudin's testimony as to what happened on the trip before he left. Then there are alternating chapters of both the search and recovery expedition, and the author's research and trips to Russia in order to retrace the steps of the hikers and learn as much as he could about the incident. The book is full of eerie photographs and heartbreaking anecdotes about how lighthearted the trip was at first for the students, and how they would stop in the evenings and sing while one them played a mandolin.

At the conclusion of the book, the author presents his theory, and how he went about testing it. Out of the large number of theories and speculation surrounding the case, Eichar's seems the most plausible to me. I don't think we will ever be able to say with certainty what happened that fateful night, but the author of this book comes as close to the truth as we may ever get.

This is a sincerely readable non-fiction account of the Dyatlov Pass Incident. I ended up reading the whole thing in less than a day. If you are interested in the case and Eichar's theory, I highly suggest picking this one up.
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