4 Star Reads, Book Reviews, Non Fiction

Book Review: Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar

★ ★ ★ ★

One of my reading intentions this year was to read more nonfiction, and this was an excellent choice for my first read of 2019. Dead Mountain is riveting and informative nonfiction through the perspective of documentary filmmaker and author, Donnie Eichar, who sets out to piece together the mystery that is the Dyatlov Pass incident— the unsolved deaths surrounding the nine hikers in the northern Ural Mountains in Soviet Union (now Russia) between February 1st and 2nd in 1959. After coming across the story of the Dyatlov Pass incident, Eichar became fascinated with discovering the truth about what happened to the nine hikers on that fatal trip. The book uses the hiker’s personal journals and photography, government records, interviews with living relatives, and investigator notes to retrace the hikers’ story.

The book is essentially a reversed engineered investigation—told through three different timelines and alternates throughout until focalizing at the end: opening with the hikers in 1959 as they begin their excursion to obtain a Grade III in hiking, the reporting of the hikers missing and the investigation that soon begins, and following Eichar as he investigates the mystery by retracing the hikers’ route for any missed clues to that un-witnessed night.

As someone who doesn’t read much nonfiction and finds it sometimes hard to hold my interest, Eichar does a great job at outlining the day-to-day lives of the hikers and the investigating process that took place, writing it in a way that was not dry or overwhelming with unnecessary information for the reader. What happened to the hikers is still unknown, but Eichar tries to discover a logical theory to what actually took place during that night and eliminate those theories that have stirred up throughout the years. One of his concerns through the entire process of crafting this book was humanizing the hikers who lost their lives and the tragic story, he does it in a way that is always respectful to all those involved.

Dead Mountain is about a very odd tragedy, but Eichar did an excellent job at providing logical, science-based explanations and theory to what could have happened to the hikers, and he does so in a way that was compelling and informative for those curious about the Dyatlov Pass incident.


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.

Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published October 22nd 2013 by Chronicle Books LLC

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