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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 9 December 2014
In 1959, nine experienced hiking students mysteriously died in the Urals. The matter appeared to have been covered up – or at least obfuscated by conspiracy theory and political intrigue.

What would make nine people leave their tent in the middle of freezing conditions, venturing out into the desolate snows without boots, waterproofs, or indeed trousers and socks? Their bodies were found scattered around, some of their clothing ripped as if they had been savagely attacked and one had her tongue removed.

This book, written over fifty years later offers a strange, but curiously believable potential solution. Well written and dipping between past and present, this was a real page turner.

I probably shouldn't say I enjoyed such a tale, gruesome as it is, but it is all in the telling and this you should experience. A remarkable book.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 3 March 2014
This is one of those rare books that when started you don't want to put it down.

I found myself having to consciously stop reading so as to prolong the life of the book.

The research carried out and the detailed approach make for an excellent read.

Outside of all the nutty sensational theories surrounding the events at Dead Mountain the final chapter is more than probable what actually took place.

I commend this book to all those who feel the tragedy of the events which overtook 9 young friend's on what should have been the most exciting adventure of their lives.

Thank you Donnie Eichar for you're persistence in seeking the facts and truth of the case.

A must read for all those whose spirit seek adventure.

Dave Keegan
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 10 February 2014
Absolutely gripping account of the much debated Dyatlov Pass Incident, a story that has now become a firm favourite with conspiracy theorists. Eichar follows his obsession right through to the bitter end, actually retracing the groups' footsteps to the scene of their deaths. His conclusion is unusual to say the least, but the most convincing I've yet come across. I'm writing this review having stayed up all night finishing the book and I feel like a wrung out rag. The title of my post refers to a film starring John Hurt and Alan Bates from the seventies. If you know the film, you'll understand why I chose it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 23 November 2013
Eichar has written a gripping narrative of the Dyatlov Pass incident, a mountain disaster that killed nine young Russians in February 1959. The nine were students at Ural Polytechnic Institute, and they were embarked on a challenging cross-country winter expedition to Otorten Mountain under the leadership of Igor Dyatlov. They were experienced winter trekkers whose goal was to earn a coveted designation as Grade III Hikers.

Enroute to Otorten, the students pitched camp on a slope above the timber line at Holatchal Mountain, which translates roughly as Dead Mountain--this has more to do with the lack of vegetation than the sinister quality of the place, but the name nonetheless turns out to be tragically prophetic. Some time on the night of February 1/2, all nine students abruptly leave the shelter of their fairly large and well-pitched tent, all without clothing or boots sufficient to face the cold. There is evidence that those at the back of the tent cut their way out in their hurry to escape from something. All nine ended up scattered around the mountain in the subzero night, unable to return to the tent. Most succumbed to hypothermia, but three are found with severe injuries consistent with a fall from a height. No one can fathom what would cause nine accomplished hikers to abandon their tent in the middle of the night, and rumors soon spread that the hikers were murdered, or attacked by aliens, or that they otherwise met some sort of supernatural fate.

Eichar makes short shrift of the more bizarre explanations for the mystery and focuses on telling the story of the tragedy through three narratives that move in parallel: a tale of the hikers' experiences as they approached Dead Mountain, all of which are well-documented by photographs and diaries found in the tent; a story of the investigation and the aftermath of the tragedy in the Soviet Union of 1959; and a tale of the author's investigations in Russia, including an interview with a 10th hiker who turned back a couple of days before his friends met their fate.

Even though the reader knows from the outset what will happen to the hikers, the book is a page-turner--I couldn't put it down. At length, I marveled at the courage and skill of the young hikers and the tragedy of their deaths.

Eichar offers an intriguing and plausible solution to what happened to the nine students on that cold night in the Ural Mountains, one that has more to do with physics than fantasy. I doubt his explanation will be the last on the subject, but it doesn't really matter: the strength of this book is in the journey, not the destination.
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on 29 November 2015
This is the second book on the Dyatlov Pass incident that I’ve reviewed on this site, the other being Keith McCloskey’s ‘Mountain of the Dead’. Inevitably, I found myself comparing them. There are some significant differences.

Like McCloskey, Donnie Eichar has spent a considerable amount of time on researching the strange case of the nine adventurers who died in Russia’s Ural Mountains in early February 1959. More than once, Eichar’s enquiries took him to Russia itself, and in the company of others he has made a winter visit to the site of the 1959 incident. His book is liberally sprinkled with black-and-white photographs, many taken by members of the ill-fated 1959 expedition. There are maps on p. 14. And at the back of the book, there are helpful sections, including a timeline pertaining to the expedition itself, and a timeline for the investigation of the incident. There’s also an index, although I noticed some gaps in it.


Yekaterinburg or Ekaterinburg, formerly known as Sverdlovsk, is an industrial city to the east of the central Ural Mountains. On 23rd January 1959, 10 members of the Sports Club of the Ural Polytechnic Institute in Sverdlovsk departed from the city for a hiking, ski-ing and camping expedition in the northern Ural Mountains. They planned to visit Otorten Mountain (which McCloskey’s book refers to as ‘Mount Otorten’). Surprisingly, Eichar doesn’t specify its height, although McCloskey (p. 14) gives it as 1,234 metres, which equates to 4,049 feet. It is apparently about 340 miles NNW of Sverdlovsk.

On 28th January, a man called Yuri Yudin dropped out of the trip on account of severe back and leg pain. He was fortunate, because his nine companions (seven men and two women) were to perish just days later.

Judging from the ‘official’ account, on 1st February, before sunset, the nine remaining hikers pitched their tent on the eastern slope of Holatchahl mountain, which McCloskey’s book refers to as Kholat Syakhl, giving its height as 1,079 metres (3,540 feet). But Eichar himself seems to confuse the actual height of the peak with the elevation at which the party set up its tent – he states (p. 271) that they were at 1,079 metres. At any rate, something later impelled them to abandon the tent hurriedly. Eichar suggests that two of them exited from the front of the tent, with the others escaping through a hole produced by slashing through the canvas at the other end. They didn’t pause to collect the necessary items for surviving in the bitterly cold weather. Indeed, it seems that some of them, if not all, exited without shoes or boots. (According to p. 155, one of their corpses was found to be wearing a single felt shoe.) They apparently descended towards the tree line in the pass to their east, which is now known as the ‘Dyatlov Pass’, in memory of Igor Dyatlov, the leader of the ill-fated expedition.

The party were expected back in Sverdlovsk on 13th February. With no message being received, and with their non-arrival, anxiety grew about their wellbeing. Search parties were eventually organized. The group’s abandoned tent was discovered on 26th February. The next day, the bodies of four of them, including Dyatlov, were found. Another corpse was found on 5th March. In early May, the bodies of the remaining four were found.

Judging from the autopsy reports, some of the party had suffered severe internal injuries. The worst case was that of Lyudmila Dubinina: among other things, her tongue was missing, and she had broken ribs. Eichar suggests that while hypothermia itself accounts for most of the deaths, some of the party may have suffered internal injuries via falls. Eichar attributes the loss of Dubinina’s tongue to “the natural decomposition process”, probably facilitated by water-borne microfauna.


These events occurred during the Cold War. Russia was then part of a larger political entity, the USSR, and governed by an authoritarian communist regime that went to great lengths to control the information reaching its citizens. In his book, McCloskey notes (p. 119) that even as late as the 1970s, crashes of commercial passenger aircraft in “Russia” (he probably means the USSR as a whole) were seldom publicized. Therefore, if the authorities didn’t want the public to know the full facts concerning the fate of the Dyatlov group, it’s quite likely that there would have been a cover-up. However, as noted below, Eichar favours a non-conspiratorial meteorological explanation.


Like McCloskey, Eichar considers a range of possible explanations for the tragedy. For instance, the Dyatlov party may have fled from their tent thinking that they were about to be engulfed in an avalanche, although Eichar believes that’s unlikely. An anticipated avalanche might explain the lack of footwear and adequate clothing, but the tent didn’t seem to be pitched in a spot that would have been particularly avalanche-prone. And this theory doesn’t, in itself, explain the injuries that some of them, such as Lyudmila Dubinina, sustained, although they may have experienced serious falls in the dangerous and freezing terrain. At any rate, the central mystery is why the party fled their tent so ill-equipped to deal with the harsh conditions outside.

Eichar managed to discuss the case with a physicist called Alfred J. Bedard, Jr, and some of the latter's colleagues. In Bedard’s view, the wind and the dome of Holatchahl mountain may have created the right conditions for a phenomenon known as a ‘Kármán vortex’, which could have rolled over the dome of the mountain and then become a pair of descending vertical tornadoes or vortices. They could have passed, some distance away, on either side of the tent. As well as being assailed by disturbing sounds, the occupants of the tent may have been distressed by the effects of inaudible infrasound, inducing panic and a desire to escape.

McCloskey’s book, by contrast, gives greater weight to the possibility that some sort of accident occurred involving the military. Indeed, he adduces evidence for the notion that the tent, bodies and belongings of the Dyatlov group had been moved to the eastern slope of Kholat Syakhl (or ‘Holatchahl mountain’, as Eichar describes it) to help cover up something that had happened elsewhere. For example, a photograph of the tent, taken immediately after its supposed discovery, suggested that it had been set up differently from the way that the Dyatlov group would have assembled it (McCloskey, pp. 135-136). At any rate, McCloskey (p. 202) concludes that, in all probability, the deaths resulted from some sort of accident caused by the military.


I noticed at least one or two inconsistencies in Eichar’s book. For example, on p. 276, he notes that the funerals for the first five hikers (those whose bodies were found in February and March 1959) took place on “March 9-10, 1959”. But he then goes on to say that forensic examination of one of them began on 11th March. I find it hard to believe that the autopsy occurred AFTER the funeral.

The general organization of the book is insufficiently linear for my liking. The chapters tend to jump back and forth from 1959 to the recent past. For example, Chapter 3 is headed “February 1959” and Chapter 4 is headed “2010”.
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on 18 August 2015
the best example i've found yet on why writers shouldn't narrate the audiobook versions of their books. Monotony gets a new entry in the dictionary today. Its genuinely an interesting story but the flat, monotone reading and the even stranger regular length sentences (listen to it its like a metronome) queer the pitch. Also name dropping your own work early on in the reading is a no no in my book.

I recently also listened to: that's how you narrate an audiobook.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 15 February 2014
This is one of the most interesting books I have read! Written fantastically! Really explored the possible causes of what happened to the hikers! Would recommend
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 20 January 2014
I found this book utterly compelling; well researched, well written and with respect and compassion for its subjects. Like many other reviewers I find his theory of what happened to those young hikers on that terrible night convincing and chilling. What I would appreciate is a sequel to the book that charts scientific investigation into this theory that would finally fully confirm what happened back in February 1959.
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on 28 July 2014
This book is a rivetting read and highly recommended. There are fascinating glimpses of life in Russia, unobtrusively woven into the the fabric of the mystery. While there are no definite solutions to the mystery there are many of theories - and much to think about.
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on 17 November 2014
Great to see an old file from the unexplained section solved if that is indeed the case.
I agree a sequel would be great exploring his theory more.
Who knows this could be a final solution to all those visionary experiences on mountains and elsewhere too.
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