Title: Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident
Author: Donnie Eichar
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Audiobook Narrator: Donnie Eichar
I’m (mildly) obsessed with YouTube, especially in the last year since we’ve gotten rid of cable, and in this last year, I’ve also discovered “BookTube”. For those not in the know, this is essentially the section of YouTubers that devote their channels to discussing all things books. This includes, of course, reviews, TBRs (to be read), monthly wrap-ups, and bookathons. I love watching all of these, but the bookathons always catch my attention the most as these are marathons that the BookTubers attempt over the course of a set amount of days. Until this week, I’d never actually bothered with joining any for a number of reasons. Usually these are more focused on the Young Adult genre, which isn’t really what I’m interested in, or they require a crazy amount of books to be read in a short amount of time, which will just never happen for me. Thanks to one of my favorite booktubers, though, BooksandLala, I can never say “never” again!
This week is the first ever Lalathon, which is a readathon dedicated to reading any of Lala’s favorite books. Dead Mountain: The Untold Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar landed on my radar a few months back when Lala initially reviewed it. She loved it, and it sounded incredible, so I had to give it a shot. Because she announced this readathon, I decided this would be a great excuse to spend one of my piling Audible credits on Dead Mountain. Because I started and finished the book during Lalathon, this marks my first attempted, and my first successful, readathon, and I couldn’t be happier that Dead Mountain will forever be the one that got me started.
The Dyatlov Pass incident is an unsolved mystery from the Soviet Union in 1959. Ten collegiate hikers set out to earn their Grade III certification (the highest they could achieve), and nine of them are later found dead in different areas near their campsite. The strange part? These experienced hikers were found without their gear on, sometimes only in socks, appeared physically brutalized, and their tent was left standing, but with a knife slit through the back of it. The “what” of this story was abundantly clear: these nine experienced hikers fled from the tent in a hurry. It’s the “why” that kept their families, and Donnie Eichar, up at night.
Eichar spent years trying to get to the truth of this mystery, which has theories as basic as an avalanche, to as paranoid as government conspiracies, and as otherwordly as alien contact. Eichar is only interested in the truth, whatever that might. He even quotes the famous Sherlock Holmes line, “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”. And that is exactly how he approaches this situation.
Eichar gives every theory the weight it deserves, then meticulously and scientifically disproves many of them as he makes his way through the book. The chapters usually go back and forth between 1959 – where he follows the path that the hikers took to reach their ultimate demise – and then back to 2012, where Eichar himself becomes the first American to attempt the same trail in the winter that the group did. Eichar is all-in on uncovering the truth, and it’s absolutely fascinating to join him on the hunt.
Not only did Eichar write the novel, he also narrates the audiobook. I’ve listened to a lot of audiobooks this year, and Eichar’s reading has to be the least impressive I’ve heard. Eichar is monotone, which may turn some people off. That said, the story that he has put together here is so interesting and engaging, that it honestly didn’t matter to me how monotone he was. Still, because this is the man who literally travelled to the Dyatlov Pass to retrace the steps of history, I expected the reading to be a little more personal and animated than it was. This is definitely an audiobook that you listen to for the story, not the narrator, which is a real backhanded compliment for Eichar, but what can you do?
I was hooked on Dead Mountain from the prologue. The story never slowed down for me as I was enthralled by the hiker’s final days, and the investigation that happened once they didn’t retun to their University when expected. As far as I am concerned, Eichar has solved this mystery, and he does so in the final two chapters of the book. He clearly lays out what he believes happens, and backs it up with scientific evidence. That’s all one can ask for.
I’m a big true crime fan, and though this wouldn’t fall into that category, it has a similar feel. This non-fiction disaster story will appeal to anyone who loves a good mystery, especially when it’s true. Though the audiobook narration is a bit lacking, it doesn’t take anything away from the story, which is excellent. Dead Mountain is a must-read book that I cannot recommend enough.