Review: Dead Mountain, Donnie Eichar

Rating: 2 out of 5

I was impressed when I originally heard of the author’s goal: to retrace the steps of the lost Dyatlov expedition who perished in the Urals in 1959. However, going through Mr Eichar’s account of what happened in those fateful days of February 1959, I was not that happy with the author’s work. This book’s value is further reduced due to a recent Russian re-investigation of the incident which found that avalanche—a cause Mr Eichar discounted early on—was the primary cause of the accident.

One of the main reasons that made me dislike Mr Eichar’s book was his condescension towards the Soviets and Russians. Not only did he disparage the Russian equipment before seeing it, he made no attempts to learn the language either. This caused serious problems as he didn’t try to understand the connotation in the messages from the primary person he was corresponding with in Russia. It’s no surprise that at one point the author describes how this Russian correspondent was very aggrieved as they’d written something months prior which Mr Eichar ignored until—fortuitously—thinking of it himself.

The Dyatlov Pass incident, where nine young people lost their lives on a winter hike across the Urals, deserves better. Yet, my primary criticism is with the author’s reenactment of the event, and not his description of the original hike. In this, he follows the diaries of the people on the hike as well as the memory of the one person who returned early due to an injury. This book would have been a lot better had Mr Eichar remained within these constraints, and then described the possible causes impassionately.

Instead, this book often jumps back into completely irrelevant parts of the author’s life—a constant glorification of the writer and not the subject—which for me was unsuitable, keeping in mind the topic of this investigation. Further, I noted above that a recent Russian re-investigation of the event came to a completely different set of conclusions than the author. This means the cause of the incident is still in doubt. And, in truth, it will remain in doubt as none of us were there, under Holatchahl in February 1959, to have evidenced the fate of the nine hikers.

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