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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, March 2014 - Full disclosure: I've been obsessed with the story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident – the name given to the mysterious unsolved deaths of nine young experienced hikers in the Russian Ural mountains in 1959 - since I first heard the story a few years back. Filmmaker-turned-author Donnie Eichar seems to share my enthusiasm, because after years of researching the case, he emptied his savings and traveled to Russia on a mission to recreate the hikers’ journey and uncover the truth behind their deaths. Although this was a familiar story to me, I was completely absorbed by Eichar’s retelling. He weaves his own journey seamlessly in with a retelling of the hikers’ story (which he recreates through their photos and journal entries), along with a detailed breakdown of the investigation following their disappearance. And as a documentary filmmaker, Eichar makes sure he has his timelines and sources straight throughout the book. Above all, I think was most impressed by how Eichar treated the Dylatlov Pass Incident as so much more than a creepy tale. He manages to bring a deep human quality to the story, along with immense reverence for the fallen hikers (tone that comes through in his careful narration). I came away from this book feeling as if I had known each one of them - and longing for some closure more than ever before. I won't spoil the outcome of his investigation, but I think it's safe to say that anyone who is interested in this story - or real-life mysteries in general - will be left with plenty to ponder. —Sam, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

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.

©2013 Donnie Eichar (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Mystery & Intrigue In The Ural Mountains

Eichar revisits and examines the unsolved, closed case of the deaths of nine hikers in February of 1959 in the Ural Mountains of Russia. This story has been the fodder of conspiracy theories and speculation for more than 50 years. The author explores the events first hand. He travels to Russia, retraces the journey, meets with family, and pieces together a picture that proposes a reasonable and highly likely scenario. However, the story is so compelling and filled with mystery it still left me wondering.

The author also narrates this book. This was not terrible--but sounded slightly monotone and dire in feeling. I increased the play back speed to 1.25 which helped perk things up a bit. I still had mixed feelings about this--a professional narrator might have been a better choice.

For me, this book was fascinating--not just because of the mystery--but because of the culture clash it presented. I really was intrigued by the author's look at Russia over the last 50-60 years and his fumbling attempts to communicate with and relate to people he met when he did not speak the language. A bold choice and an engaging book.

43 of 44 people found this review helpful

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Respectable Overview Of The Case

Dead Mountain is composed to two narratives: the 1959 story which reconstructs the hikers journey, disappearance, and attempted rescue; and the 2012 story which recounts Eichar's investigation into the case. Interspersed throughout are various tidbits about Donnie's own life, how schooling worked in the USSR, facts about Russian history, and other not-wholly-relevant tidbits that give the story a somewhat padded feel.

The best audience for this book are those who are new to the Dyatlov Pass case. Donnie Eichar should be given credit for presenting a solid overview of the case, but he doesn't go into the nitty-gritty. He comes up with a theory about the "unknown compelling force" which is rather intriguing.

The reading was fine, though it had a somewhat recited quality to it. Perhaps it would have been better if a professional had read it, but it's not like books of this sort lend themselves to showcasing vocal talent. This story is about the author as much as the mystery so I think his reading it was a good idea.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathy
  • Davis, CA, United States
  • 06-30-14

Always a sucker for unsolved mysteries!

I breezed through this book in record time. It seems I still can't resist an unsolved mystery.

This true story fascinated me and at no time did I find it boring, like several other reviewers. I found the details haunting and frightening--I can't even begin to imagine what those 9 hikers went through before their terrifying deaths. This is a creepy, mysterious true event that defies logical explanations. Whatever the actual cause was, it necessarily has to be as weird and strange as the manner in which the 9 hikers died. This is why I think the author has posited a reasonable explanation as to what actually happened. His unexpected explanation makes sense and certainly is plausible. However, I believe that no one will ever know for sure the events of that fateful night.

I have mixed feelings about Donnie Eichar doing his own narration. He most likely has no previous experience narrating an audiobook and this was obvious. In parts, it felt like he was just reading someone else's pages with little or no expression. On the other hand, I got a feel for his earnestness and for who he really is. I could see that this mystery tied him up in knots and wouldn't let go until he did what he could to investigate what really happened to the hikers. I don't think a professional narrator, someone who was perhaps older and more mature, could have really conveyed the real Donnie. So, this is a case in which I won't complain about an author reading his own book. While it certainly wasn't the best narration, it served a useful purpose for me.

Over all, this was an intriguing listen and I will be thinking about it in bed at night for a long while.

25 of 28 people found this review helpful

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The Dyatlov Pass Incident is always interesting!

Would you listen to Dead Mountain again? Why?

Yes, I would listen to it again. I like the topic and the time period during which the incident happened. Listening to the book takes me away to that time.

Which scene was your favorite?

The theory put forth at the book's end was the most interesting for me, as well as his description of the groups last couple hours of life.

Any additional comments?

I have lived in Russia for over 15 years and the last 5 years in the Urals. The only thing I did not like was the author's naive comments/view of Russia. For example, in 2012, you could definitely photograph anything you wanted in the Yekaterinburg train station. He paints a typical naive picture of Russia and its residents. Often people here do not live just to go to 'fast-food' restaurants (i.e. food from Sysco cans, soup from powder, everything frozen and fried) and super WalMart. You feel the everything in the USA is better attitude and not a real interest and appreciation for different cultures.

22 of 25 people found this review helpful

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Amazing Story

Whoa. You will never in a million years see this coming. Fascinating true mystery - if you like those things (I do!), you'll love this. Only downside is the author's rotten narration - almost made me give up, he's so monotone. But the story is worth it - hang in there. I still see the hikers in my mind and can't imagine how terrifying their last night must have been.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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A Good Creepy Mystery

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 browsing Audible. It's the true story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident and the inexplicable deaths of nine experienced hikers. It's one of those strange but true tales that leaves a person shuddering. Speculation and theories surround the mystery of what happened to make them leave the security of their tent, in subarctic temps, scantily clad, and which ultimately brings them to their death.

The book was well researched and fascinating. But, this is Eichar's (the author) take of what he suspects happened to them, and is not completely concrete. I'll stop there to not get into spoiler territory.

Overall: This was one of those books that had me totally engrossed and when finished spent an hour researching the Internet for photos of the mountain and places named in the book. The narrator was perfect, and had the "documentary" type of voice. It reminded me of a voice you'd hear on NPR.

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8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Bruce
  • Portland, OR, United States
  • 03-22-14

Fascinating and compassionate investigation

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Absolutely. Eichar carefully reconstructs a fascinating tragic mystery and works toward a solution with integrity and a solid awareness of his own limits. It's educational in the best way.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Dead Mountain?

The vivid recreations of the lives of these Soviet students of the '50s, particularly the various ways music played such a large part in their individual and shared experiences.

What about Donnie Eichar’s performance did you like?

Hearing the Russian and scientific terms pronounced right.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I was very moved, appreciative of Eichar's interest in getting real answers and sympathetic to the conclusion he reaches about the calamity that overwhelmed the Dyaltov party.

Any additional comments?

Eichar's reading is very conservative in emotional terms - sometimes too flat and restrained. I get the sense that he strongly wants to avoid sensationalism, and I respect that, but it took a while for me to connect with the emotions as well as the data in his story.

13 of 16 people found this review helpful

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Maybe it was bears

The Dyatlov Pass Incident has all the ingredients necessary for a creepy, enduring mystery: back in 1959, nine Russian college students went for a hike in the Urals, an inhospitable, avalanche-prone region, and never returned. Search parties eventually found their bodies, scattered, unclothed, with body parts missing, their tent mysteriously torn open. Add in the predictable Soviet cover-up, unnatural radiation levels found in the bodies, and UFO sightings, and it's a virtual buffet for conspiracy theorists. Exactly what happened to the hikers has never been determined.

Donnie Eichar, an American journalist who came across the old story by chance, exhausted much of his funds traveling to Russia, interviewing family members, trying to track down the last survivor of the hiking party, and retracing their steps, while trying to solve a mystery that's gone unsolved for over half a century. Understandably, the Russians he spoke to were skeptical, wondering why an American cared so much about something that happened in the Soviet Union before he was born, how much money he was making for this book, and what he was going to discover that Russian authorities never did.

It turns out that most of the more lurid details (such as one hiker's missing tongue, and the knife slashes in their tent) have fairly mundane explanations. But none proven. Russians to this day have plenty of theories about what happened, ranging from a sudden windstorm or avalanche to a bear attack, or one of the party going mad and attacking the others in a psychotic fit, and of course the most popular, that they witnessed a classified missile launch or some other weapons test and were killed by security forces.

That's even without exploring the sort of theories that would appeal to the fantasists among us. Seriously, nine hikers found mysteriously dead in the mountains just begs for some Lovecraftian explanation. Eichar's description of the region makes it easy to imagine all sorts of inhuman things lurking in the crevices and the snow, waiting for hapless humans to stumble upon them.

Unfortunately for the fantasy-minded, Eichar summarily dismisses aliens or any other supernatural explanation, and unfortunately for those who love a good, creepy mystery, Eichar's narration is comprehensive but flat, with chapters spent going over the biographies and personalities of each dead hiker, then the physical evidence, his own experiences as he researched their story, and finally, his presentation of the most plausible theory.

It's a bit of a let-down, although even the most plausible theory is still just a theory. So maybe it really was those giants that Hagrid met.

Eichar narrates his own book, and has the common failing of authors narrating their own books - he is not a professional voice actor and so he reads his own words in a dry monotone, very clear and understandable, but it drains most excitement from the story.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 06-11-16

Speculative review of incident

In 1959, nine Russian university students went hiking in the Ural Mountains. A month later the abandoned tent was found on a mountain side with long slashes in it. Then the bodies of the hikers were found scattered within a mile of the camp. Some were half dressed. Six died of hypothermia and three from blunt force trauma to the head and chest. A high level of radiation was found on some of the clothing. The Russians closed the area for three years. This triggered all types of speculation about what happened.

This book documents Eichar’s attempt to discover the cause of the un-witnessed tragedy. The book goes back and forth between narrations of his investigation experience to the 1959 story. For his research Eichar uses the students’ diaries, photographs, interviews with family and friends, and investigative reports as well as other government documents. The author interviewed a NOAA scientist who reported a “tornadic Vortices” that produced infrasound in the area of the camp that night. Eichar also states that violent foul play cannot be ruled out. The author also reviews the various other theories over the years.

The book is highly readable and interesting but at the end the reader is no wiser about what happened that night on the mountain. The author narrated his own book.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Needed a professional narrator

Donnie Eichar has written an interesting book about a true modern day mystery. I normally don't like books that skip around in time, but this one works, blending his modern day experiences in Russia with those of the Dyatlov party and the later rescue expedition. I like that he investigates a lot of possible explanations but doesn't give any but the briefest mention to fringe theories like a Yeti or space aliens. I find the new theory that he posits at the end to be very credible.

However, the book is ruined by his pedestrian narration. You would think a writer reading his own stuff would come off as conversational, but this guy sounds like he is just reading words on a paper that he had never seen before. Surely an editor or producer somewhere down the line was aware of his poor performance. Everything is read in a very flat voice and there is generally a pregnant pause before he s-l-o-w-l-y tackles Russian surnames, of which, you can imagine, there are a lot of in this book. It's not un-listenable; I've heard worse, sad to say, but the book would have been SO much better with a professional narrator, someone like Bronson Pinchot perhaps, who could easily manage the Russian names.

BTW, sometimes a writer can also be a good narrator - listen to Linda Tirado's "Hand to Mouth" if you want to hear a great example.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • mollymoon1
  • 08-26-14

Good - certainly worth a guess!!!

Pretty intriguing really that someone might come up with an “infra-sound” conclusion. The book is good. The story about 9 missing “experienced” hikers in the Ural mountains of Russia back in the 50’s and during the cold war is something that I knew nothing about, but the title was enough to make me want to read on. And I am glad I did, because I enjoyed the book and the theories that the author came up with. Not only that, I am pretty convinced that the conclusions are very feasible and very probable. I could not think why – well, kids basically would be the target of any covert, cold war conspiracy, despite the story told within the pages which is laced with coincidences, bad luck and the harshness of mother nature. The only thing that spoilt the story (but only a little) was the author’s self-indulgence and although it is clear that he did make some great personal sacrifices to come to a good conclusion, I see how this could lead the reader/listener to conclude the story a bit unbelievable. I happen to think that it is far more likely than they were all done away with, i.e., followed on a dangerous mission by Soviet soldiers, spies, misfits (who!!!) to be viciously battered to near death for absolutely no reason whatsoever! Anyhow, the reader/author does a nice job of delivering the story and comes up with a damned good conclusion – good for him. Good story, I would recommend it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Yevgeny
  • 07-08-14

Intriguing story ruined by author's conclusions...

I was born in Russia in the 70s and lived there for 24 years and I have never heard of this story (author seems to claim it's popular one in Russia)

Nevertheless It was very intriguing and the author went to admirable lengths to cover it; done a lot of research, went to Russia twice and visited the place of the tragedy.

!!! Spoilers below !!!

However the ending of the book was most disappointing.

The author concludes that the deaths of the hikers must be caused by infrasound with tornadoes...
Seriously?!...
As a theory, fine if you must, but most convincing and simple explanation? Come on.
Is it possible? Yes, everything is possible (even Cossacks armed with infrasound guns and riding Yetis), but in no way is this a Reasonable theory/explanation.
The author himself writes that in experiment settings set Specifically to test effect of infrasound waves, firing "infrasound cannon", only 22% of test subjects reported discomfort.
Yet carries on to say that all 9 hikers (experienced, healthy and sober people) were effected, well above and beyond simple discomfort... Add to it vortex conveniently creating passing tornadoes and viola mystery solved.

There is no serious evidence of such phenomenons from large searching party. Even while visiting the place the author observed none of it.

It is ok to say that we can't know what really happened, what compelled 9 people to abandon the tent. There is no shame in that. But the author seems desperate to solve the mystery...

In the book the author distances himself from the "tinfoil hat brigade" yet ends up knocking on their door with great enthusiasm by the end of of it.

The last hour pretty much ruined the book for me. Shame really.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Steven A. McKay
  • 02-17-16

Interesting, if a bit short

I'd been quite interested in this whole myth, legend, whatever you want to call it, for a while now. For those that don't know, basically a group of pretty experienced and competent hikers went out climbing near Siberia and didn't return. They were found in various states of undress, all dead, having left their tent in a hurry. But why?
Well, this book aims to explain it.
The narrator is quite good, although his voice can be a bit droning and ultimately it's a short book. That said, the main revelation, the reason why we're listening to this, could fit in half an hour so the other 6 hours is basically the author's tale of his journey retracing the hikers' steps.
And it's an interesting one, well told, really taking you along on the snowy ride with him.
His theory for what happened to the group makes perfect sense to me - better than UFO's or Yetis or KGB agents in my opinion. When you put yourself in their position and listen to what he thinks happened it really does seem like he's figured it out.

I managed to listen to this whole thing in one day, so that tells you two things: 1) it's short and 2) it's compelling listening.

Recommended!

Steven A. McKay, author of "Wolf's Head".

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Ema Valerie Shallcross
  • 01-09-18

Very good

This is a very well written & well researched book, however it does seem to be confirmation biased as some of the recorded medical information has been left out or skipped over as it does not fit in to the final theory. Other than this it is excellent.

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  • wdw
  • 11-06-17

Excellent

This is a very well presented and detailed story detailing the Dyatlov Pass incident. The evidence provided and the authors conclusions are really interesting.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Andrew
  • 07-18-17

A compelling and informative account

A through and though provoking account of the sad events that led to the incident. Although not a real complaint but I found the narrators voice to be a little flat and monotonous.

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  • C.J.Aurentium
  • 12-16-16

Fantastic book. An absolute must.

Excellent narrative, gripping from cover to cover. The details are what makes this a must listen to book. Donnie Eichar needs to do more investigative books like this.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mark
  • 08-10-14

Odd but enthralling

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Donnie Eicher must be very odd: he knew almost nothing about Russia or the Soviet Union but became obsessed with the death of group of students in Siberia in the 1950s.

Overall, it works. He does a good job of telling a very mysterious story. He's not the first non-Russian author to have looked at it and his solution is far less definitive than he would have you believe. But he tells the story well and he even does a decent job of narrating.

I'm just glad I'm not his long-suffering wife

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  • russ
  • 07-16-14

1/2 interesting

What would have made Dead Mountain better?

A different performer would have helped

What was most disappointing about Donnie Eichar’s story?

The performace

What didn’t you like about Donnie Eichar’s performance?

The performance resembled the monotone of a dead fish. I did realise the performer was the author until filling this out.

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

It resolved a "mystery"​

Any additional comments?

​Sack the performer for the sake of the author. A different performer might have rescued the story better. The story itself felt like a script for some TV documentary proposal. It should make a good half hour TV programme.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Grace
  • 07-25-16

Gripping, fascinating story

What made the experience of listening to Dead Mountain the most enjoyable?

The author / narrator did an excellent job. Very interesting and well researched story, fascinating to no end yet satisfying.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Timothy
  • 05-17-15

an amazing, eye opening new take on this mystery.

DonnieEichar has taken a modern and fresh look at the terrifying and brutal mystery that is the 'Dyatlov Pass Incident'. His fluid layout of writing allows for an easily followed listen with chapters being told from both present and past. This allows the reader to easily place themselves into the harsh, chilling mountains where this tragic events occurred. with the last chapter being Donnies' recreation of the event through his eyes with newly gathered evidence, some readers may finally see this as an answer to the mind numbing mystery that occurred all those years ago.

excellent read and absolutely perfect delivery.

Highly recommended for anyone who has ever had any opinion on the mystery.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Vron
  • 03-07-18

Intriguing

This was a very interesting listen - not only because of the mystery itself but the lifestyle and times of these hikers. I really enjoyed learning about them and the countless theories surrounding their deaths. The conclusion-which I won't spoil- didn't quite satisfy me entirely- but it still is an intriguing idea.

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  • Julie Davis
  • 12-31-17

Fascinating and thoughtfully unfolded investigation

This tragic true story is so skilfully and thoughtfully investigated and related that it can only bring comfort and relief to the families of the deceased and clarity to the community at large including the reader or listener. The author was clearly intrigued by the mystery and set out to uncover the elusive truth of what happened to the 9 young people who perished in strange and apparently inexplicable circumstances so many years ago. A significant achievement and a community service beautifully done.