January 28, 2018
I have a weird fascination with high altitude/cold weather disasters and mysteries. I’ve watched every documentary on Netflix about Everest disasters, K2 disasters, read Krakauer’s books, and I still can’t get enough of the stuff. I’ve watched so many that they’ve started to all blur together, and I have trouble remembering which is which… I’m not sure why I find it all so fascinating; I have no interest in actually going and having those adventures, but something about confronting those extremes are just interesting to me.
I also dig unexplained phenomenons. I watched a lot of Unsolved Mysteries as a kid, and they always stuck with me. So, the story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident is right in my wheelhouse. The gist is: in 1959 a group of Russian college students went on a long hike/camping trip through the Ural Mountains. One night they all abandoned their tent and ran out in the middle of the night in -40 degree weather without shoes or proper cold-weather gear on. They were discovered a month later buried in the snow, and nobody could figure out the cause. They were all experienced campers in a very remote region. Theories included avalanche, a lovers quarrel, wild animals, indigenous people turned murders, the KGB, rogue science experiments gone wrong, and, of course, aliens.
So, it was only natural that I’d be interested in Dead Mountain - The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident. The author goes through meticulous detail to find out everything he possibly could about the expedition, the rescue (and then recovery) party, and his own experiences traveling to Russia to try to retrace some of their steps 50 years later.
I enjoyed reading this. The author provided enough context of the group, their motivations, and the climate of the Soviet Union at the time without going too far off the rails. He also breaks down each theory, even some of the outlandish ones, and points out the strengths and flaws in each of them.
My favorite chapter came towards the end when he switches into speculation mode, and weighs all of the facts and evidence and then comes up with a plausible explanation. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it seems convincing.
If you’re into this kind of thing, it’s worth checking out.
Oh yeah, Hollywood also made a movie “about” the story a few years ago. I didn’t see that one, but it included time-travel and teleporting mutants apparently. I think we can rule that one out.
[One of my goals for 2018 is to read 12 books in the year. Some of you may scoff at that number but while I love to read, I haven’t had time as of late to indulge in that. This year I am making the time.]
Written by Scott Williams who lives and works in sunny Phoenix, AZ. Twitter is also a place.