Combining the allure of an unsolved mystery and the danger of the wilderness, each of these titles examines the lives and circumstances of adventurers who have disappeared while exploring.
In 1959, a group of 9 college hikers disappeared in the Ural Mountains. On the face of it, this would not seem too unusual, as weather conditions were harsh and the area was known to be dangerous . What is odd, however, is that their bodies were found far from their campsite, inadequately clothed for the conditions, and the campsite completely undisturbed, with even a cup of tea still sitting awaiting its drinker! Add to that Cold War paranoia, traces of radioactivity, unexpected causes of death and the Dyatlov Pass incident has fueled decades of speculation and conspiracy theories. In Dead Mountain, outdoor journalist Donnie Eichar uses previously unreleased Soviet archives, unprecedented access to the hikers’ journals as well as his own re-following of their footsteps to develop a theory of their disappearance. This book was so gripping I read it in one sitting.
David Grann also retraces the steps of his subject in The Lost City of Z. Percy Fawcett was a British explorer who ventured into the Amazonian jungle in search of a fabled civilization, the City of Z and was never seen again. Many expeditions have been launched over the years searching for evidence of Fawcett and his party and all have come up with nothing. Journalist Grann, who also wrote the bestselling Killers of the Flower Moon, was captivated by the story and hearing of new evidence relating to the expedition, set out for the Amazon to see what he could find. This book is part travelogue, part mystery and reads like a thriller.
A more familiar wilderness disappearance, at least to American readers, is that of Everett Ruess. Ruess was an explorer and artist, friend of Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams, who disappeared in the Southwest in 1934 at the age of 20. At the time of his disappearance, the southwest was as remote, forbidding and beautiful as any place on earth. In Finding Everett Ruess by David Roberts, the author captures this milieu and examines not only Ruess’ disappearance but the legacy his explorations and his mystery have left through the decades.
Most of you have probably heard of Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. Like Ruess, who probably inspired him, Chris McCandless left civilization behind to explore the American wilderness. He started in the Southwest and eventually made it to Alaska, where his body was found. We know what happened to McCandless, so the mystery that Krakauer explores is why he acted as he did. Krakauer explores his motivations, examining the draw of the wilderness that caused him to leave his comfortable life and family to ultimately die alone in the wild. Krakauer’s book is a classic, as is the movie based on it.