Yetis

Yetis are legendary creatures which are thought to live in the Himalaya.  Their existence has long been known by the peoples of the Himalaya but it was only following expeditions to the mountains by western explorers that the story found its way to the rest of the world.

The frequency of reports increased during the early 20th century, when Westerners began making determined attempts to scale the many mountains in the area and occasionally reported seeing odd creatures or strange tracks.

  • In 1925, N. A. Tombazi, a photographer and member of the Royal Geographical Society, wrote that he saw a creature at about 15,000 ft (4,600 m) near Zemu Glacier. Tombazi later wrote that he observed the creature from about 200 to 300 yd (180 to 270 m), for about a minute. “Unquestionably, the figure in outline was exactly like a human being, walking upright and stopping occasionally to pull at some dwarf rhododendron bushes. It showed up dark against the snow, and as far as I could make out, wore no clothes.” About two hours later, Tombazi and his companions descended the mountain and saw the creature’s prints, described as “similar in shape to those of a man, but only six to seven inches long by four inches wide… The prints were undoubtedly those of a biped.”
  • Western interest in the Yeti peaked dramatically in the 1950s. While attempting to scale Mount Everest in 1951, Eric Shipton took photographs of a number of large prints in the snow, at about 6,000 m (20,000 ft) above sea level. These photos have been subject to intense scrutiny and debate. Some argue they are the best evidence of Yeti’s existence, while others contend the prints are those of a mundane creature that have been distorted by the melting snow.  Another member of the team, Tom Bourdillon, included this note with the picture when he sent it to a friend. “Dear Mick, here are the footprint photos: sorry for the delay. We came across them on a high pass on the Nepal-Tibet watershed during the 1951 Everest expedition.  They seemed to have come over a secondary pass at about 19,500ft, down to 19,000ft where we first saw them, and then went on down the glacier. We followed them for the better part of a mile.  What it is, I don’t know, but I am quite clear that it is no animal known to live in the Himalaya, and that it is big. Compare the depths to which it and Mike Ward (no featherweight) have broken into the snow. Yours, Tom Bourdillon.”
  • In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reported seeing large footprints while scaling Mount Everest. Hillary would later discount Yeti reports as unreliable. In his first autobiography Tenzing said that he believed the Yeti was a large ape, and although he had never seen it himself his father had seen one twice, but in his second autobiography he said he had become much more skeptical about its existence.
  • During the Daily Mail Snowman Expedition of 1954, the mountaineering leader John Angelo Jackson made the first trek from Everest to Kanchenjunga in the course of which he photographed symbolic paintings of the Yeti at Tengboche gompa.  Jackson tracked and photographed many footprints in the snow, most of which were identifiable. However, there were many large footprints which could not be identified. These flattened footprint-like indentations were attributed to erosion and subsequent widening of the original footprint by wind and particles.
  • In 1970, Don Whillans, who was part of Chris Bonington’s Annapurna South Face expedition, claimed to have seen and heard a strange animal.  He was in the advance party and so arrived at the mountain a day or two before the main group.  At Machapuchare Base Camp at 5 in the evening he heard a noise behind him and turned to see a shape disappearing over a ridge.  The Sherpas with Whillans told him it was a yeti.  The following day while on a reconnaissance he walked to the area where he had seen the shape and found tracks in the snow which resembled that of a small man.  That evening he kept watch from his tent and saw a powerful animal bounding quickly along on all fours apparently searching for food.  Whillans watched it for a some minutes before it disappeared into the shadow of some rocks and that was the last time he saw it.  In his words, “There had been a peculiar atmosphere about the place ever since we had arrived at Machapuchare base camp – and now this seemed to have gone.”

 The great thing about Yetis is that you can never conclusively prove that they don’t exist!  And so crazy people still got to Nepal in search of them…

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