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Yeh-Teh: "That Thing There"
By Nik Petsev
N. A. Tombazi squinted as his porters yelled frantically, pointing downward in a frenzy. The glare of the sun against the ever-present snow blinded him for a second before he finally homed in on the source of the commotion, which was "…about three hundred yards away down the valley to the east of our camp." Tombazi would later recall this encounter in his Account of a Photographic Expedition to the Southern Glaciers of Kangchenjunga in the Sikkim Himalaya. The source of the commotion was a humanoid figure, wandering about in an upright fashion, pausing to tug on dwarf rhododendron bushes as it passed. The creature's dark figure cast it with extreme contrast to the white snow, and it was easily distinguishable. It wore no clothes, and any more observations were cut short as the beast moved into "some thick shrub" and disappeared.
"...a couple of hours later, during the descent, I purposely made a detour so as to pass the place where the 'man' or 'beast' had been seen. I examined the footprints, which were clearly visible on the surface of the snow. They were similar in shape to those of a man, but only six to seven inches (15 to 17 cm) long by four inches (23 cm) wide at the broadest part of the foot. The marks of five distinct toes and the instep were perfectly clear, but the trace of the heel was indistinct, and the little that could be seen of it appeared to narrow down to a point. I counted fifteen such footprints at regular intervals ranging from one-and-a-half to two feet (30 to 45 cm). The prints were undoubtedly of a biped, the order of the spoor having no characteristics whatever of any imaginable quadruped. Dense rhododendron scrub prevented any further investigations as to the direction of the footprints..."
Nonetheless, bad weather also gathered overhead, as shadows faded away, and so Tombazi decided to move on. Is this sighting, among others, an indication of a presence of an unknown bipedal creature living in a withdrawn manner in the Himalayas? This encounter took place in 1925, and not many people were aware of the rumours of the existence of such animals at the time. Since then, sightings, along with physical evidence, have amounted. Tombazi would later deny any belief in this creature, saying that he discounts the "...delicious fairy tales" of the natives, and believes what he saw was either a wandering recluse or a member of an isolated community of pious Buddhist puritans. However, the evidence remains, hinting at something that we have yet to understand.

When back at Yoksun, Tombazi inquired if any man had gone in his direction during that particular period, and could have been mistaken for the mysterious silhouette in the snow. "...I gathered that no man had gone in the direction of Jongri since the beginning of the year."

Abominable Snowman

What about the 'Abominable Snowman' is so abominable? Perhaps it's the idea of something so close to us intellectually yet so different physically. Maybe it's the brute force suggested by relatively scarce tales. Quite possibly, it might be the idea that we, humanity, have areas to conquer that are ruled by beasts such as this. The idea of an animal of this form certainly makes us uneasy. Or maybe it's the chilling environment within which it resides: The Himalayas are as famous for their sheer size as they are for this beast that lurks amidst their peaks. The mountain chain has a length of about 2,400 kilometres and a width about 200 to 400 kilometres. Numerous peaks protrude into the sky at over 7,600 metres, one of them being the famed Mount Everest. These measurements are constantly being rendered obsolete as the mountains continue to rise every year as India impels into Nepal. When one considers the remoteness and size of this region of the earth, it does seem probable for a large creature, such as the reputed 'abominable snowman' to roam about the valleys, woods, crevices, and peaks of this behemoth mountain chain and elude humanity.

To contemplate all the reported cases of this mystifying beast would be unfeasible due to numerous sightings and encounters that attribute to this beast's believability. One cannot hope to compile all this data, but one can come close, and shorten it down in the process. At one point, all these sightings start bearing a striking resemblance to one another. This adds to the credibility factor, but also makes for less interest, no one enjoys reading the same story repetitively. But as one reads on, it becomes impossible not to observe this data in one way or another and not to notice the sheer amount of data: physical and not. Our journey begins in Kathmandu.

The Yeti has become a tourist attraction, although not to the extent of its North American cousin, Sasquatch. A person can sleep in the Yak & Yeti hotel or luxuriate in a warm meal at the Yeti bar, and get there by flying Yeti Airlines. But above 1,336 meters, commercialisation ends and the bare truth takes over: frigid wind, immeasurable snow, absolute isolation, and the possibility of a wild, hairy hominid watching you from around some frozen bend.

The term 'abominable snowman' was a translation error, for there is nothing abominable about this fascinating creature. This name, implying at some vulgar monster, can be traced back to Henry Newman of the Calcutta Statesman. In one of his columns, he had made an attempt at translating metoh kangmi, and did a poor job at it, spelling it metch kangmi. His translation was 'abominable or filthy man of the snow'. People are fascinated by the mysterious, and further more by the dangers and 'filth', so the name became immensely popular. Indian scholar Sri swami Pranavananda wrote that metoh kangmi, was in fact a conjunction of different names for the red bear, mi-te meaning man-bear and kang-mi meaning snowman.

The Sherpas, quite possibly the trustworthiest sources when it comes to this beast, call the snowman 'yeh-teh', thus the Yeti, which has spread almost to the extent of the abominable snowman. The reason the latter term is preferred is probably because of its flexibility, while the Yeti refers to a specific creature in a specific place in the world. Whether you look at sightings of similar creatures in North America, Russia, China, Australia, or some other part of the world, encounters that display any type of 'abominable' act are scarce. The Yeti seems to avoid people more than people attempt to avoid it. Perhaps that's why it is so experienced at parrying mankind.

Tracks photographed by Eric Shipton in 1951
Displayed under Fair Use
       
Comparison of one of the tracks with an ice-axe
Displayed under Fair Use
Footprints in the Snow

N. A. Tombazi squinted as his porters yelled frantically, pointing downward in a frenzy. The glare of the sun against the ever-present snow blinded him for a second before he finally homed in on the source of the commotion, which was "…about three hundred yards away down the valley to the east of our camp." Tombazi would later recall this encounter in his Account of a Photographic Expedition to the Southern Glaciers of Kangchenjunga in the Sikkim Himalaya. The source of the commotion was a humanoid figure, wandering about in an upright fashion, pausing to tug on dwarf rhododendron bushes as it passed. The creature's dark figure cast it with extreme contrast to the white snow, and it was easily distinguishable. It wore no clothes, and any more observations were cut short as the beast moved into "some thick shrub" and disappeared.
"…a couple of hours later, during the descent, I purposely made a detour so as to pass the place where the 'man' or 'beast' had been seen. I examined the footprints, which were clearly visible on the surface of the snow. They were similar in shape to those of a man, but only six to seven inches (15 to 17 cm) long by four inches (23 cm) wide at the broadest part of the foot. The marks of five distinct toes and the instep were perfectly clear, but the trace of the heel was indistinct, and the little that could be seen of it appeared to narrow down to a point. I counted fifteen such footprints at regular intervals ranging from one-and-a-half to two feet (30 to 45 cm). The prints were undoubtedly of a biped, the order of the spoor having no characteristics whatever of any imaginable quadruped. Dense rhododendron scrub prevented any further investigations as to the direction of the footprints…"
Regardless of these peculiarities, bad weather gathered overhead and shadows faded away, so Tombazi decided to move on. Is this sighting, among others, an indication of a presence of an unknown bipedal creature living in a withdrawn manner in the Himalayas? This encounter took place in 1925, and not many people were aware of the rumours of the existence of such animals at the time. Since then, sightings, along with physical evidence, have amounted. Tombazi would later deny any belief in this creature, saying that he discounts the "…delicious fairy tales" of the natives, and believes what he saw was either a wandering recluse or a member of an isolated community of pious Buddhist puritans, something in more abundance than some unknown beast. However, the evidence remains, hinting at something that we have yet to understand.

When back at Yoksun, Tombazi inquired if any man had gone in his direction during that particular period, and could have been mistaken for the mysterious silhouette in the snow. "…I gathered that no man had gone in the direction of Jongri since the beginning of the year."

Abominable Snowman

What about the 'abominable snowman' is so abominable? Perhaps it's the idea of something so close to us intellectually yet so different physically. Maybe it's the brute force suggested by relatively scarce tales. Quite possibly, it might be the idea that we, humanity, have areas to conquer that are ruled by beasts such as this. The idea of an animal of this form certainly makes us uneasy. Or maybe it's the chilling environment within which it resides: The Himalayas are as famous for their sheer size as they are for this beast that lurks amidst their peaks. The mountain chain has a length of about 2,400 kilometres and a width about 200 to 400 kilometres. Numerous peaks protrude into the sky at over 7,600 metres, one of them being the famed Mount Everest. These measurements are constantly being rendered obsolete as the mountains continue to rise every year as India impels into Nepal. When one considers the remoteness and size of this region of the earth, it does seem conceivable for a large creature, such as the reputed 'abominable snowman' to roam about the valleys, woods, crevices, and peaks of this behemoth mountain chain and elude humanity.

To contemplate all the reported cases of this mystifying beast would be unfeasible due to numerous sightings and encounters that attribute to this beast's believability. One cannot hope to compile all this data, but one can come close, and shorten it down in the process. At one point, all these sightings start bearing a striking resemblance to one another. This adds to the credibility factor, but also makes for less interest, no one enjoys reading the same story repetitively. But as an individual reads on, it becomes impossible not to observe this data in one way or another and not to notice the sheer amount of it: physical and not. Our journey begins in Kathmandu.

The Yeti has become a tourist attraction, although not to the extent of its North American cousin, Sasquatch. A person can sleep in the Yak & Yeti hotel or luxuriate in a warm meal at the Yeti bar, and get there by flying Yeti Airlines. But above 1,336 meters, commercialisation ends and the bare truth takes over: frigid wind, immeasurable snow, absolute isolation, and the possibility of a wild, hairy hominid watching you from around some frozen bend.

The term 'abominable snowman' was a translation error, for there is nothing abominable about this fascinating creature. This name, implying at some vulgar monster, can be traced back to Henry Newman of the Calcutta Statesman. In one of his columns, he had made an attempt at translating metoh kangmi, and did a poor job at it, spelling it metch kangmi. His translation was 'abominable or filthy man of the snow'. People are fascinated by the mysterious, and further more by dangers and 'filth', so the name became immensely popular. Indian scholar Sri swami Pranavananda wrote that metoh kangmi, was in fact a conjunction of different names for the red bear, mi-te meaning man-bear and kang-mi meaning snowman.

The Sherpas, quite possibly the trustworthiest sources when it comes to this beast, call the snowman 'yeh-teh', thus the Yeti, a term which has spread almost to the extent of the abominable snowman. The reason the latter term is preferred is probably because of its flexibility, while the Yeti refers to a specific creature in a specific place in the world. Regardless, whether you look at sightings of similar creatures in North America, Russia, China, Australia, or some other part of the world, encounters that display any type of 'abominable' act are scarce. The Yeti seems to avoid people more than people attempt to avoid it. Perhaps that is why it is so experienced at parrying mankind.

Tracks photographed by Eric Shipton in 1951
Displayed under Fair Use
       
Comparison of one of the tracks with an ice-axe
Displayed under Fair Use
Footprints in the Snow

For thousands of years, the legend of the Yeti remained confined to its remote area, where it is worshiped, inscribed in scrolls and reliefs, and represented in the annual Mani Rimdu Festival. The Yeti is vaguely mentioned in the older days, perhaps first by Alexander the Great when his unrestrained sights fell on the Indus valley. He would have liked to be presented with one, but the native people told him that the creature was unable to breathe properly at lower altitudes. In 79 A.D., Pliny the Elder wrote in his Natural History about creatures, living "in the Land of the Satyrs", that are swift and able to run on two and four feet. They had "human-like bodies, and because of their swiftness can only be caught when they are ill or old." After various other small odds and ends of information, Aelianus in his Animal Stories wrote:
"If one enters the mountains neighbouring India one comes upon lush, overgrown valleys. The Indians call this region Koruda. Animals that look like the Satyrs [natives] roam these valleys. They are covered with shaggy hair and have a long horse's tail When left to themselves they stay in the forest and eat tree sprouts. But when they hear the din of approaching hunters and the barking of dogs, they run with incredible speed to hide in the mountain caves. For they are masters at mountain climbing. They also repel approaching humans by hurling stones down at them."
The first time this creature was publicised in the Western world was some period within the 1800s by British military and Indian Civil Service. B.H. Hodgson had been in Nepal from 1820 to 1843, working at the Nepalese court. The British resident mentioned that his porters had, much to their fright, encountered a hairy, tail-less wildman in northern Nepal. It was in the year of 1889 that more of the story spread to the west. At the time, unaccompanied western explorers seeking the culture and beauty of the Himalayas had to cloak themselves as wayfarers or nomadic tradesmen. It is in that very year that footprints were first reported in Major L. A. Waddell's book, Among the Himalayas.

Northeast of Sikkim, he had stumbled upon a trail of large footprints in the snow at 5,000 metres. His porters informed him of the Yeti and their belief that it left the footprints in the crystalline water. Waddell dismissed this wild claim, and it was his belief that they were merely tracks of the red snow bear that resides in the region, Ursus isabellinus.

Soon, however, Tibet started to allow outsiders into this secluded region, and numerous expeditions set out to conquer Everest. And as they did so, the Yeti became a worldwide sensation with more evidence surfacing. The first attempts to climb the northward face of Everest, by Lt.-Col. C. K. Howard-Bury also succeeded in sighting mysterious black figures in the distance. When he and his companions reached the spot on September 22, 1921, conveniently located at 7000 meters, enormous footprints were present, those of the alleged metoh kangmi. The lieutenant colonel, however, was convinced that they were those of the grey wolf.

30 years later, the famed Eric Shipton underwent through his first encounter with the creature's trails. Accompanying him were Michael Ward and Sen Tensing. The tracks they found were located within the Gauri Sankar range, not far from Everest itself, where Shipton had previously attempted to climb five times.

The sun was strung across the late-afternoon sky. It was undoubtedly cold, for it was November eighth; thus there was winter in the landscape that was eternally a winter in the first place. The tracks stretched for about 1600 metres, dodging about and between crevasses, and eventually ending in a moraine. The tracks set about in this pattern measured thirty centimetres long. To display this oddity, Shipton laid down his pickaxe adjacent to one of the prints and snapped one of the most famous photographs representing this animal. From the picture, and Shipton's description, one can discern the big toe easily, for it is separated from the other three. One cannot be sure whether there are three or four other toes, two toes held together closely can seemingly merge into one when imprinted on the snow. Assuming that this is indeed some form of ape, five toes seems more plausible.

As mentioned, Shipton and his companions followed the tracks to their end in the moraine. But could it be that they were led into the wrong direction by assuming that the directions that the toes pointed is forward? That sentence might have sounded peculiar at first, but one must take into account many reports of the animal's bizarre manner of walking and gait with tendency to walk with its toes facing backward and heel facing forward. Curiously, many reports mention this detail. This method of walking can also be found in the Orang pendek, another hairy beast reputed to roam the jungles of Sumatra. There, however, the backward-step description is much more prominent. Within Megasthene's Inica, one can find the line, "In the mountains called Nulo there are men whose feet point backwards and have eight toes on the ends."

The 'eight toes' is something mentioned scarcely by Sherpas, and can easily be ruled out. No tracks with such deformities have been found, nor have any reports included this feature. Bears, although they don't have eight toes, do have a tendency to turn their toes inward and heels outward. Also, the bear's small toe is actually the largest, and thus can be mistaken. When one looks down at their own foot, they would notice that the line of the foot slopes from the big toe down to the small toe. This is not consistent with the footprints photographed by Eric Shipton, however. There the line slopes downward from the small toes to the big toe, thus implying that the big toe is actually the small toe. It might be helpful to recite the preceding tongue twister several times so it can be fully understood.

Needless to say, Shipton's photographs have proven very controversial.

"A Hairy Beast!"
"I stopped to breathe my horse on an open clearing, and loosened the girths, and watched the sun, which was just about setting. While I was musing, I heard a slight sound, and looking round, I saw some 15 or 20 paces away, a figure which I now suppose must have been one of the hairy men that the Everest Expedition talk about and the Tibetans, according to them, call the Abominable Snowman."
This account was published in the November 2, 1921 edition of The Times. It follows the account of Englishman William Knight, this being four years prior to Tombazi's encounter. He was returning from Tibet, in the Gangtok area, when he saw a beast much like a man, who was "…a little under 6 ft (1.8 metres) high, almost stark naked in that bitter cold-it was the month of November. He was a kind of pale yellow all over, about the colour of a Chinaman, a shock of matted hair on his head, little hair on his face, highly splayed feet, and large, formidable hands. His muscular development in the arms, thighs, legs and chest was terrific. He had in his hand what seemed to be some form of primitive bow."

This is not the only encounter hinting at the possibility of tool usage and relatively eminent mentality. Jean Marques-Riviere told of his encounter in L'Inde Secrete et sa Magie. There, he tells how he joined a band of Nepalese men who informed him of footprints found and an armed expedition was to go in search of their creator. He joined the group and they trekked the "jungle 3 metres high". Then, several days after their initial start, a continual, repetitive rumbling sound broke the silence. As the group drew nearer to the source of the echoing sound, the prints of "snowmen" fell besides their own, and the group scattered. Finally, only three men were willing to proceed onward, one of them being Marques-Riviere.
"We went forward cautiously; the noise grew louder. Suddenly, one of us made a sign to stop and look. In front of us, in a natural circle of high rocks, among the huge hunks of broken stone, an extraordinary spectacle met our eye; some ten giant ape-men, 3 to 4 metres high, were gathered in a ring. One of them was beating a primitive tom-tom made of a hollow tree-trunk. The man's strength must have been terrific to judge by the noise he was making. The others swayed silently in time with the tom-tom. It was some religious ceremony, no doubt, for their solemn manner and attitude showed that they were performing a magic rite. Their bodies were covered with hair and their faces were halfway between a gorilla's and a man's. But there was nothing of the animal about their attitude, and the one that was beating the tom-tom stood upright like a human being. They were quite naked, in spite of the bitter cold in this desolate region and a strange sadness could be seen on their frightful faces."
The tale does not cease there, but proceeds into the author questioning the beast's existence. One can draw one conclusion about these tales: although often romanticised, these stories do have some root in reality. But how precisely can this reality be defined?

The Abominable Gigantopithecus

Few people have actually had contact with a Yeti. For them, it is a horrific experience, while many others consider them privileged. That is, if one is to assume that their stories are true in their entirety. Guo Shenbao, a trade official, recalled a somewhat indirect story concerning this mythical beast. He operated in the town of Zhangmu, located on the border that separates Nepal and Tibet.

In 1979, he and two colleagues were staying in a desolate hut laid upon the hillside, while during the daytime they aided in farm work. As the night set in, Guo had to leave his two companions in the hut. While sleeping, one of his friends felt a hand on his face. At first, he discounted the hand as being his friend's, for some reason trying to annoy him. He attempted to push the hand away. "Then he realised it was furry." 1

Yellow skin below matted hair, extremely robust body, cone-shaped head, and an oddly human stance, this is the common description of the Yeti. As with all cryptozoological beings, people have attempted to link it with some prehistoric animal, and have succeeded in doing so. The match is perfect, the Yeti and what is known as Gigantopithecus blacki. This giant ape, with proportions that coincide with those of the Yeti, was discovered by Ralph von Koenigswald in the unlikeliest of places: a jar full of different kinds of teeth in a Chinese medicine shop, filled with remedies ranging from dragon-teeth to flying lizards. Later, a jawbone of this beast was found in a Chinese cave, one of the same caves that are reputed to hold another hairy hominid, the Yeren. When compared with the jaw of a gorilla, the true proportions of this monstrous creature are clearly shown.

As with all extinct creatures, we can only speculate to its true appearance. 3 and 4 metres high, standing on its hind legs, the creature must have been a terror to all animals scurrying about in the Middle Pleistocene period. But, do we really have to speculate, or can we perhaps simply look for the Yeti?

Gigantopithecus was not the only giant ape to have seemingly disappeared thousands of years ago. Pithecanthropus erectus, officially announced in 1894, was at first, considered the 'Missing Link.' Ralph von Koenigswald, who also discovered the teeth of Gigantopithecus, organised a three-year expedition, setting out in 1936, to excavate more ape-men. A new discovery came about in a little while, a new ape-creature had been found. It bore much similarity to the Pithecanthropus, yet was given its own genus, Sinanthropus. This being in Peking, it is possible that ape-men such as this were spread throughout Asia at the time, and may still be thriving in isolated groups. These are smaller than the average Yeti, yet could account for one of the three groups of Yetis, as will later be discussed.

After his finds of Pithecanthropus, Ralph von Koenigswald proceeded onward to find yet another ape, this time considerably larger. It was christened Meganthropus palaeojavanicus. The jawbone, the only remains of this beast, seemed more human than those of the Gigantopithecus, and about a quarter smaller, but still titanic in comparison to the puny ape Homo sapiens. Meganthropus' proportions were similar to those of Gigantopithecus, with an estimated height of 3 metres.

Then again, who said that the Yeti had to be some form of extinct creature at all? Consistent with some suspicious footprints, it is entirely plausible that the Yeti is a common black bear. Reinhold Messner holds that belief after researching the topic first-hand, as documented in his book, My Quest for the Yeti. According to him, the idea of the Yeti to the locals is that of a 'man bear.' Messner himself sighted a yeti on two separate occasions, the second of which he was pursued in the darkness and sought refuge in a local village. But after witnessing a bear in the act of running on two legs, he became convinced that the Yeti phenomenon could be fully accounted for by taking in the possibility of the snowman being a mere Ursus. This idea should not be disappointing, if it is indeed true. A new species of bear would also be quite provoking, although perhaps not as stirring as a giant ape further up on the evolutionary ladder.

Pawprints in the Snow

As more and more cases are examined, the yeti does start to hold uncanny resemblance to simple bears. Big, hairy, hulking, and with an omnivorous diet¾it does point in a definite and possible direction, though one that slips through the general public's fingers because of its lack of romance. In a letter to Messner, the German explorer and zoologist Erns Schäfer wrote that in 1934 he had gone in search of the Himalayan beast, hoping to bring back a male and female exemplar, and in Inner Tibet he managed to shoot "a number of Yetis, in the form of the mighty Tibetan bear [Ursus thibetanus]." He claimed that Shipton and Smythe had asked him not to publish his findings so that they would still receive funding for their next Everest expedition. Could it be that Tombazi, Messner, Knight, Waddell, and all others have been describing a bear?

There are a number of bears that reside in this region. The Asiatic or Tibetan black bear has a wide range that reaches from Iran to Russia to Japan and is known to live in the Himalayas. These animals have long, black fur, particularly around the shoulders and throat. They have large ears and a white patch across their chests. These omnivorous mammals live up to 25 years and males have been known to reach up to 200 kilograms in weight. The interesting part is that they are known to be aggressive toward man and tend to stand on their back legs when frightened or aggravated. And because of their amazing ability to stand on their hind legs, they are often trained to dance as cubs for amusement. This is perhaps the likeliest candidate to point to when the Yeti comes to mind.

Among the snow leopards and yaks, and behind the black bear there is also the brown bear, having many similar characteristics in its size and longevity. Of all the bears on earth, this particular species has the widest range and can be found in Europe, Asia, and America. In the countries surrounding Nepal, they are listed as endangered. Still, could such a widespread species be held accountable for all the sightings, furs, and prints left in the snow? If not, then there is always the Tibetan blue bear, one of the rarest specimens from the Ursus genus. And lastly, there is the Himalayan red bear, Ursus isabellinus, After examining these animals, it is clear that there are quite a bit of big, hairy, and hulking things in the Himalayas besides the reputed Yeti, ones that could just be the famed 'Abominable Snowman.'

Messner's encounters do possess quite a bit of resemblance to other sightings and the fact that he became convinced that it was simply a bear shows that it may very well be that way. At the sight of one bear running away on two legs, Messner said that it "looked uncannily like a wild man." The only factor to counter this is that the lamas and Sherpas know the region well and yet they are the ones convinced that the Yeti is more than a simple mashiung, or bear. For them, the black bears are a totally separate animal. One would think that the local and nomadic people occupying the region would be familiar with the local fauna. But there will always be sceptics. The sighting Messner later attributed to a bear goes as follows:
"Making my way through some ash-coloured juniper bushes, I suddenly heard an eerie sound¾a whistling noise, similar to the warning call mountain goats make. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the outline of an upright figure dart between the trees to the edge of the clearing, where low-growing thickets covered the steep slope. The figure hurried on, silent and hunched forward, disappearing behind a tree only to reappear again against the moonlight. It stopped for a moment and turned to look at me. Again I heard the whistle, more of an angry hiss, and for a heartbeat I saw eyes and teeth. The creature towered menacingly, its face a grey shadow, its body a black outline. Covered with hair, it stood upright on two short legs and had powerful arms that hung down almost to its knees. I guessed it to be over seven feet tall. Its body looked much heavier than that of a man of that size, but it moved with such agility and power toward the edge of the escarpment that I was both startled and relieved. Mostly I was stunned. No human would have been able to run like that in the middle of the night. It stopped again beyond the trees by the low-growing thickets, as if to catch its breath, and stood motionless in the moonlit night without looking back."
The famous Austrian mountain climber knew the Himalayas well and had trekked across the region over fifty separate times since 1970. His questions to the Sherpas yielded many different answers, but none lended support to the Yeti being something with the likeness of a hominid. All the stories of the Yeti have become garbled and indefinite with truth diluted in a gigantic mass of rumours and fictional tales put together for tourists. In the mind of the natives, the Yeti is no definite thing that is there. It is beyond material, a more spiritual being. People in Tibet hold an indefinite line between that which is true and that which is spiritual. Still, sacrifices are still made in Nepal to the mystical beast before men leave villages for the hunt. In Tibet, however, Buddhism does not permit for such killings.

One of the things that perplex researchers about these creatures and the footprints they leave in their wake is the altitude at which they are found. Upwards of 6000 metres, it is rare to see anything but a bird. There are animals that live above this line, but they lead an active lifestyle where they descend into the woods below daily in search of food. It is possible that the Yeti is some form of ape that we already are familiar with, yet has adapted to its frigid environment. As Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans mentions in his book, On the Track of Unknown Animals (one of the major sources from which I drew upon), it is possible for an ape, such as on orang-utan for instance, to resort to walking on its hind legs so it has less area touching the icy snow beneath. Orang-utans are known to have once lived in the foothills of the Himalayas.

It is also possible that, just as some of its animal neighbours, the Yeti lives at the higher altitudes, only to descend into the woods below for food. One can imagine that this is quite exhausting, especially in the harsh conditions of the Himalayas, but apparently, creatures do manage to sustain a lifestyle in this manner. According to Charles Stonor and the other men confined within his group, this creature fed upon the small, mouse-like creatures, marmots and pikas that thrive amidst the rocks. This statement was based on a combination of information from the natives and actual animal droppings, the latter of which two discoveries were made. Oddly, mixed in with the animal fur and bones was earth, present for unknown reasons. Some natives added juvenile yaks, tahr, musk deer, and birds and their eggs to the menu.

Another possibility is that the Yeti, when sighted at these altitudes is simply passing across the snowy peaks to get from one valley to another. In the woods below, one could walk within several metres of this beast and now know it, save for the smell. But in the vast, white, and open expanses of the snowy peaks and tilted plains above, the dark-haired creature is hard to miss. This theory can be attributed to explain why most sightings occur there as well.

Yet it is possible that none of these ordinary and other long-gone beasts can account for the sightings of the 'yeh-teh'. Sightings and folklore divide the Yeti phenomenon into three distinct groups.

The mih-teh, meaning 'a man-like living thing that is not a human being.', is the most commonly mentioned yeti. When one refers to the giant ape-creature with the sloping forehead and the enormous feet, they are speaking about the mi-teh, or the meh-teh. This is considered dangerous, especially in comparison with the two other types. The creature's description can be compiled into that of a stocky ape-man with an eerie human quality to it. Short, coarse reddish-brown to black in colour hair runs down especially at the shoulders. Amidst the hair is the robust face with large teeth and a mouth. A conical head, certainly a notable feature, is also described. The term 'yeh-teh', from where Yeti is derived, has less meaning, roughly translating into 'that thing there.'

The second type of Yeti is the dzu-teh, 'a hulking thing.' The creature is not dangerous in any way to man, and it is the largest of the Yetis. It is reputed to lead an omnivorous diet and to walk on four and two legs, leading many people to believe that it is no more than the common black bear, as discussed above. Its fur is shaggy and it is reputed to descend upon cattle and feed upon their flesh, thus drawing the image of the stout-nosed, round-eared Animalia with which we are relatively familiar.

And lastly, there is the teh-lma, a third type of Yeti discerned from folklore and tales by Gerald Russell. This Yeti is quite different from the other two, being a little less than a metre high at its peak age, about 45 centimetres at earlier stages. It is nocturnal, and it cannot be ruled out that the mih-teh and the dzu-teh are nocturnal as well. While the other Yetis are seen at dizzying heights, this creature is said to thrive within the forests below, stalking frogs among other creatures under the shroud of night. Being much smaller than the other Yetis does not alter the creature's amazing strength, for this beast too is reputed to hold immense vigour.

To those who thought that one Yeti was unbelievable, three types push the idea of the 'abominable' snowman to absolute absurdity. However, not until the Himalayas are thoroughly explored will we be able to truly know. And, following Murphy's law, the last place we look is where this creature will be. If it exists in the first place, that is.

More Footprints

As with most expeditions set out to search for cryptozoological creatures, whether in the African Congo or in the Himalayas, the search for the Yeti has turned up little evidence to hold up the heavy weight supported by its believers. The most excitement in a typical expedition comes from a track of footprints across the snow. Although exhilarating to consider what kind of creature made them, they are not anything new and unprecedented in science, with hundreds of different cases documenting these inexplicable impressions in the incessant snow.

It is not quite clear who first set foot upon the peak of Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary or Tensing Norgay. It is clear, however, that on the way there and back, Hillary gathered tales about the mysterious creature, the Yeti, and found himself immersed in it later on. This would also lead to the examination of the controversial and elusive yeti scalp.

Perhaps the most interesting, and questionable as mentioned above, evidence for the Yeti came in 1953. On October 9th, Rusy Gandhy, J. A. Gaitonde, P. V. Pattankar, and Navnit Parekh stopped at the Pangboche monastery. There, the four mountaineers were informed of the presence of a sacred object, the scalp of the mountain man within the walls of the local gompa. Reluctantly, they were shown the scalp, along with Professor Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, who conveniently happened to be a passing anthropologist, and Dr. Charles Evans.

Indeed, the scalp does fit the description of the Yeti, with a conical shape and long hairs running down the side, while the top is bald. One can assume that this is not a trait of age in the being itself, but rather, the fact of a long dead creature, from which the scalp was detached.

The problem lay at the scalp's purpose, an object of sacred worship. In its absence, bad luck would be bestowed upon the monastery and its inhabitants. No bad luck came from reducing the scalp's hair to one less, and the single hair was sent of to Dr. Leon A. Hausman in New Jersey.

The most exciting part of the expedition that set out in gratitude to the Daily Mail was the discovery of a second scalp in Khumjung. Less bald, yet not due to hair growth products, but rather, less age, the new scalp was an even more exciting discovery. When examined, the two scalps both bore similar characteristics, and as experts would note, they were made of a single piece of skin. Sadly, the same can't be said for a third scalp in Namche Bazar. Either the scalp had not been properly been removed from the beast atop which it once resided, or more likely, it was no more than an imitation. Could jealousy lead natives to fake a sacred object? Perhaps it was indeed fabricated long ago and over the course of time people forgot its falsified origin and genuinely began to believe in its authenticity. Whatever the case, this indeed rose much doubt in the other objects' genuineness.

Another expedition to seek this entity set out in 1957. Tom Slick, with a successful career in the oil industry and a taste for the mysterious, pushed forth the expedition for the next three years, and just as many more hairs were removed and taken for examination. And accompanying the tale of the scalp with which they returned is the bones of what is reputed to be a Yeti. They were discovered by Peter Byrne within the Pangboche monastery. The bones seem rather small, especially in contrast with the scalp. They, too, are very controversial, partially due to the manner in which they were obtained. Mr. Byrne, for the sake of science and curiosity, ended up having to lead one of the monastery caretakers to drunkenness just so he could switch the bones of the Yeti with those of a man. Rather than proving anything with this act, Byrne only complicated the situation. Primates do have comparatively small hands, but the bones are no bigger than those of a human. They affirm nothing, and could very well be human.

Then, a Japanese expedition went looking for the Yeti. Leading it was Dr. Teizo Ogawa of Tokyo University. It comes as no surprise that, after examining the scalps, more hairs were taken. From all of these hair samples, the creature's identity could not be revealed, but one thing was true: all three scalps, even the one made of patches, had the same hairs interpolated into their skin. So, they had come from the same animal, whether a bulky, hominid ape, or some harmless forest-dwelling creature.

At the time of examination, technology was not at the level it is today; thus analysis could not be taken further. However, with new technologies and developments, startling new evidence has come about. For the moment, however, scientist could only put it beneath the objective of a microscope and compare it with hairs from other known animals. Although the scientist did not find a scapegoat to point to, they did eliminate all possible animals within the Himalayas, as well as a wide range of other mammals from the far corners of the globe. Dr. Hausman's scepticism leads him to believe that the skin was brought from some travellers or tourists, being some animal from some other country, and was left there. This is possible, but unlikely.

Also, because of the arrangement and direction of the hairs, it is not possible to have come from another animal's back, the most likely origin of the skin if Dr. Hausman is correct. The largest portion of unvarying skin can be found on an animal's hind. All of this speculation and mystery led Sir Edmund Hillary to go in attempt to persuade the natives to lend the scalp temporarily while it is examined in detail. After much debating, the locals gave in and the scalp was sent off to Chicago, where it would be forwarded to Paris, and lastly to London. After extensive examination, the scalp was labelled as the 200-year-old skin of the serow, a goat-like creature that is indeed present in the Himalayas. Yeti or not, when returned, the scalp was yet again placed as the monastery's sacred object.

So the scalp, not proven authentic or fake, still rests confined within the walls of the monastery, gathering dust and loosing valuable hairs that could be equated to one of the greatest discoveries of our time. But the series of rumoured anatomical remains of Yetis was not limited to hands and scalps. In other monasteries, furs and even an entire 400-year-old mummified corpse have been found. Thorough examination of all of them has not turned up any startling evidence. The mummy's hands were supported by sticks rather than bones. But do these invalid specimens imply that the entire Yeti myth is false?

However, at the turn of the century, a new startling discovery was made. A British expedition set out in search of this elusive creature when mysterious hairs were found in the hollow of a cedar tree in the eastern Bhutan area. Naturally, the hairs were carefully removed in a forensic manner and flown back to Britain.
"We found some DNA in it, but we don't know what it is. It's not a human, not a bear nor anything else we have so far been able to identify. It's a mystery and I never thought this would end in a mystery. We have never encountered DNA that we couldn't recognise before."
This is the analysis set forth by Bryan Spykes, a Professor of Human Genetics at the Oxford Institute of Molecular Medicine. The mystery deepens.

And so it remains to this day, shrouded in a riddle with insufficient material. With all this supporting evidence, and amounting physical evidence, it seems that we have not really excelled much farther than from the times that the Western world first heard of this enchanting tale. If there is indeed a bulky, hairy bipedal hominid roaming the remote valleys and woods of Nepal and Tibet, it is possible that it will elude science for many years to come. Or perhaps, its discovery is right around the corner. Then again, the entire Yeti phenomenon may be nothing more than our imaginations running wild. Odd things can happen at high altitudes where air is icy and thin. But if discovered, the mountain men will simply be added to the tree of life and to wildlife databases, then forgotten like the mountain gorillas and the Komodo dragons that inspired tales just as riveting as the Yeti. Maybe, for that reason, the Yeti should never be discovered at all.

   

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