The Mystery of the Elusive Yeti

Cryptozoology is the term used for the search for folkloric and legendary creatures that are considered by mainstream biology and science to be nonexistent. Cryptozoologists believe that the Himalayas stretching from Nepal into Tibet are home to the Yeti – a creature which features prominently in Nepal’s folklore. While cryptozoology is not an established science, it has gathered quite a following, with cryptozoologists considering it a personal challenge to solve the mystery of these elusive creatures, which are referred to as cryptids and include North America’s Bigfoot and Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster.

The Yeti is known by a number of different names within Nepal and Tibet, but they all basically describe the creature as being wild, man/bear-like and above all, fear-inspiring. It is also said that anyone who sees the Yeti will die. The legend of the Yeti had already been firmly entrenched in Nepali folklore when in 1921 Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Howard-Bury led the ‘Everest Reconnaissance Expedition’ during which they came across footprints in the snow which he described as being “rather like those of a bare-footed man”. He was of the opinion that they may have been caused by a large grey wolf which was loping through the snow in a manner that formed double tracks. But his Sherpa guides immediately identified the footprints as being that of a creature they called ‘metoh-kangmi’ – translated as man-bear snowman. It was later that same year, when journalist Henry Newman interviewed the Everest Reconnaissance Expedition Sherpas, that he coined the term ‘Abominable Snowman‘.

Although mention of the Yeti had been made in 1832 by trekker Brian Houghton Hodgson who explored northern Nepal, it was during the early 20th century when mountaineers started to explore Nepal’s majestic mountains that sightings of the Yeti started to become more frequent. In 1925, on an expedition for the Royal Geographical Society, photographer N.A. Tombazi reported seeing the Yeti which he described as walking upright like a human being and wearing no clothes.

In the mid 1900s interest in the Yeti reached a peak with debate being fueled by pictures of the footprints which were taken by Eric Shipton while scaling Mount Everest in 1951. These, as well as photographs taken during the Daily Mail sponsored Snowman Expedition of 1954, were discounted by experts as being ordinary tracks of indigenous animals having been distorted by the elements. Hairs taken from what was believed to be a Yeti scalp at Pangboche monastery were thoroughly analyzed by Professor Frederic Wood Jones and compared to hairs of animals found in the region. The professor was unable to determine conclusively what type of animal it had come from, which added more fuel to the fiery debate.

Over the years there has continued to be many expeditions in the mountains of Nepal which have produced more “evidence” of the Yeti’s existence. There have also been reported sightings by mountaineers who have not specifically been searching for the famed Abominable Snowman. Certainly the Yeti has captured the attention and imaginations of the public for decades, and has become a cultural icon, featuring in comics, books, movies and computer games. Dedicated cryptozoologists remain determined to solve the mystery of the elusive Yeti.