‘Indiana Jones’ hits the Yeti trail in Nepal

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : As mysterious and as much sought-after as UFOs, the Yeti – also known as the Abominable Snowman, Migoi and Bigfoot – is not a myth or a hermit in the wilderness.

Support TwoCircles

It exists in virginal forests untrodden by man, living on tree barks, frogs and even “brains” of animals.

Immensely powerful, it can kill several yaks with a rock and when lonely, wistfully eyes the mountain women grazing their herds near the forest, toying with the idea of capturing one for company.

It has a strong sense of smell, is afraid of the fire and lives in caves.

The hairy ape man that has captured the imagination of people down the ages comes alive vividly once again as another “Indiana Jones” hits the Yeti trail in Nepal with his new book, “Yetis, Sasquatch and Hairy Giants”.

“I must be frank and say that I haven’t come across a Yeti as yet though I went on several Yeti expeditions,” says a candid David Hatcher Childress, the 54-year-old explorer whose nearly 20 books on his exotic wanderings have made his fans bestow the title “Indiana Jones” on him.

“However, I firmly believe they exist.”

The American archaeologist, who first came to Nepal in 1976 at the age of 19, has been to Mongolia, China, Bhutan, Sikkim and places in Canada where sightings of the mysterious creature were reported. His new book, published by Kathmandu’s Adventure Pilgrims Trekking and launched in the capital Saturday, puts together a wealth of anecdotes, reports and photographs about the Yeti.

“One of the earliest reported sightings was in 1921 when a British expedition went on a reconnaissance of Mt Everest,” says Childress, on the eve of a trekking expedition in Nepal.

“They saw a group of shaggy creatures crossing the glacier and asked their Sherpa guides what they were. The guides answered it was the Mehteh Kangmi, meaning the Big Ape. When the expedition telegrammed their discovery, the message became garbled and people thought it was ‘Metch’ or wretched. And that’s how the Abominable Snowman expression came into being.”

Childress also says the Yeti could be the inspiration for King Kong, the gigantic primordial beast made famous by the eponymous Hollywood film of 1933 directed by Peter Jackson.

“Kong could have been derived from Kangmi,” he says.

Three countries are most passionate about the Yeti, according to him – the US, Canada, where it is called the Bigfoot or Sasquatch, and Nepal.

However, the home of the Yeti is most likely to be in the mountains of Bhutan, Sikkim and the base of the Makalu peak in Nepal as well as Mt Kanchenjunga.

Two years before his first visit to Nepal, the world, he says, was rocked by reports about a Yeti incident in Nepal.

In July 1974, a Sherpa woman who had gone to the forests in Solukhumbu in northern Nepal to graze her herd of yaks reportedly came across the Yeti, an immense beast that struck the yaks on the neck with a rock and killed them.

It then reportedly split their skulls open and ate their brains, causing the woman to fall in a faint.

“When she recovered, she couldn’t talk for several days due to the shock,” Childress says. “That’s how powerful the yeti is. It can tear a man from limb to limb. However, it prefers to avoid men.”

Two famed explorers hit the Yeti trail in Nepal much before Childress: the first man atop the Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, who was part of a Yeti expedition in 1960 but discovered the Yeti skull to be that of a monkey, and Austrian climber Reinhold Messner, whose 1999 book, “My quest for the Yeti”, made him the target of ridicule.

Both later became disillusioned and concluded the Yeti did not exist.

In 2007, an American television channel specialising in extraordinary creatures came to look for the Yeti in Nepal.

Though they didn’t find their elusive quarry, the crew returned content with casts made of unusually big footprints they had found.

Childress has already begun work on a second Yeti book. This one, he says, will focus on the Yeti in Nepal.

“Even now, scientists are working in Bhutan, trying to find more evidence and new hair samples that will prove the Yeti exists,” he says.

“The Yeti is real, not a myth or a bear or a wild man.”

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at [email protected])