The yeti (“man of the rocky places”) has been a staple of Sherpa and Tibetan folklore for centuries, but stories of hairy, ape-like creatures roaming the Himalayan snowy mountains first came to the attention of the outside world during the early days of British rule in India. Explorers in Tibet reported seeing mysterious moving figures and large, unidentified footprints in the snow but it wasn’t until 1951, during the first British Everest expedition from the Nepal side, that climber Eric Shipton took clear photographs of yeti tracks. Since then, several highly publicized yeti-hunts, including one led by Sir Edmund Hillary in 1960, have brought back a wealth of circumstancial evidence but not one authenticated sighting.
Sceptics dismiss the yeti as a straightforward myth, of course, arguing that the hairy creatures in question are more likely bears, and that the oversized footprints could be any animal’s tracks, melted and enlarged by the sun. Meanwhile, relics kept at the “gompa”( buddhist monastery) of Pangboche and Khumjung have failed to provide scientific proof of the yeti’s existence. The “skulls” have been examined by experts and deemed to be made of serow ( himalayan wild goat) skins, while the skeletal hand at Pangboche is presumed to be human. But Sherpas still insist : the yeti is not a hoax.