Where Would You Hunt for the Abominable Snowman?
The Abominable Snowman or Yeti is a half-human, half-ape figure of legend among the Nepalese of the high Himalayas. Nepalese mothers use the tradition of the Yeti to scare their disobedient children. “The Yeti will get you if you don’t watch out” is a popular warning. In the folklore of Nepal, the Yeti or Abominable Snowman, taller than an average human, is said to inhabit the Himalayan region of Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet.
The names Yeti and Meh-Tehare commonly used by the people indigenous to the region, and are part of their history and mythology. Stories of the Yeti first emerged as a facet of Western popular culture in the 19th century. No one can say whether the Yeti actually exists. The first apparent confirmation of its existence came with photographs of huge foot-prints in the snow taken by Eric Shipton, the mountaineer, in 1951.
Few people claim to have seen the Yeti and some believe it to be invisible. Skins which the Nepalese say have been taken from dead Yetis turn out to be those of the serow goat-antelope or of the rare Tibetan blue bear. Tracks in the snow said to be the Yeti’s footprints have proved to be those of a snow leopard, a bear, a wolf or a fox, which have melted to form the larger, man-like tracks of the Yeti. Nevertheless, the legend lingers and it may yet to be proved to have a basis in fact.
The scientific community has generally regarded the Yeti as a legend, given the lack of evidence of its existence. In one genetic study, researchers matched DNA from hair samples found in the Himalaya with a prehistoric bear from the Pleistocene epoch.
The name “Abominable Snowman” was coined in 1921, the same year Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Howard-Bury led the 1921 British Mount Everest reconnaissance expedition which he chronicled in Mount Everest: The Reconnaissance, 1921. In the book, Howard-Bury includes an account of crossing the Lhakpa La at 21,000 ft (6,400 m) where he found footprints that he believed “were probably caused by a large ‘loping’ grey wolf, which in the soft snow formed double tracks rather like a those of a bare-footed man”. He adds that his Sherpa guides “at once volunteered that the tracks must be that of ‘The Wild Man of the Snows’, to which they gave the name ‘metoh-kangmi'”. (Metoh) translates as “man-bear” and (Kang-mi) translates as “snowman”.
Confusion exists between Howard-Bury’s recitation of the term “metoh-kangmi” and the term used in Bill Tilman’s book Mount Everest, 1938 where Tilman had used the words “metch”, which does not exist in the Tibetan language, and “kangmi” when relating the coining of the term “Abominable Snowman”. Further evidence of “metch” being a misnomer is provided by Tibetan language authority Professor David Snellgrove from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London (ca. 1956), who dismissed the word “metch” as impossible, because the consonants “t-c-h” cannot be conjoined in the Tibetan language.” Documentation suggests that the term “metch-kangmi” is derived from one source (from the year 1921). It has been suggested that “metch” is simply a misspelling of “metoh”.
The use of “Abominable Snowman” began when Henry Newman, a longtime contributor to The Statesman in Calcutta, writing under the pen name “Kim”, interviewed the porters of the “Everest Reconnaissance expedition” on their return to Darjeeling. Newman mistranslated the word “metoh” as “filthy”, substituting the term “abominable”, perhaps out of artistic license. As author Bill Tilman recounts, “[Newman] wrote long after in a letter to The Times: The whole story seemed such a joyous creation I sent it to one or two newspapers”.