Coast to Coast

Yeti menacing a sherpa

The Yeti, sometimes referred to as the Abominable Snowman, is a humanoid cryptid associated with the Himalaya. The names Yeti or Meh-Teh are commonly used by people indigenous to the Himalayas[1], and are part of their history and mythology.

Most mainstream scientists, explorers and writers with experience of the area, consider current evidence of the Yeti's existence to be weak and better explained as hoax, legend, or misidentification of known species.[2] Nevertheless, the yeti remains one of the most famous creatures of cryptozoology.

Various names of the Yeti[]

In 1921 the name Abominable Snowman was inadvertently coined by British Lieutenant Colonel Charles Kenneth Howard-Bury.[3] While leading "The Everest Reconnaissance" group on the Lhakpa La in the Mount Everest region in 1921, Howard-Bury's expedition discovered many footprints [4] at about 20,000 ft. Back in Calcutta, Howard-Bury related his account to Henry Newman [5], a reporter for The Statesman, but Newman translated the word "metoh" from "meteh kangmi", the words the Sherpas had used - "metoh" meaning "dirty", "filthy" or "disgusting" and "kangmi" meaning "man of the snow". It was the words "dirty" and "filthy" which were mis-translated into "abominable". "Met-teh" translates as "man-sized wild creature".

The Western name Yeti is derived from the Tibetan yeh-teh (transliterated: gYa' dred), "little man-like animal". It is a false cognate with Old English geottan (or yettin in Modern English), an antiquated word for an orc or troll (see also jotun). In the Sherpa language, Yeti means "That there thing".

Migoi or Mi-go (pronounced mey-goo) is another name for such a creature, other names are Mirka, Kang Admi, and eventually Meh-Teh which is the name given to the snowman by Sherpas.

Animals that live in the Himalaya, known to Tibetans and the Nepalese, that are directly linked with the Yeti phenomena are the Chu-Teh, a Langur monkey [6] living at lower altitudes and the Dzu-Teh which is the Himalayan Red Bear.[6]

The term yeti is often used to describe a number of very different reported creatures:

  • A large ape-like biped (that some suggest could be a Gigantopithecus)
  • Human-sized bipedal apes (the Almas and the Chinese wildman)
  • Dwarf-like creatures (such as the Orang Pendek).

The term is also often used to refer to reported ape-like creatures that fits any of these descriptions: for example, the fear liath may be referred to as the "Scottish yeti".


19th century[]

In 1832, the Journal of the Asiatic society of Bengal published the account of B. H. Hodgson, who wrote that while trekking in northern Nepal, his native guides spotted a tall, bipedal creature covered with long dark hair, then fled in fear. Hodgson did not see the creature, but concluded it was an orangutan.

An early record of reported footprints appeared in 1889 in L.A. Waddell's Among the Himalayas He reported his native guides described a large apelike creature that left the prints, but concluded the prints were made by a bear. Waddell heard stories of bipedal, apelike creatures, but wrote that of the many witnesses he questioned, none "could ever give me an authentic case. On the most superficial investigation it always resolved into something that somebody had heard of." [2]

Early 20th century[]

The frequency of reports increased in the early 20th century, when Westerners began making determined attempts to climb the many mountains in the area and sometimes reported seeing odd creatures or strange tracks.

In 1925, N.A. Tombazi, a photographer and member of the Royal Geographical Society, saw a creature at about 15,000 ft near Zemu Glacier. Tombazi later wrote that he observed the creature from about 200 or 300 yards, for about one minute. "Unquestionably, the figure in outline was exactly like a human being, walking upright and stopping occasionally to pull at some dwarf rhododendron bushes. It showed up dark against the snow, and as far as I could make out, wore no clothes." About two hours later, Tombazi and his companions descended the mountain, and saw what they took to be the creature's prints, described as "similar in shape to those of a man, but only six to seven inches long by four inches wide.... The prints were undoubtedly those of a biped."

In the 1950s, Sławomir Rawicz in a book ghostwritten by British reporter Ronald Dowling claimed that he had seen two large, apelike creatures while crossing the Himalaya in 1942. He claimed to have observed the creatures for several hours from a distance of about 100 m (109 yards). However, Rawicz's claim is now considered to be a hoax and it has been proven that he was never in the Himalayas in 1942.

Late 20th century[]

Western interest in the yeti peaked dramatically in the 1950s. While attempting to scale Mount Everest in 1951, Eric Shipton took photographs of a number of large prints in the snow, at about 6,000 m (19,685 ft) above sea level. These photos have been subject to intense study and debate. Some argue they are the best evidence of Yeti's reality, but others contend the prints are from a mundane creature and have been distorted and enlarged by the melting snow.

In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reported seeing large footprints while scaling Mount Everest. Hillary would later discount yeti reports as unreliable. [7]

During the Daily Mail Abominable Snowman Expedition of 1954[8], the largest search of its kind, the mountaineering leader John Angelo Jackson, made the first trek from Everest to Kangchenjunga and in the process photographed symbolic paintings of the yeti at Thyangboche Gompa [9]. Jackson tracked and also photographed many footprints in the snow, many of which were identifiable. However, there were many large footprints which could not be identified. The flattened footprint-like indentations were attributed to erosion and subsequent widening of the original footprint by wind and particle action.

Beginning in 1957, Tom Slick, an American who had made a fortune in oil, funded a few missions to investigate yeti reports. In 1959, feces reportedly from a yeti were collected by Slick's expedition. Analysis found a parasite but could not classify it. Bernard Heuvelmans wrote that "Since each animal has its own parasites, this indicated that the host animal is equally an unknown animal." (fact?)

In 1959, actor Jimmy Stewart, while visiting India, reportedly smuggled the remains of a supposed yeti, the so-called Pangboche Hand, by hiding them in his luggage when he flew from India to London.[10]

In 1960, Sir Edmund Hillary mounted an expedition to collect and evaluate evidence for the yeti and sent a yeti scalp from the Khumjung monastery to the West for testing. The results indicated that the scalp had been manufactured from the skin of the serow, a goat-like Himalayan antelope. But some disagreed with this analysis. Shackley said they "pointed out that hairs from the scalp look distinctly monkey-like, and that it contains parasitic mites of a species different from that recovered from the serow."

In 1970, British mountaineer Don Whillans says he saw a creature while scaling Annapurna. While scouting for a campsite, Whillans heard some odd cries. His sherpa guide told him the sound was a yeti's call. That night, reported Whillans, he saw a dark shape moving near his camp. The next day, Whillans observed a few human like footprints in the snow, and that evening, he asserted that with binoculars, he watched a bipedal, ape-like creature for about 20 minutes as it apparently searched for food not far from his camp.


The anthropologist John Napier (primatologist) in his book "Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality" [11], the most detailed collation of writings, first hand reports and analysis on the subject, found that amongst what evidence there is for the Yeti, "unlike the Sasquatch, there is little uniformity of pattern, and what uniformity there is incriminates the bear".

Japanese mountaineer, Makoto Nebuka, published the results of his 12-year linguistic study and postulated that the word "yeti" is actually a corruption of the word "meti" - a regional dialect term for "bear". The ethnic Tibetans fear and worship the bear (as in many traditional cultures) as a supernatural being.[12] Nebuka's claims were subject to almost immediate criticism, however, and Nebuka was accused of linguistic carelessness. Dr Raj Kumar Pandey, who has also researched both yetis and mountain languages, said "it is not enough to blame tales of the mysterious beast of the Himalayas on words that rhyme but mean different things."[13]

Many cryptozoologists, who after careful examinations of eye-witness reports and statistical evidence, have concluded that yeti reports are misidentification of mundane creatures. Well-financed expeditions have turned up little positive evidence of its existence, although one expedition to Bhutan did retrieve a hair sample that, after DNA analysis, could not be matched to any known animal.[14]

In 1997, Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner claimed to have come face to face with a yeti. He has since written a book, My Quest for the Yeti, and also claims to have actually killed one. According to Messner, the yeti is actually the endangered Himalayan Brown Bear, Ursus arctos isabellinus, that can walk upright or on all fours.[15]

Enthusiasts speculate that these reported creatures could be present-day specimens of the extinct giant ape Gigantopithecus, as the only evidence (other than teeth) recovered from Gigantopithecus (its jawbone) indicates a skull rested upon a vertical spinal column (as in hominines and other bipedal apes such as Oreopithecus). However, while the yeti is usually described as bipedal, most scientists feel that Gigantopithicus was probably quadrupedal, and so massive that unless it evolved specifically as a bipedal ape (like Oreopithecus and the hominids) upright walking would have been even more difficult for the now extinct primate than it is for its extant quadrupedal relative, the orangutan.

The yeti in popular culture[]


The yeti has become a cultural icon, appearing in movies, books and video games. Mainly this is in the abominable snowman style, but occasionally as comic relief.

The yeti is one of the characters in the Tintin comic 'Tintin in Tibet'. The yeti in the story rescues Tintin's friend, Chang, from the remains of an air crash in Tibet.

Most recently, the yeti has become the main attraction in the Himalayan-themed Roller-coaster ride, Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The ride features a very large and extremely lifelike Audio-Animatronic yeti, whose massive hand appears to just miss the riders as they pass under him in the ride's final scene.

The Yeti was also featured in an amateur film about the popular website, which portrayed the Yeti as a gender confused man, in which a lot of emphasis was put on its hair.


  1. The Sherpa and the Snowman by Charles Stonor (1955) Daily Mail Hollis and Carter
  2. Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality by John Napier (2005) ISBN 0-525-06658-6.
  3. The Epic of Mount Everest by Sir Francis Younghusband (1926) Edward Arnold & Co. pp. 21,22,31,57,80,90
  4. The Abominable Snowman Adventure by Ralph Izzard Chapter 2 p.21 (1955)
  5. Adventure Travels in the Himalaya by John Angelo Jackson (2005) Chapter 17 pp.135-152 ISBN 81-7387-175-2
  6. 6.0 6.1 [1]
  7. Man of Everest Everest - The Autobiography of Tenzing by Tenzing Norgay (told to and written by James Ramsey Ullman) 1955 George Harrap & Co, Ltd
  8. (dead)
  9. Adventure Travels in the Himalaya by John Angelo Jackson (2005) Chapter 17, p.136 ISBN 81-7387-175-2
  10. Milestones — Jimmy Stewart
  11. Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality by John Napier (2005) ISBN 0-525-06658-6
  12. Tibet: Mystic Trivia
  13. BBC News — Yeti's 'non-existence' hard to bear
  14. The Statesmen — Mystery Primate
  15. The Grizzly Truth About the Yeti — Stalking the Abominable Snow-Bear


  • John Napier (primatologist) (MRCS, IRCS, DSC) "Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality" 1972 ISBN 0-525-06658-6.
  • Sir Francis Younghusband The Epic of Mount Everest by 1926, Edward Arnold & Co. The expedition that inadvertently coined the term "Abominable Snowman"
  • John A. Jackson, More than Mountains, Chapter 10 (pp 92) & 11, "Prelude to the Snowman Expedition & The Snowman Expedition", George Harrap & Co, 1954
  • Ralph Izzard, The Abominable Snowman Adventure, this is the detailed account by the Daily Mail correspondent on the 1954 expedition to find the "Snowman", Hodder and Staoughton, 1955.
  • Charles Stonor, The Sherpa and the Snowman, recounts the 1955 Daily Mail "Abominable Snowman Expedition" by the scientific officer of the expedition, this is a very detailed analysis of not just the "Snowman" but the flora and fauna of the Himalaya and its people. Hollis and Carter, 1955.
  • John A. Jackson, Adventure Travels in the Himalaya Chapter 17, "Everest and the Elusive Snowman", 1954 updated material, Indus Publishing Company, 2005, ISBN 81-7387-175-2.
  • Jerome Clark, Unexplained! 347 Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurrences, and Puzzling Physical Phenomena, Visible Ink Press, 1993.
  • Bernard Heuvelmans, On the Track of Unknown Animals, Hill and Wang, 1958
  • Reinhold Messner, My Quest for the Yeti : Confronting the Himalayas' Deepest Mystery, New York : St. Martin's Press, 2000, ISBN 0-312-20394-2
  • Gardner Soule, Trail of the Abominable Snowman, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1966, ISBN 0-399-60642-4.

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