A variation of the Yeti legend exists in a dozen different cultures across the globe. It’s a creature with many names – the Sasquatch of North America, the Almasty of Russia, the Yowie of Australia, the Abominable Snowman of Nepal – that shares the same wild, half-man, half-ape characteristics.
The search for the Yeti began as early as 326 BC when Alexander the Great set out to take over the Indus Valley. Stories of a mysterious primate creature circulated, and the fearless leader demanded to see one for himself. But the locals explained that the creature could not survive at that low an altitude.
Word of the Yeti traveled to Western ears in the 1920s after explorers first surveyed Mount Everest. The creature only became known as the Abominable Snowman in 1921 when a journalist misinterpreted the Tibetan name Metoh-Kangmi (translation: dirty men in the snow). This primate creature was even hunted down in 1938 by the head of the SS Henrich Himmler, German Professor Ernst Schaefer, in hopes that it was an ancestor of the Aryan race.
In 1960, Sir Edmund Hilary (one of the first two people to climb Everest) returned to the region in pursuit of the Abominable Snowman. Although he didn’t find it, he did discover that the Khumjung village had a Yeti scalp – a sacred object that still exists in the Sherpa community today.
The Sherpa have made Namche Bazaar, a major trading post for the Everest region, their home for more than 500 years. But the tales of the Yeti may be even older, passed down through families for generations. And these locals – true experts on the mountain, its animal species and the climate – say that the Yeti lives in the gap between 13,000 feet and the ice at 17,000 feet.
In Nepal, the elusive creature has been spotted as recently as 1985. But large predators stalk this region as well, from Asian black bears to snow leopards. Is it possible the unusually large tracks documented over the years are remnants of a leopard prowling the mountain, or the effects of evaporation and melting snow? Could the Yeti spottings simply be a black bear standing on its hind legs?
For some, the Yeti is a sacred being. And for others, it’s akin to unicorns and mermaids. To help separate fact from fiction, an expedition team must travel to the base of Mount Everest to search for the Abominable Snowman. They’ll have to endure an ultimate physical challenge – carrying half a ton of gear through rough terrain and unforgiving weather – with no car, no roads.
Hear Yeti witnesses share their accounts, study a monastery’s Yeti skull and undertake a full-blown Abominable Snowman stake out…
Watch Hunt for the Abominable Snowman tonight, Monday April 4th, at 9 PM et/pt on the National Geographic Channel! For a sneak peak, check out this video: