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Last week Alfred Gregory, leader of an expedition in the Menlung region of Nepal, reported seeing tracks at 18,000 feet which appeared to have been made by an Abominable Snowman
A specter is haunting the slopes of the high Himalayas; it also continues to tease some of the best brains in science around the world. The discovery of the strange footprints high in the Menlung region of Nepal revives the figure of the Abominable Snowman, that weird half-man, half-beast creature who the native Sherpas firmly believe lives on the great mountains. Westerners have wondered about the Abominable Snowman since 1921 when a British reconnaissance party, 22,000 feet up Everest, saw prints that "looked like a human foot." To the Sherpas the Abominable Snowman is old stuff. They have always known that the yeti or metohkangmi (literally translated as the "indescribably filthy man of the snow" and simplified by the English to its present name) exists. Yetis leave tracks marked by a huge thumb, kidnap Sherpa women, are covered with reddish hair and lope through the snow, mostly at night. Sherpa women tell their children to behave or the yeti will get them. But the yeti is not just a legendary figure. Many Sherpas claim to have seen Snowmen, and Tenzing Norgay, the Sherpa conqueror of Everest, reported in his autobiography (SI, April 25) that his father believed he had twice glimpsed yetis in the snow.
Recently, Tenzing, accompanied by his two daughters, took a trip back to his old village of Thami in the heart of the Himalayas and discovered several new yeti relics. For many years the monastery at Pangboche had kept a "scalp" (upper right) reportedly belonging to a yeti. It was believed to be the only such relic in existence. But on this visit Tenzing found another "scalp" (upper left) at the Kumchung Monastery which was darker in color than the one at Pangboche.
An even more startling discovery by Tenzing was the purported skin of a yeti. While traveling to Thami he heard that two lamas nearby were carrying with them the skin of an Abominable Snowman. Tenzing tracked down the lamas and after great persuasion was permitted to examine and photograph the skin (right). "I found it to be like a small bear with gray and patches of black hair measuring about four feet from nose to tail," reports the Tiger of Everest. The lamas refused to tell how they obtained the skin but swore "to the best of their information and knowledge" that this was the real McCoy Snowman.
Dr. Leon Hausman of Rutgers, who has studied some hairs stolen from a "scalp," declares it is not a scalp but a cap and the hair is neither from a langur (a mountain ape living in the Himalayas) or bear, thus destroying two favorite yeti explanations. Thus, the mystery of the Snowman continues.
Tenzing's walking trip to the Himalayas was not made to find yeti relics. He wanted to show his daughters where he was brought up, give them a taste of mountain climbing and bring his 84-year-old mother back to Darjeeling where he now lives. One daughter, Pem Pem, 18, kept a diary, excerpts of which are found on the following pages along with some other photographs made by Tenzing.
THE DIARY OF PEM PEM: