Tag Archives: Himalaya

Yeti Adventures

In honor of P’s mountaineering trip to Langtang this week (a place whose Wikipedia page mentions it is also known for Yeti sightings), I thought I was overdue for a post of this popular mythical Nepali creature.

Mike and Yeti from Disney/Pixars Monsters Inc. Popular portrayals of the Yeti (versus Big Foot) are white to blend with snow, although a darker Big Foot-like ape would probably have an easier time hiding on the green mountain slopes of Nepal

If you strip Nepal down to its bare bones tourist advertisement stereotypes you would get a few things—Mt. Everest, yaks and yetis (and perhaps temples, prayer flags, Buddha, and Sherpas, maybe momos too). Take a quick stroll through the Kathmandu tourist district of Thamel and you could walk out with an arm load of t-shirts with thread embroidered Yeti on them, particularly yaks and Yetis– these seem to be a favorite combination. There is even a tasty Nepali restaurant near Boston called the “Yak and Yeti” (actually when I googled “Yak and Yeti” I found at least five—one in Boston, two near Denver Colorado, one in Anchorage Alaska, and one at Disney World!)

Anyway, I digress, back to Yeti. These creatures supposedly live in the high Himalayas, and are the Nepali version of what Americans call “Big Foot” (or “Sasquatch”). It is a large ape-like creature that the scientific community generally regards as a legend given the lack of conclusive evidence of its existence—although one night RH, D, P and I decided to watch a silly “documentary” on Netflix about the hunt for a Yeti called “Destination Truth” which might lead you to believe there IS scientific evidence, but the show was too overly dramatic to take seriously.

Khumjung monasterys famed "Yeti scalp"... draped in a Buddhist prayer scarf

The show mentioned a sacred “Yeti scalp” in the Solukhumbu town of Khumjung, kept under lock and key in the local monastery. P, RH and I were there during our trek in 2009—and had I known I could have checked out an alleged “Yeti scalp” I would have insisted on going into the monastery (and tried to take a picture standing next to it, because that’s how big of a nerd I am), however, we only saw the monastery from the outside. Although the existence of the scalp in town, did made the “Magic Yeti” painting on the local school’s library door a little more understandable. Skeptics claim that the “scalp” is actually part of a dried shoulder of a yak or serow (a goat-like Himalayan antelope). Perhaps this is part of the origin of the yak/yeti dichotomy in tourist shops?

Taken during our trip in 2009. The "Magic Yeti Library" is part of the Khumjung School established and funded by Edmund Hillary and his charities. Wouldnt that be a great 70s rock song title or group name? "The Magic Yeti Library" ;)

I don’t purport to be a Yeti expert, but some of the info online is a bit interesting (the following is gleamed from the Yeti Wikipedia page):

-It is also known as the “abominable snow man,” a term coined in 1921 by Alpinist Charles Howard-Bury who was working with the Royal Geographic Society’s “Everest Reconnaissance Expedition.” Howard-Bury insisted he saw tracks at 21,000ft “probably [caused] by a large grey wolf” but looked like those of a “bare-footed man.” The Sherpas on his trip volunteered that “the tracks must be that of ‘The Wild Man of the Snows.’”

– Supposedly a Yeti-like creature was part of the pre-Buddhist beliefs of several Himalayan people: the Lepcha worshipped a “Glacial Being” as a God of the Hunt, and followers of the Tibetan Bon religion also believed in a mythical “wild man” whose blood was believed to be magical.

-There are many stories of supposed “sightings” including a 1953 report by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay who claimed to have seen large footprints while scaling Mt. Everest. Tenzing said he had never seen a Yeti, but his father had seen one twice, although later in life he became more skeptical. Hillary remained skeptical throughout his life, but mounted a 1960 expedition to collect and analyze physical evidence, including the sacred Yeti scalp from Khumjung—it was his research team that concluded the scalp was not from an ape-like creature, but not all anthropologists agree with him.

-American actor Jimmy Stewart smuggled the remains of a supposed Yeti hand called the “Pangboche Hand” out of South Asia by concealing it in his luggage from India to London.

-In 1966 the legend of the Yeti was so popular that the country of Bhutan created postage stamps with the creature’s likeness. You can buy them on Ebay, I kindda want to.


Skeptics often put forward misidentification of known animals as an explanation of sightings and “evidence” – large langur monkeys, Tibetan Blue Bear, Himalayan Brown Bear, Asiatic Black Bear. Could something be misidentified up there? Sure—particularly sightings made by mountaineers climbing high altitude mountain peaks with lack of oxygen, fatigue, and other factors affecting them. Meanwhile, scientist discredited the existence of gorillas in East Africa until specimens could be brought back, and now only a fool would deny their existence.

I err towards the skeptic side, if only to make myself less worried about bumping into something scary while taking a walk in the woods (Big Foot, Yeti, little green men, or otherwise), but it’s interesting to hear stories about such sightings.

While P, RH and I were hiking in Solukhumbu we asked our guide if he had ever seen a Yeti. He said yes, at a distance. Whether it was true or not, it made for interesting post-dinner conversation along the trail.

Anyone else have a Yeti story? Or a Big Foot story while on the subject? ;)

100 Days Until Nepali Wedding

I think there are now 100 days until our Nepali wedding. It sounds like a lot, but I think it will go very quickly… and you know, I’ve done very little thus far to actually “prepare” for it. Most of my attention has been on the details of the American wedding since logistics are characteristically sorted our much farther in advance. Certainly there are details that once completed for the American wedding were also sorted out for the Nepali one—such as printing invitations, or booking a photographer who will cover both events, however I feel there is a whole lot that I need to start thinking about as I shift gears.

And just as the shifting has begun—P decided to leave for a month to go to Nepal! His phd research is on glaciers and climate change, and he made a connection at a conference with some Chinese researchers working on a similar project. About a week or two ago, everything fell into alignment, and he was asked to join a group heading into the mountains for the next month. So he will be almost entirely out of contact as I begin the next phase of organizing.

His family, of course, is very excited to have him home, if only for a few days, before they fly out to the US sometime in late June. He will be able to explain to them more about what to expect on the American side, and I am sure they will take him on a few shopping trips during the short time he will spend in KTM—including picking out saris for my mother and sisters to wear at the Nepali ceremony and a Dhaka topi for my dad (definitely breaking new ground here!)

With P leaving so soon (in a week!) and being gone so long (there will only be about 60 days before the weddings when he comes back!) it is really making the time feel short. How the heck is it April already?

Agni Air Crash

I’ve written about the tiny mountain airport of Lukla before, and how we got stranded in Lukla for a few days due to bad weather. It’s supposedly one of the most dangerous airports in the world because of the altitude, angle and shortness of the runway, and the narrow valley leading up to the runway. Certainly there is a good reason for the flights not to travel when the weather is bad.

Sadly an Agni flight traveling from Kathmandu to Lukla crashed Tuesday morning killing all 14 on board. The flight took off from KTM, heading towards Lukla only to find that the weather was too bad to land and the flight turned around to return to KTM (something which also happened to us– but we were left in Lukla listening to the plane engines recede into the distance). Before the flight could make it back to the airport it crashed– about 50 miles from KTM– in a rural village.

The photos are scary… the remains of the passengers– 4 Americans, 1 Briton, 1 Japanese, 5 Nepalis, and 3 Nepali crew– have been collected in small blue garbage bags, as if their bodies simply exploded on impact and left tiny pieces. It’s scary and sad, especially when I can picture exactly what the flight and the plane involved in the crash looked like, even the uniform of the flight hostess–a Sherpani styled chupa and apron.

My heart goes out to the victims and their families.

For more info:
BBC–Nepali tourist plane kills all 14 on board
The Himalayan– Agni Air crash victims mortal remains brought back to KTM

Cavity formed in the paddy field where the Agni Air plane crashed. Photo credit: Nepal Army