Bigfoot Encounters

"50 Years Ago This Month"
by Peter Hassall

From the Fortean Times Issue FT152, November 2001

Big Fuss About Big Footprint

On 9 November, Eric Shipton and Michael Ward were on the Menlunq Glacier at an altitude of 18,000 feet (5,500m).

As they returned to camp, the two men came across a one-mile (1.6 km) long trail of footprints. Shipton took photos of the clearest print. He used an ice axe for scale. The print was 13 inches (33 cm) wide. The photos were a major sensation.

John Napier, a highly qualified anthropologist and anatomist, interviewed Michael Ward who said, "the photo of a trail was unrelated to the close-ups of a single print. "

It was taken earlier the same day "and was probably the trail of a mountain goat - negatives of the trail and the footprint were filed together in the archives of the Mount Everest Foundation and, presumably this is how the mistake arose."[4]

Napier was particularly puzzled by one feature of the footprint -"the imprint of the foot is convex in the region of the ball precisely where one would expect it to be concave."[5]

He thought the print was a double up made by the super - imposition of two prints - possibly melted combined prints of the forefoot and hind foot of a snow leopard.

Napier concluded, "I do not believe that, as it stands, it is the print of an unknown ape-like creature."[6] Napier never seriously considered the possibility that Shipton hoaxed it.

In 1990, an article by Peter Gillman presented evidence that Shipton had perpetrated a practical joke. Sir Edmund Hillary was an expedition member.

He questioned Shipton about the different appearance between the trail prints and single print. Shipton did not give a straight answer. In Shipton's books 'The Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition' (1952) and 'Upon That Mountain' (1956), he made no mention of two separate tracks.[7]

Audrey Salkeld, a mountaineering writer, uncovered two practical jokes perpetrated by Shipton. After the 1938 Everest expedition, Shipton claimed that team geologist Noel Odell was affected by oxygen deprivation and tried to eat some rocks (thinking they were sandwiches). Odell told Salkeld it was "complete nonsense."[8]

Shipton often told another story about when he found the body of Maurice Wilson (an unsuccessful Everest solo climber) in 1935. Shipton claimed he found a bizarre sexual fetish diary and women's clothing with the body.

Dr Charles Warren found the body with Shipton. Warren told Salkeld the story was untrue.

It would have been easy for Shipton to reshape the top of a single goat print to give it toes. Ward looked up to Shipton and was probably easily persuaded to go along with the gag on their fellow mountaineers. When it became worldwide news, it was too late to retract the story.
See FT54:18-20


4. John Napier, 'Bigfoot: The Yeti & Sasquatch in Myth and Reality' (Abacus, London, 1976) p.40.
5. Ibid. p.116
6. Ibid. p.118
7. 'Auckland Star' (NZ) 5 Feb 1990.
8. Ibid. See also 'S. Times' magazine, 10 Dec 1989

Copyright Fortean Times, UK

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