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.
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."
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."
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."
Napier never seriously considered the possibility that Shipton hoaxed
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
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."
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.
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
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