Bigfoot Encounters

Explorers to scour Himalayas for mystery yeti
© The Asahi Shimbun

Some call it the Abominable Snowman, some call it a myth, but these Japanese adventurers say the truth is out there.

While climbing Mount Everest may have become almost commonplace-as much a matter of money as skill-there is still one unsolved mystery in this area known as the ``roof of the world.''

With few routes left unexplored 50 years after Everest was conquered, adventurers are pinning their hopes on finding a yeti, the legendary Abominable Snowman some say is out there waiting to be discovered.

This summer, seven Japanese alpinists will depart for the Himalayas to search for the animal true believers say lives high up in the mountains.

The expedition led by alpinist Yoshiteru Takahashi, 60, will conduct its search around Dhaulagiri mountain in Nepal, the seventh highest peak in the world.

Four members of the team are veteran climbers who have scaled peaks in the Himalayas. Since the beginning of the 20th century there have been many yeti ``sightings'' in the Himalayas.

In 1951, a photograph taken by a British alpinist Eric Shipton caused a sensation. The picture showed a large footprint, apparently made by an unknown creature, in the snow at the foot of Everest on the Nepal side.

Three years later, an expedition sponsored by the British newspaper Daily Mail explored the mountain but failed to find any trace of the elusive snowman.

Witnesses say the creature walks on two legs, has long arms and dark hair, either red or gray.

Nobody has been able to say definitively what this creature is, or if it is anything more than a high-altitude myth.

The Dhaulagiri mountain area has had more than its share of yeti reports. Many people, including Takahashi, claim to have seen a yeti here or its tracks.

In 1971, Japanese alpinist Mitsuhiko Yoshino says he ventured across an animal about 1.5 meters tall with a hairy body on Dhaulagiri mountain. He says he was no more than 20 meters away from it.

In July 1975, adventurer Norio Suzuki says he saw five animals that looked like gorillas in the area. Some were big, some were small, he said.

And two months later, Michiko Imai, a doctor and a member of Takahashi's expedition team, found footprints the size of about a 2-year-old child's in the snow. She found bigger footprints higher up in mountain.

Although there has never been any conclusive evidence that yeti exist, Takahashi believes they are real.

In 1994, he led an expedition to search for the creatures. They found some intriguing hints-a cave with the strong smell of animals and some human-like footprints-but didn't come across a yeti.

This time Takahashi plans to set up infrared cameras at four points along a trail he believes yeti use.

``There's a good chance that we'll succeed in taking pictures of the unknown animals this time, because their route is geographically limited,'' he said.

``I'm anticipating the success of Takahashi's expedition because they have compiled a great deal of information,'' said Hiroyoshi Otsuka, a former chairman of the Japanese Alpine Club.

Otsuka was a member of an expedition that searched for the yeti 43 years ago.

``I hope they will bring back scientific evidence to avoid the charge that the exhibition was just for fun,'' Otsuka said.(IHT/Asahi: July 22, 2003)

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