Bigfoot Encounters

1991 Field Report:
By Professor Arkady Tishkov
With comments by Daniel Taylor-Ide and Lord John Hunt

In September of 1991, in the Himalayas, the author observed and sketched, at a considerable distance, a human-like animal that may have been a Yeti. As a specialist in biogeography and a biologist by training, the author is not disposed to reaching a definitive conclusion regarding the nature of the observed animal, but he thinks the incident warrants publication of this report.

As a member of the former Soviet-Chinese Glaciological Expedition, the author worked in Tibet for three months from August to October 1991. Tishkov visited many regions of the Tibetan plateau and the Himalayas, including the environs of Mounts Qomolungrna (Everest), Xixiabangrna, Choja, and several others.

It was on one of these routes that the author had the Yeti encounter described below.

"In September 1991, the Expedition worked on the northern, southern, and southeastern slopes of Mt. Xixiabangma. On the day of the encounter, our small group had worked in a spot some 25 miles (40 kin) from the settlement of Nyalam, on the Nepal-China border.

The group consisted of four scientists from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), five specialists from China, and two Tibetan yak drivers. We worked at altitudes of 15,700 to 16,700 feet (4,800°5,100 m) above sea level, in a transition zone between high-elevation steppes and the glaciers; this zone is interspersed with shrub growths and rock debris.

The continental montane climate of the region is characterized by cool summers with precipitation, and cold, snow less winters. From November to April, there is practically no precipitation. The rainy season lasts from July to September, when temperatures rise to 50 - 59°F. (10-15°C.) in the daytime, and fall to 21°F (-6°C.) at night. Forests occur some 30 miles (50 km) from the area, at altitudes below 12,500 feet (3,800 m).

On September 22, 1991, I was en route to a glacier on the southeastern slope of Mt. Xixiabangma. About midday, on the top of a moraine ridge at a distance of about 400 feet (120 m), I noticed a human-like animal sitting by a boulder on the sunlit side. My position was lower on the slope, and at first I did not see the full silhouette. A little later, however, I observed the animal in full. It had the following characteristics: erect, bipedal posture; dark brown color; cone-shaped head; no visible neck; long forelimbs; and short and slightly flexed hind limbs. When first observed, the creature was squatting in what seemed an unnatural position for an animal, with its back touching the sun-warmed surface of the boulder. It was a rare moment for this altitude and season, when sunshine floods the mountains, and nature comes alive after a cold morning. I could not identify what I saw. My very first impression was of a creature resembling a monkey, a dog, or a bear. But its anatomy, its subsequent behavior, the great absolute elevation of the place, the distance from forests and settlements made me conclude that I faced a different kind of animal.

Tempted by the natural interest of a biologist, I bent down and started stalking the creature, skirting the boulder on the left-hand side (Fig. 3). However, the attempt proved unsuccessful: the noises I made apparently startled it, as it appeared from behind the boulder on two feet and, slightly bending and helping itself along with a fore-limb, moved behind another (and bigger) boulder. I do not think it saw me, and presumably only reacted to the noises I had made.

I then remembered that I had a camera in my bag, a Soviet-made ZenitTTL (with no telephoto lens), and that an attempt could be made at photographing the animal. After adjusting the camera to the right setting, I began to approach the boulder. The intended maneuver remained the same: rounding the boulder from a position somewhat lower on the slope, and observing the creature from a closer range. I tried unsuccessfully to take the first photo from a distance of 330 feet (100 m)--maybe more--at a moment when the sun appeared from behind a cloud. To see the whole of the animal, I straightened up, but the effect of photographing from "below" (see Fig. 3) was bound to distort the image. When its full silhouette appeared in the viewfinder, the animal turned its head toward me and began watching me. I then became frightened, and dared not even move at first. Finally, I turned and ran down the slope.

(See Figure 3)
Because of the high altitude, I quickly tired, having covered no more than 1,000 feet (300 m). My colleagues were at a still lower elevation, walking along a stream. They did not react to my yells and arm waving because of the noise of the stream. To descend and cross the stream to join them would have been quite an effort, and contrary to my objective, which was to reach some moraines near a small glacier about 6 miles (10 km) from the spot where I encountered the presumed Yeti. Having assessed the situation, I decided to return and attempt once again to photograph the animal from a closer range. For this purpose, I took off my bright-colored jacket, and, leaving behind all unnecessary items, ascended the slope again, crawling toward my destination. On the first attempt, I miscalculated the distance, and stood up far from the object of photography. The sun came out again, and I took the first photo. The creature kept squatting and rising, and peering from behind the boulder. I could only see it when I stood up full height amidst the boulders. Hiding behind them, I resumed crawling, approaching the animal from the right-hand side (see Fig. 3).

A second photographic attempt was more successful, and I took three photos almost one after another. Then, keeping the animal in view, I began approaching it. The creature, alerted, bent down and looked towards me. I stopped, but it was too late; the animal moved behind the boulder, and presumably descended to the other side of the slope. When I reached the boulder, the animal had disappeared, and was not seen again.

Later that day, after my regular scientific work, I returned to the site of the encounter, and thoroughly examined the terrain within a radius of 2,6003,300 feet (800-1,000 m).

My findings were as follows:

l) Three large niche-shelters were found, which could have been used by the animal during the warmer time of the year (Fig. 4). The substrate was of a kind that did not show tracks, but it was disturbed, thus indicating that the niches had been used

2) Feces Resembling human coprolites, but darker, were found in two places, separated by a distance of about 330 feet (1,000 m); one sample was near the place of the encounter. The feces contained the remains of plant tissues, probably roots of plants of the genus Saussurea and others.

3) On the slope of southern exposure, at an altitude of 16,100 feet (4,900 m), there were spots of dug out soil, 8 x 8 inches (20 x 20 cm), and up to 4 inches (10 cra) deep, with marks of bitten-off upper parts of roots and other underground plant organs (Fig. 6). It can be said with a high degree of probability that these were not the result of feeding activities by rodents or other known animals.

4) Measurements of the boulder next to which the animal had been observed showed that its height in a slightly bent posture could not have exceeded 4 feet, 7 inches (1.4 m).

The questions I addressed that evening to the yak drivers were to no avail, as the Tibetans were reluctant to discuss any matters at all through the Chinese.

Two days later, the expedition left that area, and after three days of travel and work in a neighboring valley, returned to the base camp near Nyalam, on the Lhasa-Katmandu route. A month later, after difficult motor rides and hikes on foot in Tibet, we arrived in the city of Liangchou. Here, in a talk with the director of the local Institute of Glaciology and Geocryology, we learned that my Yeti encounter was not the only one in that area.

Earlier, in the 1960's-1970's, during the first Chinese glaciological expeditions in the area of Mt. Xixiabangma, Chinese scientists are also said to have found evidence of the Yeti's presence at great altitudes, and reportedly had even attempted to catch one.

My observations of a human-like creature lasted, with interruptions, about one hour. Finally, presumably disturbed by my presence, the creature disappeared. I managed to take four photos with a Zenit-TTL camera, equipped with a regular lens, on ORWO color slide film (made in the former East Germany), from a distance of about 260 feet (80 m). The landscape and the feces were photographed on black and white film. The films were developed when I returned to Moscow.

The results, alas, are insufficient as convincing evidence of the sighting: the silhouette of the creature in the photos is only observable through great magnification, about x 100-200, with the inevitable result of emulsion grains blurring the image.

The creature's "profile," based on my observations, is as follows:

1) The head is not big; it is cone-shaped, and is covered with dark-brown, apparently, short hair.
2) The neck, due to hair cover, was not visible, the head appearing to sit fight on the shoulders.
3) The shoulders are sloping and narrow. The arms are long, and, when they are folded, the elbows jut out; when extended, the arms reach below the knees.
4) The legs are short, and a little flexed; on the knees, the hair is flattened or worn off.

The creature moves swiftly enough on two legs. It may occasionally take shelter in niches under big boulders, concealing the entrance with smaller boulders and stones.

Shelters of longer duration may exist in more hospitable forested areas. During the summer and autumn period, it feeds, apparently, mainly on plants, including roots and other underground organs of alpine grasses. Its feces are of a dark, almost black color, containing plant fibers, and resembling human coprolites.

Copyright Professor Arkady Tishkov, Moscow, Russia 1991. -Tishkov is located at the Laboratory of Ecosystems Dynamics and Historical Biogeography, Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow...Tishkov plans to continue his professional work devoted to the study of dynamics of Himalayan vegetation. He has no direct plans connected with the Yeti phenomenon. However, learning from experience, the author will be alert and better prepared for a possible new sighting of human-like animals occurring in the mountains.
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"Comments and Responses" section of 'Cryptozoology' (Vol. 13: 114-125)
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(Comment on Arkady Tishkov, 1996, Observation of a Yeti in the Himalayas of Tibet, Cryptozoology, Vol. 12: 58-65)

The Yeti sighting report by a Russian scientist during a Sine-Russian expedition in the eastern Himalaya is very interesting. My own evidence in support of this unknown primate consists of personal observations of tracks, and hearing a yelp-like call attributed to the yeti by the Sherpa but also similar to the calls made by certain large apes (John Hunt, 1979, Unseen Yeti, The Geographical Magazine, Vol. 51[9]: 629-35). -I have discussed the yeti evidence with several scientists, including Chinese scholars during a visit to Beijing in 1983. To my mind, the evidence points to the existence in Tibet and during the winter months, in the high valleys of the Nepalese and Indian Himalaya of an ape-like primate strongly resembling some kind of orang-utan, albeit a ground dwelling species. The main points of identification in Tishkov's report, on p. 65, tally fairly closely with my own information and opinion.

Lord John Hunt
Highway Cottage Aston,
Henley-on-Thames England RG9 SDE U.K.

(Lord John Hunt led Britain's 1953 Mount Everest Expedition, which succeeded in reaching the summit of the world's highest peak for the first time -- with Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay making it to the top. The Lord Hunt has twice encountered tracks attributed to the Yeti, in 1937 and 1978. He is former President of the Royal Geographical Society, and an Honorary Member of the International Society of Cryptozoology.)
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(Comment on Arkady Tishkov, Observation of a Yeti in the Himalayas of Tibet, Cryptozoology, Vol. 12: 58-65)

It is always with anticipation that I review new reports of yeti sightings. I have spent 40 years searching the Himalaya for an explanation to the reports of these animals, having made more than 100 expeditions, including trekking into dozens of remote valleys.

Since 1995, when my book describing these journeys was published (Something Hidden Behind the Ranges: A Himalayan quest, Mercury House, San Francisco), the number of such reports I receive has increased. Thus, it was with more than the customary anticipation that I read the report by Professor Arkady Tishkov, who is a professional geographer. Tishkov's report comes from an area I know well. I have trekked through what I think is the same valley on four occasions since 1985.

I have driven the road mentioned in the report over three dozen times, and I have spent an aggregate of over 28 months, at different times, doing fieldwork within a radius of 25 miles (40 km) of the reported sighting location. If, based on habitat factors as developed from Yeti reports, a Yeti proponent were to select five ideal locations where the Yeti would live in the Himalaya, this location would certainly be included in the five.

The area, however, is greatly traveled by both Western and Tibetan people. Two prior Chinese reports of the Yeti are known to me from this area, as well as one other from Western travelers. The local people do not have a particularly strong Yeti lore, however. This lack of Yeti lore in the villages surrounding Nyalam raises a major problem. None of the villagers I have talked to in the Nyalam area have seen a creature that they have attributed to be a Yeti. As noted in Tishkov's report, the area is open, and it would be hard for an animal of some size to exist there and not be known to the local inhabitants. (Yeti reports are, of course, most prevalent from the Solo Khumbu Valley, three valleys east of this area.)

The famous Shipton find of supposed Yeti tracks in 1951 was from the major valley system two valleys east of this area. Other track finds tend to be east of the Shipton site. However, it would be easy for any animal to travel from these areas to the slopes of Mt. Xixiabngma, a spectacular peak -- and the 14th highest mountain in the world -- which has a lot of open yet vegetated valleys nearby in both China and Nepal.

Unfortunately, Tishkov provides no real evidence supporting the existence of the Yeti other than his anecdotal sighting report. While he is a scientist, there is nothing in his report that can be used for scientific scrutiny.

The descriptions and photographs are not sufficient evidence for an independent party to judge whether or not the entity seen was indeed an animal, whether it was possibly a Yeti, or, more likely, another known animal.

There are a number of known Himalayan animals that have been mistaken for Yetis. While it may seem incredible to a reader -- sitting in a comfortable chair at sea level -- that the animals mentioned below have been mistaken for Yetis, objective scientific evaluation suggests that presumed Yeti sightings made at similar elevations by persons hiking under stress in this region were in fact due to the following: the Himalayan tahr, Hemitragus jemlahicus, which has shaggy brown fur; the Himalayan black bear, Ursus thibetanus, which can stand bipedally and can appear to have a hominoid head; and the Himalayan marmot, Marzota himalayana, which has golden brown fur, stands both quadrupedally and bipedally, and is able to look very large and enigmatic when silhouetted against the skyline.

In the case of the Tishkov report, it is impossible to make any scientifically credible identification from the visual information provided. It might have been possible to make a scientifically credible identification had the feces specimen been collected. Laboratory analysis may have at least been able to identify such a specimen as having come from a particular known animal, and perhaps could have suggested whether it might have come from a possible unknown animal.

Regrettably, it appears that the feces sample was not submitted to laboratory analysis. The presence of rock niches showing signs of use do not suggest that the user was a Yeti. Much more likely is that such rock niches have served as shelter for the domestic sheep and goats which extensively use these high altitude regions just below the snow line, where melting winter snows irrigate the slopes during the hot, dry months of April, May, and June before the monsoon rains bring green grass to the slopes at lower elevations. The bitten off roots could have resulted from feeding by any of the wild species mentioned above, as well as by domestic goats.

My comments are made in the spirit of scientific caution. Each of us who has pondered the Yeti question has little doubt in his heart as to whether the Yeti exists. Few mysteries are as appealing as possibly discovering our ancient kin. Unfortunately, the strongest evidence that such a discovery may be imminent comes from inside of ourselves, not yet from any scientifically durable data.

I share these comments of caution with a smile. I've chased many possible Yetis myself, as related in Something Hidden Behind the Ranges. The quest is a glorious adventure.

Sir Daniel Taylor-Ide
Franklin, West Virginia 26807, U.S.A.

(Sir Daniel Taylor-lde has searched the Himalayan mountains on a personal quest for the Yeti since the early 1950's. He comes from a heritage of Himalayan hunters; his grandfather began ranging there in 1914, and his father then took up the venture. He is the President of Future Generations, which, with associates in Nepal, China, India, and other countries, is creating a series of large nature preserves to protect the delicate Himalayan habitat so that the supposed Yeti and the region's other magnificent fauna and flora can live in perpetuity. He was knighted by the King of Nepal... )

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