Few people haven't heard legends of the Yeti or the Abominable Snowman - the Eastern Hemisphere version of Sasquatch or Bigfoot. What makes this new book so intriguing is that the author, Reinhold Messner, is far from ordinary - he is to mountain climbing what Michael Jordan is to basketball. In 1980, Messner, who lives in Austria, was the first person to climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. He was also the first man to climb all 14 of the world's 26,000-foot-plus peaks and has written 12 books on mountain climbing. He lost seven toes to frostbite during a 1970 climb.
Messner makes it clear in the book's first five pages that he saw the Yeti in eastern Tibet in 1986. Prior to that, all he'd heard were legends and fanciful stories. "One encounter can change you," Messner, now 54, writes. "Everything changes - the whole landscape." He says his firsthand look at a Yeti was some 30 feet away. The beast was about 7 feet tall and hairy; it made a whistling noise and smelled awful. (This also describes most Bigfoot sightings.)
The unfortunate part of Messner's encounter was that he was alone in a region with no roads and no people around, and it was nightfall. He feared the creature would come back, and it did. He raced away to find a mountain village and was almost torn apart by a pack of large dogs before finding shelter in an old hut. Except for two years when Messner walked across Antarctica, he spent the next decade roaming villages in the Himalayas - searching for the Yeti, more stories and authoritative sources on the beast.
"The Tibetans speak of the Chemo (their Yeti title) as if discussing an everyday animal," he wrote. Indeed, he concluded that those who live in villages accessible only by trail fear the Yeti the most and almost universally believe in it. Near roads, the creature is nothing more than a legend. Messner's research indicates that tales of the creature date back to 326 B.C. and Alexander the Great. The Abominable Snowman title came along in the 1920s and proved very helpful indirectly to mountain climbers in the next 30 years because it generated extra interest in the remote area. In fact, during the 1950s there were more Yeti expeditions than mountain climbing.
Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who climbed Everest first with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953, never spotted a Yetiin his 50 years of climbing the Himalayas. His partner was part of a Yeti expedition in 1960, but he saw nothing. A Tibetan man gave Messner this advice: "One can never find a Chemo. Either you run into it by chance or you never get to see one. He always appears at night and only when you least expect it." Messner said footprints are the only concrete evidence of the creature, though remote villages have many tales of abductions, attacks, thefts and even rapes by the Yeti.
Unfortunately, most sightings occur when a person is alone, and Messner said lack of corroboration greatly damaged his reputation when he claimed to have seen a Yeti. This book is well-written and in many ways is as much a tale about the harsh life in remote Himalayan villages and of the Chinese intrusion into the area as it is about the Yeti. Messner says he saw the creature later and even took some photos, but that film was damaged during processing. Another time his flash failed. Messner doesn't theorize or delve into supernatural explanations. His book is based on experience.
"Though lacking the proof I longed to find, I remain convinced that the Chemo and the Yeti were identical and that both were more than a bear." His best conclusion is that the Yeti/Chemo is a rare form of a brown bear that usually walks upright and is extra intelligent. "All evidence points to a nocturnal species of brown bear ruling those icy terrains that during the day man believes are his. This bear can run, climb and track far better than a man." The Yeti mystery lives on, fueled by this testimony from one of the world's top mountain climbers who concludes he's not sure what it is - it just exists.
© The Deseret News Agency.
Public Riposte to Reinhold Messner's Book Review by Lynn Arave
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000
From: Vera Joveska <Vera.Joveska@anu.edu.au>
Subject: Messner's Yeti-book
Thanks for sending Lynn Arave's review of Reinhold Messner's book "Yeti, Legende und Wirklichkeit", published 1998 by S. Fischer, Stuttgart (year e-mail of 9th April). This review leads one to think of the book as an important addition to the scientific Yeti-literature or even, as its subtitle ("Legend and Reality") seems to suggest, the last word on the Yeti problem altogether. But this is not so.
I have got this book myself, read it carefully and I am thoroughly disgusted by it. Messner (who, although ethnically Austrian, is from and lives in South Tyrol and therefore has the Italian nationality) sees himself not only as a mountaineer but also as a Thinker, a Philosopher and an authority on all that concerns the Himalayas. An excellent mountain climber he certainly is; however, there must be grave doubts about his ability to think logically and his competence in anything other than how to get on top of mountain peaks.
Maybe Lynn's knowledge of German is not profound enough to realize that "Yeti, Legende und Wirklichkeit" is so full of platitudes, contradictions and sensational drivel without any attempt at conveying reliable information (place names are even falsified so as not to give away the exact location of the author's "research!") that it simply cannot be taken seriously.
Cryptozoologists, in particular, have nothing to gain from reading this book other than a deep sense of frustration abut a lost opportunity: if, as the blurb says, this twaddle is the outcome of two decades of expeditions and over 20,000 km marching on foot through the highest mountain region of the world by "the most famous mountain climber of our times", one could be forgiven to wonder whether it would not have been better for all concerned if Reinhold Messner had simply hired a helicopter to go places.
Perhaps you could make this clear in your correspondence with our colleagues and especially those to whom you sent Lynn's review of the Messner Yeti book.
Kind regards and best wishes,
Dr. Helmut Loof-Wissova
Southeast Asia Centre & South and West Asia Centre Faculty of Asian Studies
Australian National University
CANBERRA ACT 0200
Ph: 02 6249 3163 Fax: 02 6279 8326
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