A fine line separates fact from fiction when you’re dealing with the folkloric figure of the yeti.
You’re up high on a mountain, boots crunching in snow. Your nose is red, your lips are numb and the snowflakes feel like needles against your cheeks. The wind howls down the slope, trying to force you to retreat. But you’re still climbing, determined to reach the top. Suddenly, you see it. A large creature, covered in thick fur, traipsing with ease through the snow ahead of you. You freeze and watch its loping steps. Is it a trick of the snow? A high-altitude hallucination? Or is it – could it be – real?
For thousands of years, those exploring the Himalayas have found themselves sharing this bewildering experience. And for thousands of years, their stories of snowy encounters have left people burning with curiosity about the so-called Abominable Snowman.
In 326BCE, when Alexander the Great conquered the Indus Valley, he demanded to see the Yeti, but the native people told him that the legendary creature only lived at higher altitude. Many since then have sought the Yeti on higher ground, only to come back empty-handed.
Yet there have also been countless sightings over the millennia. Since the invention of the camera, expeditioners have begun collecting photographic evidence of footprints and sightings. But these photos are often blurry and never beyond question. Hair samples and other specimens have been found, too. The vast majority turned out to be from bears or goats.
But advanced DNA testing carried out at University College London in 2013 showed that several such samples could not be matched with any creature on record. Meanwhile, the local inhabitants of the Himalayan region hold a strong traditional belief in the Yeti’s existence, even considering it sacred – a being both feared and revered. There is even a national park wildlife sanctuary in Bhutan today where the primary goal is to protect the Yeti!
Meanwhile, people around the world have only become more obsessed with this elusive figure. There are themed hotels, as well as numerous movies, TV shows and documentaries that speculate about the creature. There is even a ride at Walt Disney World, Florida, called ‘Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain’, in which the Yeti protects the mountain from the riders.
So what is the Yeti? Man, animal, monster or myth? The simple truth is, we can’t say for sure! But here at KIT, we see the question of the Yeti as more than a contest of fact and fiction. The Yeti is more than a regular animal and more than a mere superstition. Neither totally real nor safely imaginary, it symbolises the uncertainty of adventure, the mystery and the risk of the unknown.
The legend of the Yeti calls each of us to gather our bravery and curiosity – not just in the mountains, but in all life’s adventures – and go find out for ourselves.