Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner claimed in his 2000 book My Search for The Yeti that the creature was nothing more than a brown bear. This is curious as on previous occasions he had claimed to have seen the yeti and described it as a primate-type animal.
I once interviewed the actor Brian Blessed, a renowned explorer and mountaineer himself, for a long defunct and not very good magazine called Quest. Blessed, who is a friend of Messner, said that he had told him of his encounter with a yeti. Blessed said that Messner had walked around some rocks and come ‘face to face’ with the creature. He said it was not a bear, was 7 feet tall, man-like and stood erect.
There are other occasions when Messner’s descriptions sound precious little like a bear. Julian Champkin of the Daily Mail 16th August 1997 wrote that Messner has… “encountered the yeti; and not once, but four times, once close enough to touch it. More importantly, he claims to have photographs of the creature, including a mother yeti tending her child, and a yeti skeleton”.
Needless to say none of his pictures have been forthcoming. Messner goes on… "I searched for a week, 12 hours a day, in an area with no trees," he says. "I didn't expect to find one so soon. First, we saw a mother with her child. I could only take a photograph from the back. The child had bright red fur, the older animal's fur was black. She was over two metres tall, with dark hair, just like the legend. When they saw us they disappeared."
Two days later, he claimed to have come across and filmed a sleeping yeti. The film is just as noticeable as the photos by its absence.
In an article relating to the BBC’s Natural World documentary on the yeti, Messner describes seeing one from a range of 30 metres in Southern Tibet. The article says Messner is sure it is some kind of primate. He describes it in the article thus… “It was bigger than me, quite hairy and strong, dark brown-black hair falling over his eyes. He stood on two legs and immediately I thought he corresponds to the descriptions I heard from Sherpas and Tibetans.”
So why did Messner write a book trying to explain away the yeti as a bear when this transparently was not the creature he claimed to have seen? Was it because of fear of ridicule? And what became of the photos and film? Was Messner trying to take the focus away from these or make them seem less important by saying the yeti was just a bear? Could this be because the film and photos did not exist?
Sherpas become angry when westerners say that the yeti is just a bear, and quite rightly. The animal they pick repeatedly as looking most like the yeti is the gorilla, but walking on two legs rather than four. The yeti has a flat, ape-like face. The yeti walks almost constantly on two legs. The yeti can manipulate things with its hands and hence must have opposable thumbs. It is said to sometimes hurl large rocks. Bears have none of the above features. The yeti is clearly some kind of primate, most likely a great ape.
Until he delivers the goods, I’m inclined to dismiss Messner’s claims.