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Its Tibetan name roughly translates to ‘rock bear’, but the world knows it far better as a ‘yeti’. The thought of a bear-like creature wandering the snowy Himalayan mountains, leaving oversized footprints behind it, has fascinated and occasionally terrified children and adults alike for centuries.

Alongside dragons and unicorns, it has become firmly rooted in popular culture as the definition of mysterious, a myth that has endured and never really been proven — or disproven. So it begs us to question: is the Yeti real? 

The origins of the enigmatic and puzzling creature come from the ancient Sherpa culture in the Himalayas. Nomadic Buddhists, they regularly shared folk tales about large ‘men of the snow’ or ‘wild men’. Not only that, but some even revered and worshipped the yeti as a supernatural being.

Western explorers in the 19th century wrote some of the first descriptions of accounts of sightings and footprints, but it was really in the 20th century that the yeti myth exploded as more and more visitors came to the area, hearing tales of a creature that also became known as ‘the abominable snowman’.

In 1925, for example, a Greek photographer gave a first-hand account of his encounter with a yeti — luckily from a distance away. He was 4,600 metres up in the mountains on an expedition with Britain's Royal Geographical Society when he watched a strange creature for about a minute, as he described it: ‘…exactly like a human being, walking upright… It showed up dark against the snow, and as far as I could make out, wore no clothes.’

What’s more, as they descended the mountain, they discovered the creature's footprints, which were ‘similar in shape to those of a man, but only six to seven inches long by four inches wide’.

So far, so mysterious! 

In the 1950s, as the world’s attention turned to the region and brave mountaineers trying to be the first to scale Mount Everest, a number of photographs were taken of footprints in the snow. Indeed, the two men who eventually conquered Everest — Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay — even reported seeing large footprints when scaling the mountain in 1953.

There are plenty of theories and suggestions to explain all the bizarre yeti sightings, footprints and legend. One simple explanation was that they had misidentified real local wildlife such as the Himalayan brown bear, Tibetan blue bear or even a langur monkey. And more recently, research teams from Oxford University have run DNA analysis on unidentified animals which have again suggested Himalayan brown bears as the explanation for the sightings. But even that hasn’t stopped our fascination with the hairy beast.

Maybe this is because the yeti, like other cryptids, continues to play an important cultural role. There are moral lessons behind our folklore — for nomadic people who often live in the wilderness, it’s vital to avoid wild animals and stay as close as possible to the community in which you live. Similar figures are seen in other forms around the world, most famously Bigfoot in the US. 

So, wherever they may exist, the lack of any hard evidence uncovered to date — such as quality photos, or even remains — doesn't deter believers. On the contrary, the fact that we can’t definitively prove they don’t exist makes it possible that they’re out there somewhere!

This Christmas, Pacific Place welcomes you to Mt. Christmas Resort, hosted by the (very friendly) Yeti family! For more detail on our array of festivities and activities, visit our Christmas website.