Backpacking Nepal Travel with us into the village of Khumjung in search of the Yeti Scalp

The Proper Function

The Mysterious Yeti Scalp

This abominable Proper Function takes you beyond 14,000 ft into the Himalayas in attempt to view a 250 year-old Yeti Scalp located in the small village of Khumjung, Nepal. If you aren’t familiar with the Yeti and know it only as a container to store cold beverages, then this function is ready to launch your fascination about this mysterious legend. Join The Proper Crew as we fly into the most dangerous airport in the world (Tenzing-Hillary Airport, Lukla), backpack 55 miles through the Himalayas and attempt to convince a monk that we come with positive intentions. Join in as we attempt to lay eyes upon The Mysterious Yeti Scalp.

Legend of the Yeti

You may be starting to read this blog post while considering yourself a Yeti-Denier. Need further proof? Look no further. Without collusion, there is a story on Russian President Vladimir Putin where the Siberian Times reported that Putin ‘Sights a Yeti Family’ on a recent helicopter trip! Read the full article. By the way, if after posting this function I suddenly vanish without a trace, I’d start with the Kremlin!

After ascending 3,000 feet, we approach the highest marketplace in the world Namche Bazaar. Upon catching my breath,  I turn to our sherpa, ” Paison, do you believe in the Yeti?” He is still. In a slow turn towards my direction, it was clear that I already knew what he was about to say. “Yes, I’ve seen them” he said as he stares out over the mountains. Now mind you, he has just completed his 62nd trip to Everest Base Camp, so if anyone has had the opportunity to see the Yeti – it was him!

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This ape-like creature has been spotted in this region of Nepal since the 19th century. Paison later went on to describe what he saw. “It’s a hairy animal that walks upright, over six feet tall and weighs more than 400 lbs. He is only out a nighttime.” I can picture what he is saying, but then realize I didn’t pack any night vision technology.

In 1899, Laurence Waddell discovered what appeared to be a set of Yeti footprints. While he considers the Yeti a legend, his conclusion was that the prints belonged to the Himalayan Brown Bear. Then, in 1925 N.A. Tombaze, a photographer, provided a detailed account when he spotted the animal upon a mountainous peak. He said, “Unquestionably, the figure in the outline was exactly like a human being, walking upright and stopping occasionally to uproot or pull at some dwarf rhododendron bushes. If showed up dark against the snow and, as far as I could make out, wore no clothes.”

“We don’t believe in giraffes and lions in Nepal because there aren’t any here. Likewise, you don’t believe in Yetis because you have none in your country.” – Khumjo Chumbi

Recently, Josh Gates from The Discovery Channel, did a series called ‘Hunt for the Yeti’. While no definitive sightings, they did discover a footprint near the Dhudh Kosi River. The plaster mold of this print was evaluated  and was convincing enough to warrant further professional investigation. Good find, Josh!

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The Village of Khumjung

We had just completed our 35th mile of backpacking when the village of Khumjung appeared perched upon the horizon. The first thing you notice is that all of the roofs are green, this is in honor of Sir Edmund Hillary as he constructed a secondary school here with a green rooftop. As we approach our lodge for the evening at 13,000 feet, the air becomes thin and  black spots intermittently dots my vision, did I just see a Yeti?

Later, we explored the village of Khumjung and I spoke with a woman who ran a small shop. After purchasing a Yak Scarf from her, I learned that  her daughter was Miss Sherpa 2012. She was generous enough to share a story about the Yeti Scalp within the village. She said the village people believe that around 250 years ago, there was a large gathering of the Yetis. The villagers made an attempt to get the Yet’s drunk so that they would combat one another into exctinction . But, the plan failed and all the Yeti’s escaped with the exception of one pregnant female who was killed by a monk. The scalp that exists within the Monastery of this village belongs to that female.

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Khumjung Monastery 

Later that evening, we approached the monastery and were told that we required “approval” to see the scalp. As it turns out, the approval is granted upon the small donation of US Dollars. After a very simple negotiation of $15, we were asked to return the following day and that the Yeti Scalp would be made available for us to see. Following breakfast the next day, we approached the monastery and saw a monk standing outside the enterance. He sternly approached us and stood in what Americans would descbribe as ‘my personal space’. “No video! Photograph ok” as he gestured for us to follow him. We were asked to remove our shoes and were invited into the doorway where we would see the scalp.

As we step foot into the monastery, you are greeted with mass amounts of vibrant color, like a fractured rainbow that has been kept locked up in a room. An intimidating large golden Buddha sitting Lotus style at the back of the room appears to stare at you no matter which direction to move. I am on my best behavior.

In the center of the room sat a large wooden stand. Upon this stand enclosed in a locked glass case was the Yeti Scalp! As I approach one step at a time, the scalp starts to resemble an old leather football that had been lubricated with Rogaine to promote hair growth. The golden brown strands of hair were like wire as the coursed off a thick leathery scalp. For some reason, I had pictured it to be white – which was probably from the 1964 version of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer in which the abominable snowman was white. All I can say is that it looks real.

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Create Your Own Legend 

In an era where we thrive off ‘Gotcha’ moments driven by social media and news outlets, sometimes it’s best left to wonder. In 1960, Sir Edmund Hillary took the scalp with permission for testing. The results indicated that the scalp was created from the skin of a Serow – a goat-like antelope that resides within the Himalayas. But, does it matter?

If this journey has taught me anything, it’s that metaphors can positively impact our lives as we attempt to organize our world. They assist us in defining our experience in the world while helping us retain special experiences. Visiting the Yeti Scalp was indeed a special experience and I do believe!

 

This Proper Function
(Approximate Data)
FParty Cloudy 2,315ftElevation 13.7hrsDistance From You
LocationKhumjung
Coordinates86.783232°, 27.934178°
DirectionsView on Google Maps
DifficultyDifficult
WaterBring
DogsNo
HistoricYes
Time9 Days

TPF

Dan is an explorer for The Outbound and founder of The Proper Function, an outdoor editorial. He is passionate about exploration and can’t stay put for more than a week.