Reinhold Messner's Quest

By Loxton, Daniel | Skeptic (Altadena, CA), Summer 2003 | Go to article overview
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Reinhold Messner's Quest


Loxton, Daniel, Skeptic (Altadena, CA)


Although it may seem that yeti hunting belongs in the past, there are still adventurers today who are intrigued by this great mystery. Of these, perhaps the greatest is a mountain climber named Reinhold Messner who recently spent ten years on a quest for the yeti.

In 1978, Messner and his climbing partner were the first to accomplish something that had always been considered impossible (and probably suicidal): they climbed Mount Everest without the use of bottled oxygen! This incredible feat stunned the climbing world, but Messner managed to top it just two years later. Having already climbed Everest without using extra oxygen, he went on to do it again--this time without bottled oxygen, without a partner, using only what he himself could carry--without help of any kind!

Messner racked up other spectacular accomplishments (he was the first person to cross Antarctica on foot, the first individual to climb all of the 14 tallest mountains on Earth in one lifetime, and so on) but he is also distinguished from other climbers in another way: in 1986, he came face to face with a yeti!

One night, traveling alone through the high valleys of Tibet, Messner found he was lost. As night fell, he hurried up a dark forest path to seek shelter at a village he thought should be nearby. "Then," he writes, "suddenly, silent as a ghost, something large and dark" stepped out across the path ahead. At first he thought it was a yak as it moved through the trees, but its swiftness and silence convinced him otherwise. "The fast-moving silhouette dashed behind a curtain of leaves and branches, only to step out into a clearing for a few seconds. It moved upright.... For one heartbeat it stood motionless, then turned away and disappeared into the dusk. I had expected to hear it make some sound, but there was nothing. The forest remained silent: no stones rolled down the slope, no twigs snapped." After standing in stunned disbelief, he approached the spot, and located a huge footprint among the shadows and leaves.

In the hours that followed, Messner saw the large animal several times in the darkness close by, and heard it make a whistling sound that has often been reported by other yeti witnesses.

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