The Sherpa and the Snowman

Publication Year: 1956.

The Sherpa and the Snowman, by Chas. Stonor, with a foreword by Sir John Hunt. 206 pages, 38 pictures. Hollis & Carter: London, 1955. Price, 18 s.

To those serious students of the Himalayan mystery this book may not contain much that is new. Many of us have regarded reports about the Yeti (as the Sherpas call it) as not very subtle spoofing. Even the appellation "Abominable Snowman” suggests an attempt to be other than serious. However, the Tibetan name "Metoh Kangmi” literally translates as "a repellent manlike creature whose home lies in the higher snow ranges” ; hence the popular name is really not an effort to be funny.

In the winter of 1953/4 an expedition was sent from London to investigate the abominable gentleman in his own stamping ground which fringes and overlaps the habitat of the Sherpas on the approaches to Everest. It is in the environs of the Sherpa villages and above their yak grazing alp- lands that the Yeti has most often been reported. The author is a biologist and anthropologist, the party included a zoologist, a doctor and an American naturalist-traveler. Their approach to the verification or disproval of the snowman seems at all times to have been open-minded and scientifically sound. As one who was a complete skeptic, this reviewer underwent a growing fascination as the investigation unfolded. Tracks were found and photographed, excreta analyzed, the eye and ear witnesses cross examined and cross checked. There is no question in the Sherpa mind about the existence of the Yeti, and the expedition itself concludes with the conviction that some unknown and highly intelligent form of ape maintains an elusive and precarious foothold in the Alpine zone of the Himalayas.

The foregoing is, however, only a part of the book’s worth. There is no excitement, no climax; the book at times plods along at a gentle pace enlivened now and then by restrained humor as when the scientist and the monk-doctor compare medical notes and their competing cures for migraine to malaria. This book obviously was written by a sincere lover of nature and humanity. The bases of the Sherpas’ economic, spiritual and social life are vividly depicted, as well as (to this reader) some startling items such as the flight of yellow billed chough that are seen airborne at 26,000 feet.

Those who have an interest in the Himalaya for climbing or any other reason should add this book to their libraries. They will find here intelligent and objective observation, honest and competent writing.

Lawrence G. Coveney