American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Himalaya, Nepal, Slick-Johnson Nepal Snowman Expedition

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1959

Slick-Johnson Nepal Snowman Expedition. In the spring of 1957 Tom Slick, of San Antonio, Texas, and Peter Byrne made a three-weeks reconnaissance up the Arun River. Between the Chhoyang and the Iswa Kholas at about 12,000 feet they discovered what appeared to be Yeti tracks, which encouraged Slick to sponsor a large expedition in 1958. Naturalist Gerald Russell, an American living in France and member of the 1954 Daily Mail Yeti Expedition, was deputy leader. Other members were Peter and Bryan Byrne, from Ireland, for several years tea planters in India, George Holton, an American still-life photographer, living in Guatemala and Norman G. Dyhrenfurth in charge of motion pictures and mountaineering; Gyalzen Norbu, who has stood on the summit of both Makalu and Manaslu, was sirdar. The Nepalese government appointed Captain Pushkar Shamshere as liaison officer.

On February 24 Russell, the Byrnes, Captain Pushkar, and most of the fifteen Darjeeling Sherpas and the porters left Biratnagar for the Arun valley. They established a temporary base camp at Bumling on March 4. Holton and I (Dyhrenfurth) who had been in Kathmandu clearing stores through Patna customs and obtaining permission for the use of three hounds, flown in from Arizona, arrived there on March 6. During March Russell and his Sherpa, Da Temba, explored the Chhoyang Khola, the Byrnes and Holton went to the Burun, while my old friend Ang Dawa, who went to Everest and Lhotse with us in 1952 and 1955, and I explored the Iswa Khola to its very end at the foot of Chamlang. We then crossed a 20,000-foot pass, possibly the one Hillary crossed in 1954, towards the Barun Khola and returned to Moyun, our base camp in the Iswa Khola valley, where on April 6 all members were reunited. Each of the three groups had "holed-up" in caves for extended periods of observation, during which time Yeti tracks were seen. Russell was given some reddish-brown hair by a local man who had found it in a cave. This may have belonged to a Yeti. During the last three weeks of April, Russell again "holed-up" in the Chhoyang Khola. The Byrne brothers visited the Irkhua Khola east of the Arun, while Captain Pushkar and I made a reconnaissance of the Dima Khola farther to the north, which included a fast trip to the check-post at Cepua near the Tibetan border to follow up a false rumor of a Yeti skin said to be near there. In company with a local man, Da Temba actually saw in a stream around midnight a small Yeti, no more than 4 feet 6 inches in height, possibly a young one. The Yeti apparently had come for his nightly meal of frogs, and when a flashlight was aimed at his face he started toward the men. Next morning Russell checked and found small Yeti tracks.

When Russell had to leave the expedition at the end of April, he appointed me deputy leader. (Holton had left after only three weeks on the trail.) The Byrnes took over in the Chhoyang Khola valley, while on May 2 I left to search for the Yeti in Sola Khumbu. We reached Namche Bazar on May 11, proceeded to Thyangboche and made a threeday reconnaissance of the Mera La southeast of Ama Dablam. This was followed by a ten day search of the upper Dudh Kosi valley, where the 1954 Daily Mail expedition had seen so many tracks, Ang Dawa discovered a cave where a Yeti had been living for some time, judging from the many droppings and remnants of rodents. While checking on what appeared to be tracks high on a steep snowfield, three Sherpas and I climbed three 20,000- to 21,000-foot peaks on the ridge between the Ngojumba and Guanara glaciers near the Tibetan border. There was a cairn on the lowest of the three, probably erected by Shipton’s party in 1951. We attempted to reach the top of the Nup La east of Gyachung Kang but failed for lack of time and because of the fantastically brokenup surface of the Ngojumba glacier. Crossing a 19,000-foot pass near the south face of Cho Oyu toward the Bote Kosi, we returned on May 29 to Thyangboche via Thami and Namche Bazar. The next day the Byrnes and Captain Pushkar arrived, having exhausted all possibilities in the Arun area. After a few days of motion picture work around Thyangboche, on June 4 we started homeward. Peter Byrne’s dysentery forced him, his brother, and Captain Pushkar to return to Kathmandu by the easiest way. Accompanied by Keki Bunshah, leader of the successful Indian Cho Oyu expedition, I crossed the 20,500-foot pass of Tesi Lapcha via Thami, descended the Rolwaling Khola south of Gaurisankar, and joined the other members of both expeditions at Lichenku. On June 15 we all reached Kathmandu in good health.

All evidence, including the 350-year-old scalp and skeleton-hand of a Yeti at Pangboche lamasery, seems to establish beyond a shadow of doubt the existence of possibly two types of Yeti: a small species which lives in the Hamalayan rain forests between 8000 and 12,000 feet, perhaps only 4½ feet in height, and a larger animal of 6 to 8 feet in height in the higher regions between the villages and the glaciers. When shown photographs of the Yeti hand, British and Russian scientists stated that this may be the very clue to the Yeti mystery. Tom Slick has now another small group in the field and there are said to be four Russian teams roaming the Pamirs in search of the Snowmen. Competition between the two most powerful nations in the world would appear to be limitless!

Norman G. Dyhrenfurth

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