Sir Edmund Hillary, left, and Sherpa village leader Khunjo Chumbi at a 1960 press conference in Tokyo.

Sir Edmund Hillary, left, and Sherpa village leader Khunjo Chumbi at a 1960 press conference in Tokyo. (Stars and Stripes)

TOKYO — Sir Edmund Hillary, conqueror of Mt. Everest, said here Saturday he doesn't believe there is an "abominable snowman" even though he has a "yeti scalp" in his possession.

"I have never believed in the existence of the snowman," Hillary said. "The yeti is not a strange, superhuman creature as has been imagined. We have found rational explanations for most yeti phenomena."

Hillary had with him, however, what a remote Sherpa village in the Nepalese Himalayas claims is a genuine snowman scalp. "We feel this is the only piece of evidence we haven't found a rational explanation for," he said.

The tall, tanned New Zealander came out of the Himalayas with the headman of the Sherpa village, Khunjo Chumbi, and Desmond Doig, a British journalist.

The Hillary party arrived in Tokyo Saturday by plane from Hong Kong and is en route to the U.S. where it will take the yeti scalp to the Chicago Museum of Natural History for scientific examination.

Chumbi agreed to let Hillary take the scalp out of Nepal under two conditions. First, he must be allowed to accompany the scalp and second, the relic must be returned to the village within one month.

Although he didn't show the yeti scalp to newsmen at the Tokyo International Airport press conference, Hillary described it in detail.

"The scalp," he said, "has unusual features. It is shaped like a Tibetan priest's cap — rather like a crown — and has a ridge of hair on the top of it.

"The scalp is hard to explain. It's a convincing sort of specimen," Hillary added.

"It's the sort of thing that must be examined by people better qualified than us," Hillary continued. "The local people regard it a s a yeti scalp and look upon it with respect."

Chumbi told newsmen, in a translated statement, that the yeti does exist.

Indeed, the wiry little man said, there have been numerous cases of yetis carrying off human beings during their raids on mountain villages.

The Sherpas' belief in the yeti legend was explained by Doig, who speaks Nepalese and has accompanied Hillary's expedition on its snowman probe.

"The Sherpa people believe there was a great gathering of the yetis 240 years ago by a mountain village," Doig said.

"The villagers tried to get ail the yetis drunk so they would fight each" other — the yetis escaped, however, with the exception of a pregnant female who was slaughtered by a lama. (Buddhist) monk."

The scalp, Doig explained, is supposedly the topknot of this female yeti.

Hillary, describing his expedition's uncovering of yeti evidence, discredited the famed snowman footprint as a myth, "We found quite a few so-called yeti tracks," Hillary said. "They were obviously made by the effect of the sun's rays and wind on the tracks of smaller animals."

Aside from its much publicized quest for the snowman, Hillary's expedition is carrying on research on the effect of high altitude exposure on man.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now