The monastery is awash with colour, in stark contrast to a cantankerous monk who stands by a locked cabinet. He jangles a set of keys. Gestures for me to make a donation. The monk then unlocks the cabinet to reveal an ornamental box with a scarf draped over it. Inside is something that looks like a genetically modified coconut sliced in half. The monk tells me it’s a yeti scalp. Is this concrete evidence at last? Well yes, if yeti scalps are made from the 200-year-old skin of a serow, a rare goat-antelope. Whoever made this scalp stretched the serow skin over a purpose-built mould, and then stitched henna-dyed hair (presumably yak’s) into it. It’s unclear if locals actually believe it’s real, or whether it’s simply a gimmick to lure tourists into handing over their rupees.
Beyond the spectral hum of alpine clouds, anything is possible. Avalanches, frostbite, pneumonia. Yetis. Feared and revered by rosy-cheeked mountain dwellers, how they long to spy these hairy creatures. Yet are terrified of the consequences, believing bad luck bestowed on all those that dare catch a glimpse. Superstitious Sherpas or devotees to the Divine? Caught not beneath sudden snowfall, but in ice-laden paradox. Internally frozen in the frost of the mind
The yeti is an expression of God in Nepalese mountain climes. The confirmation of a long-held belief, a niggle on the outskirts of consciousness, that the Divine is always present. Yet many mountain folk don’t feel worthy of being in Divinity’s presence. So the Scribe pens misleading mythology. Easier, seemingly, to dilute a deity into nothing more than a hairy creatured parable disempowering in its verse. Easier to believe in that than to look at the source lactating lack of self-worth.
Humanity’s malaise. Insidious belief of Source separation. Perpetuated by priests and bastardised scripture. Those claiming they are middlemen to God. Access granted only with their participation. A precipitation, a haze on what really lies beyond the spectral hum of alpine clouds
A scripture rewritten: Let the imagination paint without interruption, without judgment, on swirling mountain mist. Each brushstroke freeing creative expression. Fear not the beast of magick. Fear not the divinity pulsing through your veins.
Along yeti migration route I trek. Where beehives hang like caramelised tongues licking rock faces. Buttermilk River scythes through the valley in a gushing torrent. An aquatic drone flitting in and out of consciousness. Up ahead, the highest freshwater lake system on the planet, Gokyo Lakes. A sacred place where Sherpas believe yetis lurk beneath the water
In sub-zero darkness, moonbeams illuminate patches of snow glowing like phosphorus, like clusters of faerie villages or distant yeti bonfires.
Scrape frosty layer off sleeping bag for the day is here. The myth somehow diluted as sunbeams warm the valley. Potato and barley terraces layer the hillside. Shepherd’s houses stand alone, isolated in their crumbling walls.
Cloud hovers above Gokyo Lake. I scan it for ripples, for erect yeti nipples. For hairy hands reaching up to swipe unsuspecting ducks.
A stairway to heaven, the climb up Gokyo Ri. All 5,360m of it. Led Zeppelin failed to inform of the inflating balloon inside my head. Heartbeat pounds in throat as I plod slowly upward. Sweating yet cold. Head-rushes harrying. A blend of euphoria and anxiety. Perhaps one and same
Atop the summit, a Polish man in his sixties waits, as if expecting me. Arm outstretched, offers me a hip flask of whiskey. Too risky for the task of a controlled descent, But perhaps it would warm numb fingers and toes.
Down the mountain, fresh snow dapples rhododendrons. Wiry, spindly branches jag eerily through the fog. Mountaintop clouds glow blue, impenetrable by sun’s ray, preserving mysticism lurking beneath. And then the cloud breaks for a fleeting moment. A rip in the seam of reality. Revealing peaks so improbably high, possibly on the verge of heaven. On the verge of realisation of how vast the Divinity in all beings.
Yak pee freezes lightning fork patterns in the snow. Wizened women roll yak dung into patties, slapping them on rocks to dry. Juniper burns in small pots outside houses. Rosy-faced kids with blood noses pass in Kalvin Klein caps. In their eyes the answer to this mystery, that some things are better left shrouded in the mists of imagination. For it keeps alive the wonder of the little child to be ever curious. To acknowledge yeti existence in realms peripheral. This furry beast’s service to humanity: providing a link to fantastical realms where it matters not if they appear physically. What matters is that the inner child is at play imagining yeti homes on desolate summits. Far beyond the spectral hum of alpine clouds