An Odd Discovery in British Columbia’s High Country

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Among the many excessive peaks of the Pacific Coast Ranges that reach all through the Northwest, solely essentially the most intrepid climbers may have crossed what is named the Homathko Icefield. One of many largest areas of interconnected glaciers within the Pacific Northwest, this spectacular frozen characteristic is a 19-mile space of elevated plateau absent of the numerous peaks that ascend above its outer rim.

Past the ice area to the southeast is the Southgate River, and additional westward one will discover the Homathko River, which shares its identify. Together with its scenic, and at instances almost science-fiction landscapes, the Homathko Icefield is positioned in a area of Western Canada that can be rife with legendary figures. Amongst these is the Sninik, acknowledged by the Bella Coola or Nuxalk First Nations Individuals, in addition to the Boqs, every of those names for what’s extra generally identified all through the area as Man of the woods.

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The Homathko Icefield, as seen from satellite tv for pc photos of the area (Credit score: NASA).

It’s becoming, subsequently, that on the Homathko Icefield there’s a explicit space often called “Man of the woods Cross,” making it considered one of many locations all through the Pacific Northwest named after creatures like apes, or as with the placement in query, in specific reference to the humanlike bipedal hominid believed by many to exist on this a part of the world.

I used to be interested in what may need led to the realm being named after Man of the woods, which introduced me to a report written by Vincent R. Lee that appeared within the American Alpine Journal in 1978, commemorating the second group of climbers to ever cross the Homathko Icefield. In his report, Lee offers the next account of the group’s journey:

“Camped under the Alph Glacier, we discovered the snout melted again a full quarter-mile from its place in aerial photographs 10 years in the past. What can solely be described as a Man of the woods observe turned up in camp subsequent morning and reminded us that the 1957 occasion, too, had discovered tracks a number of miles up the glacier. The Alph varieties a freeway onto the japanese fringe of the Homathko by way of Man of the woods Cross, found in 1957. At our camp within the cross, the climate cleared. Wonderful climate remained unbelievably for the remainder of the journey.”

This was a shock, since my hope had merely been to collect any details about the geographic location which may flip up in such area of interest publications; even referenced in passing because it was, I used to be fairly stunned to search out Lee’s inclusion of “What can solely be described as a Man of the woods observe” that was found of their encampment alongside the identical path the place, as he notes, the preliminary 1957 crossing had been made by one other group of hikers.

This brings us to the actual story of how the cross received its legendary identify. The occasions occurred in 1957, as Lee famous earlier, when a gaggle of hikers with the Appalachian Mountain Membership made the sojourn up the rugged mountains to the Homathko Icefield, and at the moment succeeded in being first to cross it. The journey was logged within the membership’s publication, The Appalachia Journal, in 1958, at which period it was famous {that a} peculiar set of footprints had been found by the membership members throughout their tour.

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The Coast Mountains, British Columbia (Credit score: Wikimedia Commons).

Monitoring down copies of the 1958 Appalachia Journal proved harder (the Hathi Belief Digital Library has a variety of the outdated version digitized and accessible on-line, however solely up till 1921, after which U.S. copyright legal guidelines stop the whole contents from being featured on-line). Looking out the archives of native college libraries in my area additionally turned up just a few hits, though there was some confusion on account of similarities between the identify of the Appalachian Mountain Membership’s journal, and that of others which used variations of the phrase “Appalachia” or “Appalachian” of their names.

Luckily, Earl Whipple with the Kootenay Mountaineering Membership produced a wonderful information, “The Northern Coastal Ranges of British Columbia: A Climber’s Information”, which incorporates an excerpt from the unique 1958 article that includes exactly the knowledge required to flesh out what the 1957 occasion noticed.

The account Whipple quotes for us is as follows:

“[The tracks] appeared as depressions 8 inches vast and 4 inches deep, and about 3 toes aside. The odd half was that they had been positioned in a protracted single line, one precisely in entrance of the opposite, as if somebody had been strolling a tape.”

The ultimate line on this brief excerpt is vital since this peculiar “in-line” orientation of purported Man of the woods tracks has been a typical characteristic over time. In reality, among the many most up-to-date instances the place Man of the woods footprint discoveries had been made, we’ve this report from Medical Lake, Washington, in addition to the newer information of the Indian Military’s discovery of what they believed to be “yeti footprints”, each of which show the in-line orientation described by the Appalachian Mountain Membership members of their 1958 report.

Why is that this vital? As a result of I feel there’s a higher rationalization for what makes these curious in-line footprint paths: relatively than a big bipedal creature strolling on two legs (and awkwardly putting one foot instantly in entrance of the opposite), I imagine these had been made by a smaller quadruped transferring by way of the snow utilizing a particular form of locomotion known as bounding. 

When snow accumulation turns into pretty deep, it may possibly really be tough for some animals to cross by way of it except they resort to tunneling, or alternatively, really transferring over the snow. Bounding permits these animals to maneuver briefly, fast leaps over the snow, the place their entrance paws almost meet their hind paws as they strike the bottom collectively earlier than initiating the subsequent leap that propels them ahead. Relying on the dimensions of the animal in relation to the depth of the snow, this may typically be carried out in steady, fluid locomotion that permits the animal to keep up visibility, and likewise maintain its physique principally out of deep snow.

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A marten bounding by way of the snow close to Yellowstone Nationwide Park (Credit score: Nationwide Park Service/Flickr/Public Area).

The results of this type of locomotion is that it additionally leaves massive, vague impressions for the reason that animal’s complete physique contributes to the prints it leaves, relatively than simply the footprints (for examples of this, simply do a YouTube seek for one thing alongside the strains of “canine bouncing by way of the snow”). Quite a lot of animals could use this mode of locomotion by way of snowfields, together with canines, massive cats, badgers, raccoons, numerous species of deer, and a variety of different kinds of animals. Add to this the frequent characteristic of snowmelt that distorts the impressions these animals depart, and the big, amorphous impressions that stay may simply be mistaken for Man of the woods “footprints” to an untrained eye.

Therefore, I feel that primarily based on the outline given by the occasion of the 1957 climbers, it appears extra doubtless {that a} bounding creature left the print impressions famous of their report, relatively than a one-legged “Hopsquatch.” In fact, this does not essentially account for the footprint described by the second group of climbers that ascended the Homathko Icefield in 1977, as reported within the American Alpine Journal the next yr. Nevertheless, no images had been revealed with the report at the moment, nor had been there any further particulars offered on its look; all we’re left with is an anecdotal report of a footprint, or what resembled one, made by one thing.

In any case, we now understand how “Man of the woods Cross” received its identify, which makes for an fascinating story… whether or not or not it had actually been a Man of the woods that left the impressions that impressed it!

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