1977, September 17: The Mars-Bar Eater

In 1977, mountain climbers Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker made history by being the first men to scale the North-East ridge of Mount Changabang in the Garhwal Himalayas on the edge of Nepal. The climb involved many adventures, such as three nights in hammocks on the near vertical rock face as a storm raged by; but it also involved some odd incidents which at least one author now believes may have been an encounter with a Yeti, the legendary wildmen of the Himalayas.

        Sadly, Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker vanished in 1982 after setting out on another dangerous climb, likely victims of bad luck in an extreme environment. In the same year, however, Boardman's book detailing the 1977 Changabang climb was published, entitled The Shining Mountain... and it is from this book that I now summarize.

        According to Boardman, there were several unusual occurrences during the climb; the first of these was discovered by Boardman on September 14, while sorting food and equipment. Something had raided their food, stealing just the contents of a box of "Mars" candy-bars that had been under a plastic sheet. There was no debris (wrappers) left behind; and because they were camped near a moraine and there were no prints, Boardman reasonably assumed his thief approached and left on the rock.

        When Boardman told Tasker about the theft, Tasker recalled a similiar occurrence: the previous year when he was camped near Mount Dunagiri, something had come each night for five nights and stolen chocolate and cake, and even Tasker's toothbrush -- and despite attempts to trap whatever it was, he never even saw the thief.

        Two nights later, in the late hours between September 16 and 17, Boardman and Tasker's camp was raided. Boardman was having trouble sleeping, and found himself awake at three in the morning. He was cramped into two sleeping bags because the temperature outside was in the -20 degrees celsius range... which is why it disturbed him so much to hear a low animal growl outside his tent. It lasted about thirty seconds, and then he heard sniffing, and a pan being knocked over. After that it was quiet again. After waking Tasker, Boardman got some of his courage back; about 15 minutes after he initially heard the noises, Boardman unzipped the tent door and peered out. It was a full, moonlit night, and there was no sign of a living thing. 

The tracks.
The tracks.
[Larger version here]

        In the morning, the two men found a tremendous number of tracks outside their tent and all over the glacier; something had paced back and forth near the front of the tent, and Boardman felt the tracks were made by something four-footed, though he couldn't guess what. In his book he asks: "Bears? Leopards? Yeti? Mars Bar eaters?" This joking reference has given legs to the possibility of a Yeti being involved, though this ignores Boardman's assessment of the tracks as being four-footed.

        One last odd occurrence took place as they were climbing back down from the heights of the peak on October 17th. The men had thrown their extra equipment in bundles down the last stretch of wall to the Rhamani Glacier, only to be disappointed when the bundle popped open partway down. Upon reaching the glacier they started to gather up the scattered equipment; and Boardman observed that they were not the first ones there. More tracks had appeared around the scattered equipment and supplies, which Boardman jokingly attributed to "the Mars Bar eater." Their full body harnesses and tent were missing, but they found the harnesses the following morning. They assumed the tent had disappeared down a crevasse.

YETI! (?)

        The only other book I've run into this story in (other than Peter Boardman's book) is Jenny Randles' Strange & Unexplained Mysteries of the 20th Century. Though Randles inclusion of a brief retelling of the events above in a section of her book about "Yeti" wildman reports from the Himalayas strongly implies that the creature that raided Boardman and Tasker's camp was a Yeti, there is nothing in the story as Randles relates it that would necessarily show that Boardman's "Mars Bar eater" was not a bear. Boardman himself only suggests a Yeti as a passing joke, and clearly states that the prints appear to belong to something four-legged. Unfortunately, it's now impossible to ask for further details.

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