KATHMANDU Japanese climbers returning from a mountain in western Nepal said Tuesday they had found footprints they think belonged to the abominable snowman or Yeti.
"We saw three footprints which looked like that of human beings," Kuniaki Yagihara, a member of the Yeti Project Japan, said in Kathmandu, after returning from the mountain with photographs of the footprints.
The climbers, equipped with long-lens cameras, video cameras and telescopes, said, however that they did not see or take any photographs of the creature.
The Yeti is said to live in the Himalayan regions of Nepal and is largely regarded by the scientific community as a mythical creature.
Yagihara, 61, said the creature's footprints were found on snow at an altitude of about 4,800 meters (15,748 feet) in the Dhaulagiri mountain range in western Nepal.
"We know how the footprints of bear, deer and mountain goat look like and it was none of that," he said. "We believe it is that of Yeti."
Yagihara and his team, supported by Sherpas, spent six weeks on the lower reaches of the 7,661-meter (25,134-ft) Dhaulagiri IV looking for evidence of the beast's existence.
Sherpas narrate tales of a wild hairy creature roaming the Himalayas, capturing the imagination of foreign climbers of Mount Everest since the 1920s. Those stories prompted many, including Sir Edmund Hillary, to carry out yeti hunts.
In August, two men in the United States claimed they had found the remains of a half-man, half-ape Bigfoot, which actually turned out to be a rubber gorilla suit.
Some other climbers have also claimed to have found Yeti footprints, but no one has yet actually seen it or produced irrefutable proof.
Yagihara, the manager of a mountain museum in Japan, said he believes the creature exists. "If I don't believe on Yeti I would never come."
(Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Valerie Lee)