The first purported photographic evidence of the existence of a Yeti (aka, Abominable Snowman) are headed to auction - with Christie's expecting them to fetch between $3,000-$5,000

While legends of a large ape-like creature roaming the the Himalayan regions of Nepal and Tibet were reported before the 20th century, it wasn't until a British expedition to Mount Everest in 1951 returned with photographs of unusual footprints in the snow that the world took notice. Explorer Eric Shipton, who found the footprints at around 20,000 ft., used an ice pick to meaure the prints at between 12 to 13 inches long. 

Two years later, Sir Edmund Hillary, on his famous expedition to summit Everest, discovered with his sherpas another puzzling item. 

"We were climbing quite a steep pitch when Pemba stopped and picked something off the rock," Hillary wrote. "Obviously greatly excited, he showed it to Angpemba. Feeling somewhat curious, I asked them what it was all about. They placed in my hand a tuft of long black hairs -- thick and coarse, they looked more like bristles than anything else. 'Yeti, Sahib! Yeti!' I couldn't help being impressed by their conviction, and it did seem a strange place to find some hair. We were well over 19,000 feet and the Abominable Snowman was obviously no mean rock climber."

Several expeditions since then have failed to find any conclusive evidence of the existence of the Abominable Snowman. Footprints, however, continue to be found - with British explorer Mike Rees making the most recent discovery in 2013

"We got books on Everest and they all contained the stories about the Yeti, the closer we looked we just thought 'wow' our photo looks exactly the same as that footprint," he told

Christie's is offering what appears to be a collection of three photographs from the 1951 Shipton expedition. In a letter to a friend, Shipton described following the prints for "the better part of a mile." 

"We came across them on a high pass on the Nepal-Tibet watershed during the 1951 Everest expedition," he wrote. "They seemed to have come over a secondary pass at about 19,500 ft, down to 19,000 ft where we first saw them, and then went on down the glacier. We followed them for the better part of a mile. What it is, I don't know, but I am quite clear that it is no animal known to live in the Himalaya, & that it is big."

The online auction concludes September 10th. To place a bid, jump here

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

'Yeti footprint' photos from Everest expedition to be auctioned
Photos taken by British explorer Eric Shipton in 1951 sparked worldwide debate over the existence of the Abominable Snowman in the Himalayas.