The-lma, The Enigma of The Mini Yeti

October 17, 2023


It is a truth well known to those who study the phenomenon of wild man in the Himalayas: the term yeti actually designates three creatures.

  1. A large, shaggy, livestock-eating beast known as a dzu-teh , seen at altitudes of around 4500m-15,000ft and believed to be a bear.
  2. The mih-teh , ape-like, wild man-eating, black or red, with conical top of skull and upside-down feet, found at altitudes above 5000m-16,000 feet.
  3. the-lma , a small red creature found in dense forests below the snow line whose name (tuh-helma) means “little thing”. The mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary defines it this way on page 53 of his book High in the thin cold air  : A sad-faced beast, the size of a dwarf, red, gray or black in color, found in the dense forests below from 3000m-10,000 feet. A tree-climbing biped that looks like an ape and probably is one. It hoots and often moves in large colonies. Seeing a thelma brings bad luck .

The mythical yeti is of course the great mi-teh, or mi-go, which is at the heart of local legends, the subject of countless works, testimonies, works of fiction, the subject of expeditions and debates. scientists. He is the Abominable Snowman, a term that was not given to him by chance.

In 1921, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Howard-Bury led a reconnaissance expedition to Mount Everest, and found many strange tracks at high altitudes in the snow that he assumed were caused by a large wolf with an unusual gait. His Sherpa guides immediately recognized traces of a “filthy” wild snowman, a metch kangmi , a term which would be transformed into an abominable snowman (AHN).


What about the dwarf variant of the yeti?

What are the elements that lead to taking it seriously? Finally, does the the-lma, this mini Himalayan yeti, have an existence of its own, apart from that of its famous alter ego? What is its history, its credibility?

The-lma made a notable entry into cryptozoological nomenclature in 1961, through the description made by the pioneer of cryptozoology Yvan T. Sanderson in his book on wild men whose French title is Hommes sauvage, hommes des bois , Plon editions 1961; the original title being: Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life: The Story Of Sub-Humans On Five Continents From The Early Ice Age Until Today :

The pygmy type is only 1m20 to 1m50 tall; it inhabits lower and warmer valleys, and it feeds on frogs and insects while being on the whole omnivorous; the natives call it Teh-lma. It is covered in very thick red fur with a small mane and it leaves small footprints 12cm5 long. […] The small teh-lmas alone pose a delicate problem. They are the least known, and almost everyone has neglected them. In fact it was not until 1957 that the most determined ABHN hunters themselves recognized their existence and there is only one man who really did anything about them: WM Russell as his countless friends from all over the world call Gerald. And yet, teh-lma is probably the most common ABHN of all, because it is extremely widespread; he is certainly “the yeti most likely to succeed” provided that someone wants to do something about him .


For the American zoologist, Thelma therefore has a greater “chance” than its big cousin of being discovered, because it is more widespread. What allowed Yvan T. Sanderson to make these statements, Who is Alfred Russell, how is he associated with the thelma?

To know this we have to go back to Yvan Terence Sanderson’s initial interest in wild men.

Yvan T. Sanderson (1911-1973)

The future cryptozoologist studied at the best British establishments: Eton High School, and the biology department of Cambridge University, where he obtained a degree in zoology. It was at this time that a classmate made him aware of the mystery of wild men. The zoologist immediately wanted to put together an enormous file containing all the reports on wild men that he could find, coming from the four corners of the world. His opinion was made up, these creatures were real, and they still remained to be discovered.

For some, it is likely that the classmate who sparked his initial interest was Walter M. “Gerald” Russell. American, from an illustrious family, notably his grandmother Aimée Crooke r, and his great-grandfather who was one of the richest men in the USA. Gerald Russell studied literature at Cambridge. But he devoted his life as a wealthy heir to zoology, becoming a recognized expert in the identification of animal prints, his passion remaining above all oriented towards mythical species not recognized by science.


In 1932, Sanderson and Russell set out on the trail of mokélé m’bembé . During the expedition, they would have observed with their eyes, not only the mokélé’m’bembé, but also the Olitiau , an aggressive giant bat, close to another legendary flying creature, the kongamato , described as prehistoric in appearance. Sanderson and Russell agreed that the flying creature observed was a bat, not a dinosaur. As for the m’bembé mokélé, Russell refused to confirm Sanderson’s observation.

Throughout the 1950s, a yeti fever developed throughout the world, a consequence in particular of the stories and photographs brought back by Western mountaineers who tackled the highest peaks in the world.

In 1954, the British newspaper the Daily Mail organized a large-scale research expedition. Gerald Russell was named one of the leaders of the expedition, after becoming famous as a naturalist and animal collector. In 1937 he achieved the feat of capturing the first specimen of panda outside of China in Tibet. We can learn more about Russell’s family and his journey in this excellent article . After the global conflict, Russell traveled to China in search of the elusive golden takin, a goat antelope whose coat is said to have inspired the legend of the Golden Fleece. Russell was forced to abandon his quest due to the civil war between Chinese Communist and Nationalist forces.

The stated goal of the Daily Mail expedition was to capture the smallest of the many types of Yetis believed to inhabit the Himalayas. For practical reasons that can easily be understood, the idea of ​​capturing a living specimen of a “large” yeti and transferring it to London was not considered. The expedition, from the start, relied on the-lmas, these so-called mini yetis of reddish color the size of a child which would walk on two legs, would have long arms and which one could come across in the forests of the Sikkim and Nepal.


The 1954 expedition displayed nothing less than the ambition to capture a male and a female the-lma. all this in order to verify if this creature was a “missing link”. Already at the time the concept of the missing link was obsolete, the scientific relevance of the expedition raised questions. It was in fact a real hunt for the clock, although the enthusiasm and personal ethics of the scientists involved cannot be doubted. The mere discovery of such a species is in itself a most legitimate scientific goal, but the expedition financed by the tabloid aimed above all to reap the media and therefore financial benefits from the world scoop of the capture of a pair of yeti. This race for sensationalism is found, for example, in the highlighting of the potential capture of a wild woman with an opulent breast, which would certainly attract additional readers.

Gerald Russell in the middle of the team assembled by the Daily Mail

The expedition even had its flag! I haven’t been able to find it, but we know that it was azure blue, had two footprints in the center, surrounding the figure of Snow Baby , a comic strip character invented by Desmond Goig of the Calcutta Statesman newspaper.

No need to prolong the suspense. Absolutely nothing spectacular will come of the Daily Mail dispatch. A failure certainly because no wild man (dwarf) from the Himalayas was trapped. But the team collected more than a hundred species of plants and seeds, and took numerous photos of the various little-known animals and birds of eastern Nepal, at the world’s highest treeline. Also a lot of data on the lifestyle, agriculture and economy of the Sherpas. The expedition’s passage also enabled the eradication of a smallpox epidemic in the village of Namche Bazaar.

For Gerald Russell, it was indeed a missed opportunity because according to him this expedition was too massive, too noisy, it scared away the potential yetis who were nearby. Next time, if there is one, he will do things differently, he promises himself.

Tom Slick, 1916-1962

At that time, the American Tom Slick, scion of a rich oil family, after traveling to India, began planning a Yeti hunt using helicopters and dogs. Life magazine promised him $25,000 for the first photograph of a yeti. Slick was a strong personality, Texan, rancher, millionaire, co-founder of Slick Airways, friend of Howard Hughes, international playboy, peace advocate and scientific patron. He funded the creation of the Southwest Research Institute , which at the time of its creation was the second largest research center in the United States. Tom Slick really supported scientific research, but he thought science was too cautious, complex, and should also remain an adventure.

In 1955, he met Peter Byrne, a big game hunter of Irish origin, who was also preparing an expedition to search for the Abominable Snowman (ABHN). He had seen tracks in 1948 and now wanted to see the creature for himself.


From 1956, the duo organized regular expeditions to the Himalayas, and guess who joined them? Gerald Russell, shortly after sending the Daily Mail, luck smiled on him, and he was not going to pass up the opportunity to get his hands on a the-lma.

Russell knows where the creature lives, in the humid mountain valleys of Nepal and Sikkim. He knows that she is no more than a meter (3 or 4 feet) tall, with hunched shoulders, a tilted and sharply pointed head, completely covered in thick reddish gray hair. He heard that the-lma survived on a diet of frogs and other small animals.

Gerald Russell 1911-1979

Let us now return to the story of Yvan T. Sanderson:

“ Gerald Russell was the first to see that it was a type or species entirely apart, and it was he who, thanks to his long experiences in the field of animal capture, decided to concentrate all its efforts on this being in the lowest forests. I give you the results of his research, as recorded by Peter Byrne, deputy leader of the 1957 Slick-Johnson expedition, launched in search of ABHN in Nepal:

“  It was a Sherpa peasant who saw it for the first time; he hunted edible frogs by a river at night, lit by a torch hanging from a bamboo pole. Arriving 300 meters upstream from Gerald’s cache, the man saw a wet footprint on a rock. Lowering his torch to examine it, he saw a Snowman crouching on a rock, on the other side of the stream, 20 meters away. The Sherpa was terrified because the stories of yeti in these mountain villages abound in detail about the vigor of this creature and its habit of killing and mutilating men. He let out a cry of terror. The beast slowly stood up on its two legs and moved heavily and unhurriedly upstream.

    The next day, Da Tempa, the personal Sherpa guide of Gerald, a seasoned Himalayan hunter from Darjeeling, left at midnight with the villager. Gerald said the peasant was showing good sportsmanship by setting out again, but he noticed the man trembling in terror and staying behind Da Tempa as he left the camp. After more than an hour of searching along the banks of the Choyang, Da Tempa and his companion were returning to Russel’s camp when the Sherpa saw something moving on the path in front of him. He thought it was the leaves of a shrub that were waving, but he shone his flashlight in that direction.

     Less than ten meters away, stood a small monkey-like creature, the Snowman! The Snowman moved deliberately towards the light. Da Tempa turned around and ran away. The next morning, Gerald found four very distinct footprints in the sand of the trail and photographed them. He questioned the villager and was thus able to clarify a certain number of details about our elusive prey.

    This creature is approximately 1m35 tall; set into the shoulders, the head is very pointed and the forehead extremely receding. It is covered with abundant reddish gray hair. The footprints are approximately 10 centimeters long. We showed the villagers our engravings representing a bear, an orangutan, a chimpanzee, a gorilla and a prehistoric man. Without hesitation, he pointed to the gorilla, saying that the creature he had seen most resembled him, but he insisted that the head was more pointed. »

This is the only episode, during the multiple yeti search expeditions in the Himalayas, which directly concerns the-lma. Neither Sanderson, nor Russell, nor any member of the expedition sighted the creature. I found no trace of the photographs or casts of the prints taken by Russell in the early morning of the observation. Only this Sherpa peasant whose name we do not know, and Da Munta, the Sherpa employed by Russell, saw the creature.

The Slick/Johnson Expedition 1958


This story is striking with its many gray areas, no pun intended.

The initial sighting of the Sherpa farmer occurred 300m from Russel’s camp, it is a disturbing coincidence, and it is curious that at that time Russell noticed nothing. Then, knowing that this first observation took place at night, why was Russell not present in the following nocturnal expedition? According to him he was resting to replace them in the early morning. This is not very wise but an error of judgment is always possible. During the second observation, why didn’t the two sherpas notify Russell immediately, why did they wait until the next morning? This made any possibility of capture, or at least observation impossible. It seems that after their meeting with a the-lma, the two men preferred to spend the rest of the night in a fairly distant village, rather than going to the nearby camp, where Russell was waiting for them, for what reason? Where are the images and photos of the-lma’s footprints that Russell is supposed to have noted?

Nothing fundamentally invalidates the story, but there remains what may seem like inconsistencies and a legitimate questioning about the proper existence of a variety of mini yetis.


  Peter Byrne: “As we went up the Choyang Valley to find Gerald, Bryan and I, we wondered what this description of the Snowman could possibly correspond to. Was the creature Da Tempa saw the smaller variety of Snowman called Meti  ? Or was it a cub of the giant Yeti which, according to the descriptions we were given, was over 2m40 (8 feet) high? The footprints were undoubtedly smaller than those of 25 cm (10 inches) left by the animal which had twice visited our camp at night in the Barun valley. The footprints that our expedition had photographed the previous year measured 32cm5 (12.5 inches).

Convinced that they too could come face to face with a the-lma, the members of the expedition believed in their luck and continued their search, even after Gerald Russell’s departure.

Despite the disappointment, Slick told the hunters to stay in the field as long as possible. The Byrnes remained on the Choyang River. A few weeks later, they found traces.

Peter Byrne “The frogs put us on the trail of the Abominable Snowman, and now we’re using them to lure our elusive prey.

(…) Now we have attached live frogs to a thin nylon line, to attract it. We built a bamboo “machan”, that is to say a hunter’s cache, in a tree from the top of which we overlook the part of the river where the frogs are located; we have a second cache of rocks along the bank a little further down.

From these observatories, my brother Bryan and I watch all night. We adopted this tactic after discovering during a reconnaissance where the Snowman had turned over huge sections of rock along the river to find his food. Some were so big that it took two of us to stir them. And we found two footprints on the river sand; they led to a flat rock on which we have the remains of a half-eaten frog. The toe marks were very visible on the sand, the 10 centimeter long footprints were smaller than those we had photographed a few weeks earlier in the Barun Valley. But we were hampered by bad weather, moonless nights, merciless rain.”

Peter Byrne spent the next night “huddled in the hollow of a large rock”, watching. “The rain was cold and persistent and the roar of the waterfall drowned out all sounds. The moonlight only came through the rain clouds in fits and starts. »

In addition to the weather conditions, Peter Byrne said the sheep and goats had erased the Yeti’s tracks and scared away the mini Yetis.

Like others before them, Slick’s hunters had not caught the yeti, but they were satisfied with their results. Based on what he had seen and what locals had told him, Russell guessed that up to four thousand mini Yetis inhabited the Himalayas.


What remains of these expeditions led by Slick and Byrne? Essentially the discovery of the remains of Pangboché, which caused a sensation, then led to disappointment, which ultimately marked the end of the yeti fever which resonated in the 1950s;

In his reference biography of Tom Slick, Loren Coleman suggests that Slick and Byrne also worked for the CIA, so the discovery and capture of the yeti was not the sole purpose of these repeated expeditions into the Himalayas.

Was the mini-yeti an intellectual construction intended to give credibility to yeti research? A pure and simple invention, a marketing argument?

It is a real possibility, from the moment Russell stops his research, we will never hear about the-lma again. Forgotten from the cryptozoological nomenclature, absent from the multiple stories and testimonies subsequently coming from the Himalayas. Already at the time Sir Edmund Hillary suggested that it was a simple Gibbon ape.

But there is another hypothesis: could it be that the existence of the-lma was simply eclipsed by the overwhelming fame of its big cousin? What if, apart from Russell, no one had measured the importance of this separate species, with characteristics different from the mi-go?

At the very least it is legitimate to ask the question.

And when it comes to yeti, when looking for answers, we always come back to footprints, the only concrete element that can be studied.

The “classic” yeti prints, those of Shipton, those described by Slick a little above, those photographed by CR Crooke, the one cast recently by Josh Gates, all measure at least thirty centimeters, approximately 7 inches, that’s to say paroximately the European size 46, the American size 13.


Unless I’m mistaken, there is no scientific law correlating foot length with the height of an individual, although it is logical to assume that foot length corresponds to the body mass of an organism.

In this area, arts and technology can help us. Leonardo Da Vinci studied the ideal proportions of man, he wrote a treatise on them, and for him the formula is this:

Size = Foot Length x 7

By incorporating a substantial margin of error (for an unknown primate whose lifestyle consists of moving barefoot in the mountains in all weathers), we obtain a height of more than 2 meters (7 feet) for a classic yeti.

The-lma is supposed to measure between 1m and 1m50, (less than 5 feet) which according to Da Vinci’s formula brings us to a foot length of between 15 and 20 cm (7 inches) which seems more coherent than the ten cm often mentioned by Sanderson.

What are the footprints attributed to the yeti observed whose length is between 15 and 20cm, apart from those described by Russel and his traveling companions. ? It is difficult to know because the precise dimensions are often not indicated.

But there are these, announced by someone who cannot be suspected of being influenced by Russell.

Greek explorer AN Tombazi was camped near the Zemu Gap in 1925. His porters took him out of his tent to see what they were certain was a yeti. He recorded the incident in his book, An account of a Photographic Ex pedition to the Southern Slopes of Kianchenjunga : “Intense glare prevented me from seeing anything for the first few seconds; but I quickly spotted the object in question, two or three hundred meters away. Undoubtedly, the figure in the outline stood up straight, and sometimes bent down to uproot some dwarf rhododendrons. It was a dark spot in the snow, he wore no clothes. Within a minute it had moved into thick brush and disappeared. I examined the prints, which were the same shape as those of a man, but only six or seven inches long (17 cm). The five toe and instep marks were clear, but the heel mark did not appear. The prints were undoubtedly those of a biped. I understand that no man has gone in this direction since the beginning of the year. The coolies naturally peddled fantastic legends of demons and snowmen. Without believing in the least in these delicious fairy tales, despite the plausible threads told by the natives, I am unable to express anything.

Another observation, more recent, deserves attention, that recorded by the geographer Arkady Tishkov in 1991. His observation concerns a being less than 1.50 meters tall (around 4 feet). The reconstruction deduced by cryptozoologist Michael Trachtengerts offers us the image of a creature which bears a disturbing resemblance to the description of the lma reported by Gerald Russell.

One last element to investigate the case of the mini yeti. Everyone has heard at least once of a primate that became extinct not so long ago (100,000 years ago) : Gigantopithecus blacki . Sometimes nicknamed the king of the monkeys, it was a giant primate, which some consider to be a possible candidate to explain the presence of the yeti in the Himalayas.

But he was not alone. Another kind of primate inhabited the Himalayas a long time ago. And if from the height of its 3 meters (9.5 feet) Gigantopithecus blacki could be at the origin of the belief in a “large” yeti . Indopithecus Giganteu s (also called Gigantopithecus Giganteus ), peaking at “only” 1.50m could be a good candidate for the-lma if it survived beyond -8 million years ago, the approximate date of its disappearance . (The two species never crossed paths, 3 million years separated them),

It should still be noted that neither of these two primates presented a lifestyle corresponding to that attributed to the yeti. G. Blacki , who was the last specimen of this lineage, was supposed to live in the tropical forests of the south of the continent, and he never encountered Indopithecus which was older and which populated the grassy plains of northern India and the Pakistan.

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