It was a fun little story about an months-long search for a possibly non-existent Easter Egg finally coming to a close, the fruits of which was an entirely real but still-fake Yeti hidden in the mountainous region of the co-op shooting game Ghost Recon Wildlands.
Seeing a Reddit thread on the topic and a video corroborating that thread, GameRevolution reported the Yeti's existence, crediting the first-find to a trio of Xbox One players by the gamer tags of A Wild Hunter, Dirt Gnasty and yokochan09.
While the story would normally end there, GameRevolution soon after received a message from a Redditor using the handle of Fus_Roh_Potato.
"I request you investigate who discovered the Wildlands Yeti," Fus_Roh_Potato wrote. "These other three guys have been parading around claiming credit for the discovery, and I think it's shameful."
What follows is a story of cryptic ciphers, sets of coordinates and opportunism, as we try to answer the deceptively complicated question: who found it first?
A Hotbed for Conspiracy
During the height of the Yeti craze, r/WildlandsYeti was set up to aid those who believed.
Before who found the Yeti first can be determined, it's important to go over how the Yeti was found in the first place. The Yeti in Ghost Recon Wildlands started out as a bit of a joke made more legitimate by an unexplained Easter Egg. Because there was a premium Outfit named "The Yeti Hunter," and because the landscape of Ghost Recon Wildlands, based on real-live Bolivia, contains a vast, snow-covered mountain range, conspiracy theorists put two and two together and came up with Yeti.
In addition, there were a series of eight small statues that were scattered throughout the game which, when picked up, would re-appear at a shrine in the mountains. When you found all eight of them … nothing happened, but this didn't stop the Yeti Hunters of the Wildlands community from crafting their foil hats and flying around digging in snowpiles.
It was at that time that r/WildlandsYeti was born, an honest-to-god, earnest and sincere subReddit dedicated to solving the mystery of if the Yeti exists and where it's hiding, using the tagline "It's out there somewhere!" This subReddit attracted a modest following of just around 400 users, but considering the average daily player count of Wildlands hovers around 6,000 players, this subReddit potentially represented almost 7% of Wildlands' daily player base.
Now that this safe haven was set up, the Yeti Hunters could do their searching away from the greater Wildlands population. Soon r/WildlandsYeti became a hotbed for conspiracy theories, but none of them bore any fruit, leading many to give up their search. That was until an accident by Ubisoft provided a spark of hope in a search blinded by whiteout.
Five Needles In a 100 Square Kilometer Haystack
The community was told to look for five clues that could be anywhere in Wildlands' vast landscapes.
Bringing a different name into this entirely, a Reddit user by the name of Garn_cz experienced a glitch after Wildlands developer Ubisoft attempted to update a series of community challenges for their second week of what they were calling "season one." But Garn_cz's community challenge screen was frozen at a screen that accidentally showed the community challenges for week six, four weeks in advance.
All of these challenges confirmed the existence of the Yeti, with one challenge asking players to "Find all hints of the Yeti's location," with a "0/5" number found above this challenge. This told players that they needed to find five pieces somewhere in the world of Ghost Recon Wildlands. But, all good things to those who wait, as week six wouldn't officially start for another month.
"In essence, this was the equivalent of finding five needles in a 10×10-kilometer haystack," Dirt Gnasty, whose real name is Cale Bryceson, said in an email to Game Revolution.
The first and most important clue was finding a dead hiker, as Dirt Gnasty explained in this Reddit post. On the dead hiker's body was a partially buried circle cipher, a common way to form a code by substituting letters for numbers or other symbols. In the game, you can't pick up the cipher, so you have to complete it yourself. Doing so reveals something like this:
This circle cipher was the primary means of locating the coordinates of the Yeti.
So, when the community discovered four pieces of strange writing, some in places as eerie as a mountain cave with scores of mutilated bodies inside, they could decode that writing by finding the corresponding number for each letter. One of these was even presented in Morse Code via the radio of a downed airplane. Decoding these four pieces revealed four separate coordinates.
Pics Or It Didn't Happen
But going to any one of these coordinate points revealed nothing. No further ciphers nor clues about what the Yeti is or where he might be. At that point, it seemed the only one to have the answers was Fus_Roh_Potato, who posted a thread on r/WildlandsYeti claiming he had found the Yeti, but without immediately providing verification or even an approximate location.
"You can see [A Wild Hunter, Dirt Gnasty and yokochan09] asking me how to find what I had already found," Fus_Roh_Potato said to GameRevolution of his original thread.
In the thread he linked GameRevolution, Fus_Roh_Potato is asked by the trio initially credited for the find "what four points did you use?" "How exactly does that solve anything with four xy coordinates?" with yokochan09 claiming, in all caps "UNTIL SOMEONE ELSE CAN VERIFY THIS!!!! I DECLARE IT AS A HOAX!!!!"
Dirt Gnasty posted a photo with his claim of finding the Yeti, something Fus_Roh_Potato didn't initially do.
All of this seemed to point to Fus_Roh_Potato being right about being the first to find the Yeti, and not A Wild Hunter, Dirt Gnasty and yokochan09. But that didn't stop the trio of Yeti hunters from posting, about two hours after Fus_Roh_Potato's original post, a new thread claiming that they had discovered the Yeti, posting coordinates as well as pictures of the three of them surrounding the Yeti's dead body. This post included the line "Found by GT: Dirt Gnasty, GT: A Wild Hunter, GT: yokochan09 on Xbox."
"[We] were the first to confirm and prove the existence and location of El Yeti," Dirt Gnasty told GameRevolution. While they did credit Fus_Ruh_Potato for the "first kill" of the Yeti, they seem to do so with an air of skepticism. "He seemed to be miffed when we posted our guide and our screenshots, of which he provided none even when asked by multiple other Reddit users."
The only problem with their "pics or it didn't happen" argument, though, is that Fus_Roh_Potato did provide a picture, at about 3:00 a.m. Pacific Time, about a half an hour after originally posting the thread, but still before the trio. Is this case closed? Not quite.
Fus_Roh_Potato did post a delayed photo, before the others, but that doesn't mean everything …
Dirt Gnasty had an apparent explanation for the timing of their post and their group asking Fus_Roh_Potato for advice, an explanation that may render any posted evidence worthless. After gathering the four coordinates from other sources, they attempted to get find the middle by "finding the center of mass of a four-sided polygon."
"It turns out that we were overcomplicating things," Dirt Gnasty told GameRevolution. Dirt Gnasty said he taped a piece of paper over his monitor and traced the four coordinates together which revealed a very specific intersection. "It was at this time that Fus_Roh_Potato appeared on Reddit and my friend asked him what method he had used."
So, in Dirt Gnasty's version of events, they had already found the X by the time Fus_Roh_Potato claimed to find the Yeti on Reddit, meaning they would have located and killed the Yeti around the same time as Fus_Roh_Potato.
Opportunists Seeking Glory
Even if Fus_Roh_Potato didn't truly find it first, he seems to be making a legitimate claim. Broken down to its simplest elements, it goes like this: If person A tells person B where to find something, and person B goes and finds it, person A should get credit for finding it. Fus_Roh_Potato sees himself has person A and claims that A Wild Hunter, Dirt Gnasty and yokochan09 are person B, needing him to tell them the location of the mythical Yeti.
But, if we're to go back even further, both of these groups might be person B, who all needed the r/WildlandsYeti community to tell them where the Yeti was. Essentially, all either of these groups did was trace a line between two sets of coordinates and reveal a fifth coordinate at an intersection. In the grand scheme of finding the Yeti, that seems like the easiest task.
Furthermore, it doesn't seem like either party here was an active participant from the beginning. In Dirt Gnasty's post explaining how they found it, he admits to first hearing about the Yeti after Title Update 4.0, which came out just two days before they claimed to be the first ones to find the Yeti. As for Fus_Ruh_Potato, his post claiming to be the first person to kill the Yeti was only his second post in r/WildlandsYeti.
Before asking which one deserves first-find credit, we should have asked if either of the do.
Even while clamoring for credit, both parties seem to acknowledge their limited roles in the discovery. Fus_Roh_Potato posted "I only deserve credit for working out the last piece of the puzzle and getting the first kill. I wouldn't try to claim credit beyond that. I had no part in discovering the cipher nor the other coordinate notes. In my opinion, those discoveries were much more significant."
Similarly, Dirt Gnasty told GameRevolution "Without the community that had been searching for El Yeti for going on three months, what we (and I'm sure Fus_Roh_Potato for that matter) did in about 8 hours would not have been possible. My guess is it took hundreds of people and who knows how many hours to find all of the necessary clues so that we could put them together."
It seems both of these groups seized the opportunity to achieve the glory of finding the Yeti when it was essentially already found for them by the Wildlands community of Yeti Hunters. If someone found the location of a Yeti in real life, a mad dash for fame would surely ensue in a similar way. Surely once more, the person mounting the Yeti's head on their wall would claim victory, while the person or people who revealed its location would be forgotten to history.
So Who Really Located It?
As for person or people who first discovered the cipher, then used that cipher to decode the four clues into coordinates, we'll need to look at the videos posted by YouTuber Carbon Meister. While not the originator behind these discoveries, he's been following the Yeti hunt seemingly from the beginning, posting videos whenever someone makes a new discovery.
When the Cipher was discovered, Carbon Meister posted a video crediting the discover to a Redditor by the handle MSiCptn. This Reddit thread indeed shows the location of the murdered hiker with the cipher half buried next to him. Furthermore, it seems to be the first or at least the first successful Reddit post confirming the existence of this cipher. After that, a Redditor by the name of hembrio posted the actual solution to the cipher, fully laid out. Again, this is either the first or the first successful such post.
In turn, one of Carbon Meister's subscribers pointed him to a new campsite that had encrypted coordinates on a clipboard. Then, a YouTuber named Kelnor told Carbon Meister about another set of encrypted coordinates written in blood on the walls in a Yeti Cave. Then a Redditor named xDaigon stumbled across a downed plane spewing out the coordinates in Morse Code. Following that, a Redditor named shumarkarknein successfully translated the Morse Code and posted the resulting coordinates on r/WildlandsYeti. Shortly after that, the last set of coordinates were found by user on the official Wildlands forums. This user, by the name of jsocfrog found a body of a mountain climber on the side of a cliff.
Then, take your pick between Fuh_Roh_Potato or the trio of A Wild Hunter, Dirt Gnasty and yokochan09 for who put those four pieces together, but as they both acknowledge, it was probably the least meaningful step.