Oct. 21, 2008: A footprint was found in the snow on the Mount Dhaulagiri in northern Nepal by a group of Japanese mountaineers during a 2008 expedition. They claimed it was of the legendary Yeti -- and said it could prove the long-rumored existence of a giant ape living in the Himalayan peaks.

An international team of scientists has gathered to search for one of the world's most elusive creatures: the Yeti.

The legendary creature has long been rumoured to inhabit the icy environs of the Himalayas and Siberia, roaming unchallenged and apparently undiscovered for over a century.

This week, however, a team of scientists comprising the largest expedition force gathered since 1958 will set out to conclusively determine the Yeti's existence.

Researchers from several countries, including Russia and the U.S., have agreed to share secret documents dating back to the Cold War in an effort to prove the humanoid beasts exist.

The conference has been arranged in light of an increase in alleged Yeti sightings in the Russian regions of Kemerovo and neighbouring Altai - almost 2,000 miles east of Moscow.

Current Yeti sightings are up three years on records gathered 20 years ago, leading local scientists to suggest there is a current population of "at least several dozen in the area."

One of the recent sightings was reported by 82-year-old Raisa Sudochakova, who told the Daily Mail her dogs howled in fear and ran from a beast that resembled a Yeti.

"It was still a tall creature, but not giant. It was covered with long brown-grey hair, like a bear. But it wasn't a bear - I have lived all my life in Siberia and wouldn't make that mistake. This creature walked like a human, or almost like a human."

The team of scientists will this week gather at the International Centre of Hominology in Tashtagol, to share their findings.

Igor Burtsev, the centre's director, told the Daily Mail he believes there around 30 Yetis currently living in the Kuzbass coal mining area of Kemerovo, with many more likely to be found across the region.

"When Homo sapiens started populating the world, it viciously exterminated its closest relative in the hominid family, Homo Neanderthalensis.

"Some of the Neanderthals, however, may have survived to this day in some mountainous wooded habitats that are more or less off limits to their arch foes."