Who are Sherpa

Who Are Sherpa?

Sherpa is an ethnic group of people from the north-eastern part of Nepal. Sherpa does not mean to carry something and doesn’t necessarily mean high altitude porter or worker. Sherpa is an ethnic group of people living in the mountains of Nepal whose primary occupation is to assist climbers to the summit of the mountains.

The word Sherpa originated from different words Shar ‘’east’’ and waa ‘’people’’. And together, Sherpa means ‘people from the east’ according to the ethnic Sherpa language. Contrary to popular belief, the Sherpa is a member of an ethnic group from Nepal’s mountainous region, the Himalayas – not a high-altitude porter or climber. They live in the mountains at elevations ranging from 3000m to 5000m, which makes them a super-human.

However, in the trekking and expedition industry, the term “Sherpa” is commonly used to describe high altitude guides and porters. They take great pride in their mountaineering and trekking heritage, just as another renowned people of Nepal, the Gurkhas, who take great pride in their warrior skills.

Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund HillaryTenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary

Religion and History

Beginning in the early 16th century, the ancestors of today’s Sherpas began migrating over the high passes into Nepal, most probably from the eastern Tibetan province. They settled in Nepal’s eastern region, including the Everest region and the mountain regions of Nepal.

Sherpa language is similar to Tibetan and is considered as a Tibeto-Burman language branch. They practice Nyingma-pa Buddhism (Oldest Buddhist sect). The monastery or gompa is an important aspect of Sherpa religion.

Facts and Statistics

According to the census 2018, the Sherpa population numbers nearly 520,000. The most of Sherpas work in tourism, trade, and agriculture. They mainly live in the mountain regions of Nepal. A majority of Sherpa have moved to the capital city, Kathmandu for the better life of their and their children.

A Sherpa will earn an average of USD 5000 for his two months of hard work on bigger trips, such as climbing and other 7000m-8000m mountains by establishing camps, and guiding people to the mountain.

Independent Trekking Guide in Nepal

Profession of Sherpa

Agriculture and trading were traditional Sherpa economic activities. Tourism brought them a new source of income after people visited the Himalayas. Today, the most of Sherpa people still work in tourism, leading travelers in the Himalaya. Sherpas are well-known for their high-altitude skills, as well as their warmth and friendliness, happy, relaxed attitude to life, and other character traits that continue to endear them to trekkers and adventurers.

Sherpas are considered as an elite mountaineer, serving as the guides at the extreme high altitude, particularly for high altitude expeditions. Sherpas serve as guides and porters, doing everything from setting up the base camp to establishing and transporting loads to higher camps.

The work of Sherpa starts from the base camp of a mountain carrying loads higher up the mountain, where no other means of transports are available. People from other ethnic group and yaks ferry the load till base camp from here onwards, it is the Sherpa’s work to ferry loads to higher camps, set up climbing ropes/routes and assist climbers to the summit of the mountains.

These days, many Sherpa guides work on a nationally and internationally, guiding people to the summits of peaks all over the world. Some Sherpa Mountain guides are even IFMGA/UIAGM certified.

Why Sherpa are considered Superhuman?

The climbing ability of Sherpa is the result of a genetic adaption to living in a high altitude. Sherpa people are well adapted to high altitudes because they live-in high-altitude regions of Nepal.

Recent studies and research have discovered that Sherpas have a genetic advantage in high altitude and can thus adapt to high altitude without extra acclimatization. The Himalayan Sherpa has evolved to master the ability to survive at high altitude.

As Sherpa, Mountains are more than just our profession. Climbing is our passion, adventure is our lifeline, and the Himalayas are our home. We exist to assist people learn from our experiences and to pass on our love for the mountains that inspire us every day.

“ I was born and raised in Nepal, nearby Everest region. I am proud to be a native Sherpa, and I have been a Mountain guide over a decade now. Following my passion, I decided to start helping travelers with their travel plans! I think life is a journey, a trip where you collect experiences when you share with other people and with nature. “

Trip Designer  


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