Los Sherpas: Una vida en el Everest


The Sherpas: A Life on Everest

Have you ever imagined someone carrying your bags in hand while you are traveling, or carrying your backpack on an excursion? If the answer is no, you will be surprised to learn that this practice is common among climbers who come to ascend Everest.

Here we will tell you all about the Sherpas, a Nepali people dedicated for many decades to guiding climbers to the top of the world while carrying their luggage on their backs.


The Sherpas are a Nepali ethnic group living in the foothills of Nepal. They are known worldwide because since commercial expeditions to Everest began, they have been in charge of accompanying and helping foreign mountaineers load their luggage and guide them along the path that leads to the highest peak on the planet: the top of Everest.

The Sherpas settled in Nepal half a century ago, originally living in Tibet. After so many generations that have been born and raised on the slopes of Everest, they know the terrain and their bodies have adapted to the climatic conditions of the environment.

The natural and almost disinterested fact that this group accompanied explorers and climbers to Everest in the first half of the 20th century has become over the years a tourist and economic environment with considerable characteristics. Currently there are companies completely dedicated to selling the experience of reaching the top of Everest with the greatest facilities. Interested hikers pay between 25 and 30 thousand euros to finance this experience, which consists of hiring a Sherpa to open the path for them, place the climbing ropes and transport the material; tents, backpacks, oxygen pumps, food... The Sherpas have an average salary of about 3600 of the total paid by hikers.

The salary of these professionals far exceeds the average salary of the country's inhabitants, but it also implies a fairly high exposure to the uncertainty and risks of the mountains. There are Sherpas who have climbed Everest more than twenty times.

The passage of time settled in this territory has played in favor of the Sherpas, which has allowed them to learn to use the oxygen they receive more efficiently than people who do not live in this type of terrain, so they It does not take so much effort for them to climb mountain peaks or very high places where the amount of oxygen in the environment is limited and which require a specific physical capacity.


Los Sherpas: Una vida en el Everest

When the fever for expeditions to Everest began, the job of a Sherpa was synonymous with that of porter; that is, to carry the hikers' luggage and make way for them on their way to the top. Over time it was discovered that the Sherpas had such a high physical capacity and knowledge of the terrain that they could perfectly be mountain guides, leaders of explorations and could create themselves the agencies that foreign hikers would need to ascend to the top instead of to hire international multinationals.

Today many Sherpas have official and international titles that accredit them as mountain guides, climbers and entrepreneurs and they are the ones who hire western guides to help them attract international tourism.

The trade of porters continues to exist, they work in the Sherpa agencies or in international agencies carrying out the traditional task of the Sherpas.


Although it is true that mountaineers can train and manage to adapt their bodies to the lack of oxygen, the Sherpas have less thick blood in their system that presents lower levels of hemoglobin. It is curious that they have a lower capacity to retain oxygen, but this is compensated because in this way the blood circulates more easily, causing less pressure on the heart.

Although, as we have previously mentioned, the oxygen retention capacity is lower, its ability to take advantage of it is much greater. Glucose consumption is maximized and fat consumption is improved. In this way, Sherpas generate 30% more energy than mountaineers


Los Sherpas: Una vida en el Everest

Today the Sherpas rank as one of the wealthiest peoples in Nepal thanks to the salaries they receive as guides and the promotions they have experienced in their professional careers. However, Sherpas have traditionally been exposed to very high risks and under-resourced porters continue to face low salaries and sometimes lack decent health insurance.

Studies reveal that 40% of the deaths on Everest during the last century have been caused by Sherpas who were carrying the heavy loads of the mountaineers who had hired them. There are 100 deaths that have accumulated since the business of climbing Everest began and the Sherpas have already spoken on occasions to request improvements in their salaries or better working conditions.

The accidents suffered by these guides are usually due to falls into cracks, suffocation or crushing caused by avalanches or the so-called "altitude sickness", which consists of the collapse of the body and organism due to prolonged absence of oxygen and extreme temperature. Sherpa disappearances during expeditions are also common.

There have been numerous expeditions that have been canceled as a means of protest after the misfortunes on Everest, and the future of the others has been put in serious doubt because many Sherpas have decided not to continue in the trade.

There is a serious problem regarding the visibility of this situation, since it is hardly visible and the deaths tend to be overlooked, but many of the foreign hikers who go to Everest every year and have the opportunity to speak With a family or group of Sherpa friends, they return home knowing the human cost of the contemporary fever of reaching the summit of Everest.


Tenzing Norgay
  • Tenzing Norgay

Norgay was born in Tibet and before becoming a Sherpa he worked as a porter.

Tenzing Norgay is known as the first great Sherpa. Together with Edmund Hillary, he reached the first ascent of Everest in history. This event was of such characteristics that the Queen of England awarded the Sherpa the George Medal, and the King of Nepal awarded him the Order of the Star of Nepal. Also, there is a peak in Tibet named after him.

  • Apa Sherpa

Apa Sherpa was born in the Khumbu valley and originally his name was Lhakpa, but after surviving a brutal avalanche when he was little with his mother, they decided to change his name to Apa, which means “Loved By All ” or “Loved by all”.

Apa Sherpa

Apa has summited Everest 21 times, and his story of overcoming himself and his great ability and physical prowess have crossed borders and reached the big screen. In 2018, a small independent documentary was released that recounts the life of this Sherpa who, today, has his own foundation whose objective is to help his people.

  • Kami Rita Sherpa

She comes from the village of Thame and at the age of 51 is still practicing mountaineering and continues her profession as a mountain guide. Having reached the top of the world 25 times has made him one of the most famous Sherpas in the world. His first ascent of Everest was made when he was 24 years old, when his obsession, above all else, was to reach the peak of the mountain.

Kami Rita

His passion for mountaineering has led him to make 34 eight-thousander ascents, among which we highlight K2 and Manaslu Peak. He currently works and collaborates with the Seven Summit Treks company and allocates part of his earnings to improve the living conditions of his hometown.

  • Lhakpa Sherpa

Lhakpa Sherpa is 47 years old and was born in Makalu. She is currently listed as the first Nepali woman in history to have climbed to the top of Everest. Its purpose is to elevate the role of women and be an example of improvement for other women.

she has climbed Everest 9 times, which makes her the only woman who has done it the most times in history. She made her first ascent in the year 2000, eight months after giving birth and being two months pregnant with her second child.


We hope that, if you didn't know the Sherpa people yet, now you have a clearer idea of ​​what is behind the expeditions to Everest and you know that there are many peoples, cultures and trades that we are completely unaware of. If, on the contrary, you already knew of its existence, we trust that this article has helped you discover something new.