Sherpas, the people of Mount Everest
Sherpa Everest

There are a great number of Sherpas that are generally regarded as being among the best mountaineers and experts in their region. They served as guides at the great heights of the peaks and passes in the Himalayan region, which was something that early explorers of the region found to be extremely useful. This was especially true for groups who were attempting to ascend Mount Everest. At the present time, the word is frequently used by individuals from other countries to refer to virtually any climbing supporter or guide who is hired for mountaineering trips in the Himalayas, regardless of the nationality of the individual. It is because of this usage that the term has evolved into a slang byword that can be used in different contexts to refer to a guide or mentor. In the world of mountaineering and climbing, Sherpas are recognized for their tenacity, expertise, and experience at extremely high elevations. They are also known for their expertise. It has been hypothesized that the Sherpas’ climbing skill is a result of a genetic adaption to living in high altitudes. This hypothesis has been supported by certain evidence. One of these adaptations is a unique propensity to bind hemoglobin, and another is an increase in nitric oxide production by a factor of two.

Within the Tibetan ethnic category, the Sherpas are indigenous to the Himalayan parts of Nepal and the Tibetan Autonomous Region. They are one of the Tibetan ethnic groups.

The Sherpa people, known for their expertise in mountaineering, are an ethnic group indigenous to the Himalayan region of Nepal. Their rich cultural heritage is deeply intertwined with Tibetan Buddhism, which they have practiced for centuries. Thame Gompa, among numerous other monasteries, serves as a spiritual center for the Sherpa community, where they follow the Nyingma school of Buddhism, emphasizing mysticism and incorporating local deities. Sherpas hold deep reverence for sacred mountains like Everest (Chomolungma) and Makalu (Shankar), considering them as embodiments of divine beings. Their religious practices include rituals performed before climbing mountains, seeking permission from the spirits inhabiting these sacred lands. However, the traditional way of life for Sherpas is increasingly challenged by tourism and environmental issues in places like Sagarmatha National Park, where Mt. Everest is located. Despite these challenges, Sherpas continue to excel in mountaineering, with notable figures like Tenzing Norgay, Apa Sherpa, and Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa achieving remarkable feats in climbing. Additionally, Sherpas contribute to various fields, including sports, politics, and culture, showcasing their resilience and versatility beyond the realm of mountaineering.

What does the name Sherpa mean?

Sherpa and sherwa are both derived from the Tibetan language words shar, which means “east,” and pa, which means “people.” These phrases refer to the geographical origin of the sherpas, which is in the eastern part of Tibet.

There are some Sherpas who live further to the west in the Bigu and in the Helambu region, which is located north of Kathmandu, Nepal. However, the majority of Sherpas reside in the eastern sections of Nepal, specifically in the Solukhumba, Khatra, Kama, Rolwaling, Barun, and Pharak valleys. Sherpas are known to create gompas, which are places where they carry out their religious rituals. A celibate monastery, Tengboche was the first of its kind in the Solu-Khumbu region. In addition, Sherpa people can be found in Tingri County, Bhutan, as well as in the Indian states of Sikkim and the northern part of West Bengal, more notably in the district of Darjeeling. Sherpa is a language that is a member of the south branch of the Tibeto-Burman language family. It is similar to Khamba, which is a dialect spoken in Eastern Tibet and central Tibetan dialects. It is important to note that this language is distinct from Lhasa Tibetan and cannot be understood by people who speak Lhasa.

Over the past few years, there has been a substantial rise in the number of Sherpas who have relocated to destinations in Western countries, particularly the United States. With a population of around 16,000 people, New York City is home to the largest Sherpa community in the United States. In 2011, the census of Nepal found that there were 512,946 Sherpas living inside its borders. Mountaineering is a popular means of subsistence for the Sherpa people, who are noted for their superior talents in the sport.

Sherpa girlIn Nepal, the Everest Region is a destination that is on the bucket list of every trekker, and for the rest of them, it is a place of reverie. Given that Everest is the tallest peak in the world, it is only natural that the river of fanfare that is connected with this region originates from it. The Annapurna region is the most popular and has the highest number of trekkers, making it the second most popular overall.

In addition, the Everest region is home to Sagarmatha National Park, which is a natural world heritage site and is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Anyone who has attempted to climb Everest can attest to the fact that this landscape has a great deal more to offer than merely picture-perfect photographs that would be suitable for publication in an adventure magazine or a moment that would be worthy of being featured in National Geographic.

Sherpas – the soul of the Everest Region

People are the most important factor in determining the success and vitality of any location. Within the Everest region, the Sherpas are both the region’s lifeline and its soul. Westerners frequently have the misconception that the term “Sherpa” refers to a career that is devoted to providing guided summits and is tasked with the laborious duty of transporting critical supplies up ahead from the base camp of Mount Everest. However, this perception could not be more incorrect.

Since more than five hundred years ago, the Sherpas, who are descended from Tibet, have been the original people of this region. The majority of them might be found in the Solukhumbu district of Nepal, which is located in the southern footholds of Everest. In addition, Sherpas make up a sizeable section of the urban population in Kathmandu. They also live in the valleys and villages that are located in the surrounding area. The people who live in this mountainous town are known for their honesty, their dedication to their profession, and their sense of duty.

Sherpas and their Culture

A significant part of the Sherpa community is located in the Himalayas. It is not just their house, but it also serves as a symbol of the Sherpa way of life, which is characterized by a lack of luxury but a sense of fulfillment. Not only are the paths packed with exciting activities, but the cultural aspect of the Sherpa tribe is also very interesting. There is a strong sense of solidarity among the Sherpas, who are devout Buddhists who are also known for their religious beliefs. In addition to being the center of their culture, the monastery is also the cornerstone of that culture. In order to bring together all of the Sherpa families into a community, this sacred string would be used.

Sherpa cultureHospitality in the Sherpa Community

The Sherpas are also well-known for their wonderful hospitality, and they are able to make each guest feel as though they are welcome. It is customary for Sherpas to welcome one another by presenting a khada, which is a silk scarf meant to symbolize both friendliness and respect. In addition, the Sherpa tea, which is made from fresh Yak milk, will only serve to make you feel more at ease and welcome.

Mani Rimdu – a sacred Sherpa festival

It is important to note that the Sherpas have their own unique approach to revelling. The Sherpas celebrate a significant event known as Mani Rimdu. It is a celebration that takes place after the full moon, shortly after the most important holiday in Nepal, Dashain, which takes place in the autumn, and it comes as a commemoration of Guru Rinpoche’s establishment of Buddhism in Tibet. Many people have the firm belief that Buddhism is reborn with each and every event that takes place annually. Over the course of nineteen days, the communal monasteries located in the Khumbu and Solu parts of the district conduct a ceremony that is both intricate and lengthy.

The Tengboche Monastery, which is located in the middle of Sagarmatha National Park and is the largest monastery in the Khumbu region, is recognized as a significant witness to this celebration. It is situated at an elevation of 3,867 meters. In addition to reciting an intriguing tale and, most importantly, reiterating the teachings of Buddha, each performance include masked dance acts that are complemented by traditional music and costume.

These dances, which are believed to be sacred, are only done during this festival; they are not performed in any other context for the purpose of enjoying entertainment. In the performances that are meant to symbolize the triumph of good over evil, there are depictions of demons being subdued and repelled.

Lhosar – another popular festival in the Sherpa community

An other significant Buddhist cultural celebration, Lhosar, is held to commemorate the beginning of the new year according to the lunar calendar, which occurs during the month of February. After a tough winter, the Khumbu region begins to come back to life with the arrival of spring. At the same time, the Sherpas who had gone on an adventure to the lowlands with the herd of yaks return home to be with the older members of their family who had remained behind. Numerous celebrations, including eating, merriment, and debauchery, are held in honor of the New Year.

Not every Sherpa is a mountaineer

It is not accurate to say that every Sherpa or Sherpini (a female Sherpa) is a mountain guide, despite the fact that it may be simple to reach such a conclusion. Despite the fact that a Sherpa is the person who has climbed Mount Everest the most times, it is important to note that not every Sherpa is a mountaineer and most certainly not a guide or a porter. There is a rising population of Sherpas who are currently working in a variety of vocations, including commerce and even politics. For all time, however, they will continue to be an indispensable component of the Everest region.

Sherpa Religion:

  • The Sherpa community practices the Nyingma school of Buddhism, emphasizing mysticism and incorporating local deities from pre-Buddhist beliefs.
  • They revere sacred mountains like Everest (Chomolungma) and Makalu (Shankar) as divine beings and perform rituals to seek permission before climbing.
  • Religious affairs are overseen by lamas, shamans, and soothsayers, with monasteries serving as spiritual centers.
  • Sagarmatha National Park, home to Everest, is considered sacred, but tourism poses challenges to Sherpa beliefs and practices.

Sherpa Clothing:

  • Traditional Sherpa attire includes chhuba for men and tongkok for women, reflecting Tibetan influence.
  • Clothing is increasingly made from factory materials rather than traditional home-spun wool and silk.
  • The attire is worn with cultural significance and reflects Sherpa identity.

Traditional Housing:

  • Sherpa houses are constructed with community support, often featuring spiritual ceremonies during building stages.
  • Houses are passed down within families and are not typically sold.
  • The architecture varies based on terrain and includes space for deities, humans, and animals.

Social Gatherings:

  • Sherpa communities gather for social events, where hospitality plays a significant role.
  • Guests are seated based on status, and hosts manipulate cooperation through hospitality.
  • These gatherings strengthen community bonds and cultural practices.

Notable Sherpa People:

  • Tenzing Norgay, along with Edmund Hillary, made history in 1953 as the first to reach Everest’s summit.
  • Temba Tsheri set a Guinness World Record in 2001 as the youngest Everest climber at 16.
  • Sherpas Pemba Dorje and Lhakpa Golu competed for the fastest Everest climb from base camp in 2003.
  • Apa Sherpa holds the record for the most Everest ascents, reaching the summit 21 times.
  • Pasang Lhamu Sherpa was the first Nepali woman to summit Everest, while Pemba Doma Sherpa achieved it twice.
  • Mingma Sherpa set a world record by scaling all 14 of the world’s highest peaks on his first attempt.
  • Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa and Sano Babu Sunuwar undertook the ‘Ultimate Descent’ from Everest, paragliding and kayaking.
  • Nima Chhamzi Sherpa became the youngest woman to summit Everest at 16 in 2012.
  • Chhurim Sherpa summited Everest twice in May 2012, earning recognition from Guinness World Records.
  • Chhang Dawa Sherpa became the youngest to summit the 14 highest peaks in 2013.
  • Pratima Sherpa, a top-ranked amateur golfer, was featured in Forbes’ ’30 under 30′ list.
  • Pasang Lamu Sherpa Akita, Dawa Yangzum Sherpa, and Maya Sherpa formed the first all-female team to summit K2.
  • Kami Rita holds the record for the most ascents of an eight-thousander peak, with 38 summits of Everest.
  • PK Sherpa and his son Sonam Sherpa aim to climb the seven highest summits for climate change awareness.
  • Peter James Sherpa, known for his oxygen-free climbs, died on Everest, commemorated at base camp.
  • Lhakpa Sherpa holds the record for the most successful Everest ascents by a woman, climbing it ten times.

Who Are The Most Famous Sherpas?

Particularly in the Himalayan region, Sherpas are held in extremely high esteem as exceptional mountaineers and as recognized authorities in their field. Certain sherpas who are considered to be among the most famous in the history of climbing have garnered international attention for their extraordinary accomplishments on the highest peaks in the globe. During the early stages of mountain conquest, they were of critical importance in providing support to early explorers. They are also indispensable guides at extremely high altitudes, particularly during climbs to Mount Everest, which is the most famous example of this.

The name “Sherpa” has come to be used in modern times to refer to nearly any guide or climbing assistance that is hired for mountaineering trips in the Himalayas, regardless of the ethnic background of the individuals involved. Due to the fact that this definition has been stretched, the phrase has become a colloquial synonym for a guide or mentor in a variety of contextual settings.

Tenzing Norgay and other well-known Sherpas have garnered a great deal of attention in the climbing and mountaineering community due to their achievements. Their amazing tenacity, competence, and considerable experience in traversing hazardous high-altitude conditions have earned them a special place in the hearts of all who know them. The outstanding climbing abilities of Sherpas have been revealed to be partially related to genetic adaptations that have been formed through generations of living in high-altitude environments, according to research.

1. Ang Tharkay

  • Notable for his roles as both a Sherpa and Sirdar in Himalayan expeditions.
  • Introduced Tenzing Norgay to mountaineering.
  • Played key roles in various expeditions, including those to Everest and Nanda Devi.
  • Served as sirdar for expeditions like the 1938 Everest expedition and the 1950 French Annapurna expedition.

2. Tenzing Norgay

  • First person, along with Edmund Hillary, to summit Mount Everest in 1953.
  • Participated in multiple Everest expeditions in the 1930s as a high-altitude porter.

3. Phurba Tashi Sherpa

  • Renowned for his numerous successful ascents on major Himalayan peaks.
  • Achieved 21 summits of Mount Everest, among other notable ascents.

4. Apa Sherpa (Lhakpa Tenzing Sherpa)

  • Held the record for the most ascents of Everest until 2017.
  • Accomplished 21 summits of Everest between 1990 and 2011.

5. Kami Rita Sherpa

  • Holds the record for the most ascents of Everest, with 28 summits by May 2023.
  • Also holds the record for the most 8,000-meter peaks summited, with 38 in total.

6. Mingma Sherpa

  • First Nepali to ascend all 14 highest peaks on his first attempt.
  • Holds Guinness World Records along with his brother for being the first siblings to summit all 14 eight-thousanders.

7. Lhakpa Gelu

  • Holds the world record for the fastest ascent of Mount Everest.
  • Completed the climb in 10 hours, 56 minutes, and 46 seconds.

8. Ang Rita Sherpa

  • Known as the “Snow Leopard” for his numerous successful ascents of Everest without supplemental oxygen.
  • Scaled Everest ten times between 1983 and 1996.

9. Pasang Lhamu Sherpa

  • First Nepalese woman to summit Mount Everest in 1993.
  • Honored with tributes including a statue in Kathmandu and the naming of the Pasang Lhamu Highway.

10. Temba Tsheri Sherpa

  • Became the youngest person to summit Everest at 16 years old in 2001.

11. Lhakpa Tsheri Sherpa

  • Part of the duo “People’s Choice Adventurers of the Year 2012.”
  • Embarked on the “Ultimate Descent,” paragliding down Everest and kayaking through Nepal and India.

12. Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita

  • First Nepali woman mountaineering instructor.
  • Honored with National Geographic’s People’s Choice “Adventurer of the Year” in 2016.

13. Lhakpa Sherpa

  • Holds the world record for the most ascents of Everest by a woman, with ten summits.

14. Babu Chiri Sherpa

  • Achieved the feat of reaching the Everest summit ten times.
  • Set world records for spending 21 hours on the summit without oxygen and for the fastest ascent of Everest.

Mount Everest Sherpas vs Mount Kilimanjaro guides

In the realm of mountain guiding, two distinct groups stand out: the Sherpas of Everest and the guides of Mount Kilimanjaro. While both play integral roles in facilitating successful climbs, they operate in vastly different environments and cultural contexts. Sherpas, indigenous to the Himalayas, are renowned for their expertise in navigating the treacherous terrain of Everest, while Kilimanjaro guides bring their local knowledge to lead climbers through the diverse ecosystems of Africa’s tallest peak. Despite their differences, both groups share a commitment to safety, client support, and environmental stewardship, making them indispensable allies for adventurers seeking to conquer the world’s highest summits.


  1. Role and Expertise: Both Everest Sherpas and Mount Kilimanjaro guides are experienced in leading climbers on challenging mountain expeditions. Sherpas are indigenous people of the Himalayas who have deep cultural and mountaineering knowledge, while Kilimanjaro guides are local Tanzanian guides familiar with the routes and conditions of the mountain.
  2. Support Services: Both Sherpas and Kilimanjaro guides provide essential support services to climbers, including setting up camps, carrying equipment, providing guidance, and ensuring safety during the ascent and descent.
  3. Training and Certification: Both groups undergo specialized training and certification to become proficient in their roles. Everest Sherpas often receive training from renowned mountaineering organizations and have extensive experience in high-altitude climbing. Kilimanjaro guides undergo training specific to the routes on Mount Kilimanjaro and may be certified by the Kilimanjaro National Park authority.


  1. Location and Terrain: Everest Sherpas operate in the rugged and extreme conditions of the Himalayas, dealing with high altitude, harsh weather, and technical climbing challenges. In contrast, Mount Kilimanjaro guides navigate the diverse ecosystems of the African savanna and the unique challenges of a high-altitude trek.
  2. Altitude and Climate: Everest Sherpas work at much higher altitudes, often above 8,000 meters, where oxygen levels are low, temperatures are freezing, and weather conditions can be severe. Kilimanjaro guides lead climbs up to approximately 5,895 meters (19,341 feet), facing altitude-related challenges and variable weather conditions, including heat and cold at different elevations.
  3. Cultural and Ethnic Background: Sherpas have a distinct cultural and ethnic identity, with a rich history intertwined with the Himalayan region. Kilimanjaro guides come from diverse ethnic backgrounds in Tanzania, with connections to local tribes and cultures.


  1. Safety and Risk Management: Both Everest Sherpas and Kilimanjaro guides prioritize safety and risk management during climbs, implementing strategies to prevent altitude sickness, hypothermia, and other mountain-related hazards.
  2. Client Support: Both groups provide personalized support to climbers, offering encouragement, motivation, and assistance as needed throughout the journey. They play a crucial role in ensuring the well-being and success of their clients.
  3. Environmental Stewardship: Both Sherpas and Kilimanjaro guides are advocates for environmental conservation and responsible tourism practices. They promote Leave No Trace principles and educate climbers about preserving the natural beauty and ecological integrity of the mountains they traverse.

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