Who are Sherpa?
The term Sherpa comes from two different words Shar ‘’east’’ and waa ‘’people’’. So together Sherpa means ‘people from the east’ according to the ethnic Sherpa language. Contrary to popular usage, a Sherpa is a member of an ethnic group from the mountainous region of Nepal, the Himalayas – not necessarily a high-altitude porter or climber. However, in trekking and expedition area, ‘’Sherpa’’ is commonly used to describe high altitude guides and porters. They take great pride in their mountaineering heritage, just as another famous people of Nepal, the Gurkhas, who take pride in their warrior skills.
History and Religion.
Starting 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 the eastern region of Nepal – Everest region, Rolwaling region and in the Helambhu region north of Kathmandu. The language of Sherpa is similar to Tibetan and is considered a branch of Tibeto-Burman language. They practice Buddhism of the Nyingma-pa (Oldest Buddhist sect). An important aspect of Sherpa religion is monastery or gompa.
Statistics and facts
According to the 2001 census, the Sherpa population numbers nearly 1,55,000. Most Sherpa work in tourism, trade and agriculture. They mainly live in the Solukhumbu region and inhabits the valleys of Dudh Koshi and Rolwaling region too. A large number of Sherpa have moved to the capital city, Kathmandu for the better life of their and their children. A Sherpa will earn USD 4000 on average for his 2 months long hard work on bigger expeditions by carrying loads, establishing camps and for guiding people to the summit.
Traditional Sherpa economic activities were centered on agriculture and trade. It was later after foreigners visited the Himalayas, the tourism brought them a new source of income. Today majority of Sherpa people still work in tourism, guiding people in the Himalaya. Sherpa have gained world renown for their high-altitude skills and well as for their warmth and friendliness, their happy, relaxed attitude to life and similar traits that continue to endear them to trekkers and mountaineers. Sherpa are regarded as an elite mountaineer, serving as the guides at the extreme altitudes, particularly for high altitude expeditions. Sherpa acts as a guide and porter, and do everything from setting up the base camp to establishing and carrying up the loads to higher camps. Today, many Sherpa guides work nationally and internationally guiding people to the summit of peaks in different parts of the world. Some Sherpa guides are even an IFMGA/UIAGM certified mountain guides.
Why they are considered superhuman mountaineers?
The climbing ability of Sherpa is the result of a genetic adaption to living in the high altitude. Recent studies and research have found out that Sherpa have a genetic advantage in high altitude and thus can adapt with the high altitude without more acclimatization. The Sherpa of Himalaya have evolved to master the ability to survive in high altitude.
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