What is a Sherpa?

While there is often confusion on the use of the term, we’re here to give you a better idea of what precisely a Sherpa is and how to use the word correctly. Here’s what we know about it;

The term “Sherpa” does not describe a particular occupation or job title. Instead, it is the name of an entire Tibetan tribe – those residing in the mountainous regions of the Himalayas.

An Overview of the Sherpa People

The word Sherpa literally translates to Eastern People. They were given this name because of their geographical location in Tibet. They are more commonly found in the eastern regions of Tingri and Nepal.

As per the Nepali census, there are almost half a million Sherpas within its borders as of 2011. However, many of them have migrated to Western countries in the past few years to seek a better life. (Source: CNN)

Why Do People Think Being a Sherpa is an Occupation?

Over the years, the term Sherpa was used to describe the trekking crew that assisted tourists in the Himalayas. The fact of the matter is, these guides are not all from the Sherpa tribe.

The job of the trekking crew per se is to help set up camp, manage the group, and ensure that everyone is safe during the trek. They are also expected to liaise with the tourists while on the job.

Most of the time, these guides would set up base at the bottom of the mountain. However, particular kinds of crew would assist you all the way to the top of the mountain, but at a hefty price. (Source: CNN)

Can Anyone Be a Sherpa?

Since we have defined the term correctly, the short answer to this question is no. You cannot just be a Sherpa. It’s not like a change in citizenship or merely joining their tribe. Some studies show how different actual Sherpas are compared to us.

Because of where they live, Sherpas have adapted to a high-altitude and low oxygen environment. The way their bodies adapted is quite remarkable. Some include the presence of hemoglobin-binding enzymes, double production of nitric oxide, the utilization of glucose by their hearts, and the capability of their lungs to work efficiently even with low oxygen.

With this in mind, one can assume that it is not easy to actually become a Sherpa, given that a foreigner would not have the same unique qualities they do to survive. (Source: CNN)

Do All Sherpas Like to Climb?

The obsession with trekking originated from European tourists. Sherpas just so happen to be well equipped to withstand higher altitudes and low oxygen, which makes them better at summiting than other people.

While most Sherpas are not all climbers, they associate the act with religion. They believe that accidents during the trek are because of the lack of respect paid to their gods. A prayer ceremony with offerings must precede any expedition. (Source: CNN)

Are There Any Famouse Sherpas?

Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa, climbed Mount Everest with Edmund Hillary in 1953. He is often referred to as climbing royalty. Apa Sherpa, the rockstar of all the trekkers, claimed his 23rd summit in 2011 – noted as the most significant record worldwide.

We may not hear about them as often, but they are pretty popular among Tibetans and Indians alike. (Source: CNN)

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