Many of us tend to think of Sherpas as a group of specialized porters, but they are in reality one of the ethnic groups of peoples that can be found in the beautiful mountainous regions of Nepal. Geographically speaking Sherpas are generally found in the high, eastern regions of the Himalayas and some 3,000 Sherpas can be found in the Khumbu valley near Mount Everest. There are well over 10,000 Sherpas in Nepal and of these, very few have chosen to brave the beautiful mountains of the region and help foreigners fulfill their dreams.
What makes the Sherpa people so special? Because of their way of life and the fact that they live on the southern side of Mount Everest at a high altitude, their physical ability in this sort of environment is unmatched. Many famous Sherpas have been able to make use of this fact to support a number of ground-breaking climbing expeditions in the Himalayas. Sherpas are so important to the success of climbing here that they form the backbone of every climbing expedition; it is highly unlikely that an attempted climb will be successful unless there is at least one knowledgeable and experienced Sherpa in the group.
Despite the fact that the indisputable value and contribution of these people is often undervalued and overlooked, a number of Sherpa have made their way into the history books of mountain climbing. Perhaps one of the most famous Sherpas ever is Tenzing Norgay. Norgay accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary on his monumental, world-famous climb up Mount Everest and he has certainly participated in more than one successful climb during the course of his career. Other Sherpas who have become noteworthy for their achievements include Nawang Gombu, Babu Chhiri, Temba Tsheri, and Ming Kipa, amongst others.
Despite the success and fame that many Sherpa have achieved, the majority have chosen to stick to the traditional customs that they have grown up with. Most Sherpa grow their own food and breed yaks, making their own clothing and supplies from that which surrounds them. They are an intensely interesting people and it is worth taking the time to get to know them if you can. You will find that it is an experience that you are unlikely to ever forget.