Sherpas -Mountain People of the Himalaya


Sherpas are people who live in the northeastern part of Nepal, in the valleys of the Himalaya Mountains. There are about 40,000 sherpas , many of which live near Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain.

Sherpas probably came to Nepal from Tibet in the early part of the 16th century. They still have many customs and traditions of the Tibetan people and they also dress in Tibetan clothes.



Most sherpas are Tibetan Buddhists. They have no written language and worship the mountains around them, which they view as the home of the gods. Mount Everest, for example, is called Chomolungma, the Mother of Gods.

At first the world did not know very much about the sherpas. They lived alone in their villages, traded goods and grew corn and potatoes. When the British started mountain climbing expeditions in the 20 th century they used sherpas as guides. With the help of yaks sherpas helped mountaineers bring their heavy loads into great heights.



Over the years sherpas have been admired for their physical strength. They need less oxygen to breathe and can work better at high attitudes and in thin air. Even today sherpas rely on walking to move around. There are no cars or other vehicles.

In 1953 a sherpa named Tensing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, a mountaineer from New Zealand, became the first people to get to the top of Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain.

Helping tourists get to the top of high mountains has become is a great source of income. While mountain climbers pay around $ 60,000 for an expedition, sherpas earn $2,000 and more on a trip. Some of them have even started their own business, or operate hotels and lodges for tourists.

Even though sherpas know the region better than anyone else they risk their lives on expeditions. About a third of the people who have died trying to conquer Mount Everest have been sherpas.

In the last few decades many international organizations have helped sherpas improve their life. A foundation set up by Sir Edmund Hillary has brought health care and modern medicine to remote villages. Water power plants and hospitals have also been set up.

The tourist industry has made life easier for most sherpas. Many have adapted to a more western way of life even though some of them still live as their ancestors did many centuries ago.



  • adapt = to get used to a new situation
  • admire = to respect someone because they have special talents
  • altitude = the height of an object above sea level
  • ancestor = a member your family who lived long ago
  • business = company
  • century = a period of a hundred years
  • conquer = here: to climb a difficult mountain
  • custom = tradition
  • decade = a period of ten years
  • even though while
  • expedition = a journey or trip to a dangerous place; it must be carefully organized
  • foundation = organization that collects money for someone
  • goods = products
  • guide = a person who shows you or leads you to places
  • heath care = an government organization that looks after all the people of a country
  • height = how tall something is
  • improve = to make better
  • income = the money that you get when you work
  • lodge = a house or hotel in which people who go on expeditions or safaris can stay
  • mountaineer = mountain climber
  • oxygen = a gas tha is in the air and that we need to breathe
  • physical = about the body
  • rely = depend
  • remote = far away
  • source = place where something comes from
  • strength = power
  • trade = to exchange, buy and sell
  • valley = low land between two mountains, usually with a river flowing through it
  • vehicle = a machine with an engine that takes people from one place to another
  • view = see
  • water power plants = buildings that make electricity out of water power
  • worship = pray or say religious words to god
  • yak = an animal in Central Asia that looks like a cow with long hair