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Sherpa (people)

From Academic Kids

The word Sherpa originally referred to an ethnic group from the most mountainous region of Nepal, high into the Himalayas (although many of them now live in India). In China, they are known as the Xiaerba, although the government classifies them as a member of the Tibetan nationality. In recent years, many Sherpas have migrated to India.

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A Nepalese Sherpa and his pack.


Native Territory


Most Sherpas live in the eastern regions of Nepal known as Solu, Khumbu and Pharak. However, some live farther west in the Rolwaling valley and in the Helambu region north of Kathmandu. Pangboche is the Sherpas' oldest village in Nepal, and is estimated to have been built over 300 years ago. Sherpas speak a Tibetan dialect and traditionally are traders and farmers, cultivating their high altitude fields of potatoes, barley, wheat and buckwheat. If they live within a day's walk of Namche Bazaar, some will raise water buffalo and slaughter them for the Saturday market in Namche. The Jirels are ethnically related to the Sherpas. In India, Sherpas also inhabit the towns of Darjeeling and Kalimpong and the Indian state of Sikkim.

Traditionally (although not strictly followed), the names of Sherpa men often reflect the day of the week on which they were born:

Days of the Weeks in Sherpa
English Sherpa
SundayNima
MondayDawa
TuesdayMingma
WednesdayLhakpa
ThursdayPhurbu
FridayPasang
SaturdayPemba

Sherpas and Mountaineering

Sherpas were of immeasurable value to early explorers of the Himalayan region, serving as guides and porters at the extreme altitudes of the peaks and passes in the region. Today, the term has been extended to apply to almost any guide or porter hired for mountaineering expeditions in the Himalayas. However, in Nepal, Sherpas often insist on making a distinction between themselves and general porters, as they often serve in a more guide-like role and command higher pay and respect from the community. Sherpas are renowned in the global climbing and mountaineering community for their hardiness, expertise, and experience at high altitudes. Sherpas have earned this reputation mostly because despite the value of their services, the pay is insubstantial to the point where many cannot afford the modern climbing gear that western climbers use. Many have speculated that a portion of Sherpas' climbing ability may be due to a genetically greater lung capacity, allowing much better performance at high altitudes. It has also been suggested that one reason why they were widely used as porters is that they had fewer dietary prohibitions than most people of the region, they were prepared to eat whatever was given to them on expeditions.

Historically, the most famous Sherpa is Tenzing Norgay, who climbed Mount Everest with Edmund Hillary for the first time in 1953. Tenzing had already taken part in six previous expeditions to climb Mount Everest.

Two Sherpas, Pemba Dorjie and Lhakpa Gelu, have recently competed as to who can climb Everest quicker. On May 23rd 2003 Dorji took 12 hours and 46 minutes to climb to the top. Three days later Gelu beat his record by two hours, climbing to the top in 10 hours 46 minutes. On May 21st 2004 Dorji again improved the record by more than two hours with a total time of 8 hours and 10 minutes. This feat may be considered one of the greatest in mountaineering.

See Also

de:Sherpa es:Sherpa id:Sherpa it:Sherpa nl:Sherpa ja:シェルパ ro:Şerpaş sv:Sherpa

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