What it means to be Sherpa
Over 300 winters ago, a clan of intrepid "shed-pa" ("people of the east") trekked from the snowy reaches of Tibet into the Khumbu Valley of Nepal. They settled down as traders and farmers on the steep sides of the world's highest mountains. In time, climbers attempting to scale these peaks came to enlist the aid of local Sherpa to set the routes, carry the loads, and lay the ropes to the top and back.
So it is that "Sherpa" has come to be more than a clan name. In common usage from Kathmandu to the lofty reaches of the G8 Summit, it stands for an experienced guide who is tough, trustworthy and tireless.
The Sherpas and Mt. Everest - A history intertwined
Ever since Sir Edmund Hilary first reached the summit of Everest in 1953 with Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, climbers have depended on forgoing strong ties with the Sherpa people. In fact, the relationship stretches back to the first British expeditions of the 1920's, when George Mallory and others chose elite sherpa "Tigers" to aid in their attempts to gain the summit
Today, more than 3,00 people have reached the highest point on Earth with Sherpa help, including a boy of 13, a woman of 73, a man of 90, and some who climbed blind or with missing limbs.
Along with sharing the first ascent (Tenzing Norgay), Sherpa have set records for the first repeat ascents (Nawang Gombu), the fastest ascent via the Southeast Ridge with and without supplemental oxygen (Pemba Dorje Sherpa and Kazi Sherpa, respectively), the most ascents (Apa Sherpa and Phurba Tashi, both 21 times), and the first ascent by a woman twice in one week (Chhurim Sherpa).
As always, our thoughts and prayers go with every soul on Mt. Everest for a safe and successful climbing season.