Sherpas Conquering the heights of the Himalayas
Life in the Himalayas is not a child’s play. The harsh environment and tough terrains do not make it any easier. But the ethnic community of the Sherpas has adapted accordingly to live in this unforgiving land. They’re well known for being guides to those who desire to climb the highest mountains, and are among the most famous people of our country worldwide alongside the brave Gurkha soldiers. The Sherpas are said to be born mountaineers with their fantastic mountaineering prowess and their genetically hardiness which has introduced them into fame in mountaineering circles.
Originating from eastern Tibet, the Sherpas came and settled in the Khumbu region of Nepal, the gate way to Mt Everest, around 5 centuries ago. The word ‘Sherpa’ means people from the east and given their background, they practice Tibetan form of Buddhism. The Sherpas were simply farmers, yak herders, and traders before they came in contact with the western world. They were famous for the trades with the Tibet, where the Sherpas carried grains, cotton clothes, iron, and paper from the south and bartered these for salts, wool, sheep, and Tibetan artifacts.
The Sherpas, for many centuries, honored the great mountains towering over the region as dwelling places of gods and goddesses and the very thought of climbing these sacred mountains were considered blasphemous. In Tibetan, Mt. Everest is known as Qomolangma or Chomolangma, which translates to goddess mother. The Sherpas came to be known as great mountain climbers much before Tenzing Norgay Sherpa scaled Mt. Everest along with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. It was during the ground-breaking British expeditions in the early part of the century when the Sherpas rose to eminence.
During the first Everest expedition in 1921, the Sherpas impressed the English climbers with their skills, expertise, honesty and dedication. It was from that point on; the Sherpas became an integral part of international Himalayan climbing as guides and partners. The kinship of Westerners for the Sherpa/Buddhist civilization in time grew into a progressively more close understanding and friendship between these two cultures. Interestingly, the close contact with Western thought and civilization did not affect the Buddhist, animist and cultural traditions of these people.
After 1953, countless teams of climbers have wanted the same achievement and have thus invaded the Sherpa homeland, hiring an ever-increasing number of Sherpas as guides and porters. In 1976, the Sherpa homeland and Mt. Everest became protected as part of the Sagarmatha National Park. The park was created through the efforts not only of the government of Nepal but also through the work of the Himalayan Trust, a foundation established by Hillary.
Regardless, the influence of Westerners did have an impact on the lifestyle of the Sherpas as the Western mountain expeditions not only brought fame, but also the charm of mountaineering fame, which encouraged the Sherpas to embrace mountain climbing as a part of their own culture. While the ancestral roles as traders and farmers remained a staple element of Sherpa life, the radical change in their mainstay of the economy became mountain climbs and treks, which led to have an easier life for them.
Sherpas have evolved to become superhuman mountain climbers, extremely efficient at producing the energy to power their bodies even when oxygen is limited, as they have adapted to the harsh environment throughout the centuries. It should come without any surprise that they have adapted to become efficient in taking the low amount of oxygen and generating energy from that as they have spent thousands of years living at high altitudes.
The life of a Sherpa is demanding and dangerous, and their work is no less. Their job as guides and climbers are enlisted as one of the most dangerous and risky occupations as they have to tackle the unexpected weather and the harsh terrains of the great Himalayas.
Regardless, the influence of westerners did have an impact on the lifestyle of the sherpas as the western mountain expeditions not only brought fame, but also the charm of mountaineering fame, which encouraged the sherpas to embrace mountain climbing as a part of their own culture.
Dawa Tsering Bhote, one of the many Sherpa guides, is someone who has been climbing mountains and guiding expeditions since 2013. When we got a chance to meet him he claimed to have reached the peak of the highest mountain 4 times since his initial start as a Sherpa guide. He shares of his first time reaching the top as an out of this world experience. He says he was excited and to reach the peak of the top of the world was joyous unlike he ever experienced.
“My line of work is dangerous, and that goes without saying”, he says, “but I love what I do.”
Mountain Climbing is not an easy job and Mr. Dawa Tsering Bhote emphasized that the safety of their own, and of the clients is the main priority. “While going on those expeditions, you should have a clear mind and be focused on the job at hand and not have your mind wander elsewhere”, the 29 year old guide said expressing how dangerous it can be if one is not mentally focused.
When we asked him how he does what he does with such efficiency, he replied, “As a guide, it is our job to know the terrain, which part of the expedition is hard and dangerous. You also need to know how the climates change up there.” It is clear to see he has accumulated a lot from firsthand experience of climbing the glorious mountains.
Dawa Tsering Bhoto is one of the few brave peoples who risk their lives every day tackling the mountains, either to earn a living, or out of sheer desire for adventure. No matter the reason, they are world famous for what they do, their expertise and their un-breaking dedication, all elements that demands admiration.