The Future of Sherpas
Thanks to Mount Everest tourism, Solu-Khumbu has taken many steps toward modernization. A hydroelectric plant supplies power, and music stores, pool halls and Internet capacity are other new conveniences. In fact, almost everything that Sherpas or tourists need is for sale nearby, particularly in the southern village of Namche Bazaar. On the flip side, deforestation and pollution from centuries of Sherpa land use and the influx of tourists has threatened the region's environmental health. In response, the government has enforced stricter environmental protection laws and restrictions.
Regardless of the economic improvements and new schools and hospitals, the area still offers few educational or professional opportunities. For that reason, the population has dwindled in recent years with about 3,500 people living in the Sagarmatha National Park. The younger generations in particular are moving away from their high-altitude homeland into outlying villages and more urban cities like Kathmandu, Nepal's capital. In spite of this apparent threat to the existence of the traditional Sherpa culture, a National Geographic study found that Sherpas are not overly concerned about the influence of Western tourists [source: Reid and Kendrick].
Nevertheless, some feel that the spiritual devotion inherent in the land has given way to worldly pleasures. For Sherpas involved in the climbing industry, Khumbu has become a lucrative location. Many climbers pay around $65,000 per expedition, with Sherpas earning upwards of $2,000 a trip. Compared to Nepal's per capita Gross National Income of $331 in 2007 [source: World Bank], successful guides can grow rich by local standards. Multiply that by the 20,000 tourists who travel through each year [source: Reid and Kendrick], and you see the force of the industry.
Some Sherpas, like Apa Sherpa, have also started their own trekking businesses or own hotels and lodges. Interestingly, Apa says that he wishes he could have had a better education and become a medical doctor, rather than make a life out of climbing. Even though he holds the record for the most number of Everest summits with 17 successful attempts, he only climbs to afford a brighter future for his children and donates some income from his trekking business to a Sherpa educational fund. Apa shares the sentiment of many other Sherpas who also want to provide more for their children.
Even with this cultural shift, one integral aspect of Sherpa life has not changed: the walking. Still today, no automobiles clog the footpaths in Solu-Khumbu, and it seems it will stay that way. Walking is what brought the Sherpas to where they are today and is what will take them into the future.
For more information on the Sherpas and Mount Everest, read the links below.
- 10 Ways to Survive a Snow Storm
- How Climbing Mount Everest Works
- How the Dalai Lama Works
- How Adventure Travel Works
- How Ecolodges Work
- How to Survive the Freezing Cold
- Why is snow white?
- How to Tibetans avoid altitude sickness?
- Is global warming destroying Mount Everest?
- Why is it colder at the top of a mountain than it is at sea level?
More Great Links
- Beall, Cynthia M. "Andean, Tibetan, and Ethiopian patterns of adaptation to high-altitude hypoxia." Integrative and Comparative Biology. Jan. 6, 2006. (March 17, 2008)
- Clark, Liesl. "World of the Sherpa." NOVA Online. Public Broadcasting Systems. Updated November 2000. (March 19, 2008) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/everest/history/sherpasworld2.html
- Douglas, Ed. "Upwardly Mobile." Geographical. May 2003. (March 18, 2008)
- Everest History. "Summits and Deaths by Year." (March 24, 2008) http://www.everesthistory.com/everestsummits/summitsbyyear.htmc
- Fischer, James. "Sherpas of Khumbu." Oxford University Press. 1990. (March 18, 2008). http://www.linkingeverest.com/html/sherpaculture.htm
- George, Don. "A Man to Match the Mountain." Brilliant Careers. Salon. (March 19, 2008) http://www.salon.com/bc/1998/12/cov_01bc2.html
- Handwerk, Brian. "The Sherpas of Mount Everest." National Geographic. May 10, 2002. (March 19, 2008) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/05/0507_020507_ sherpas.html
- Houston, Charles S., David E. Harris; Ellen J. Zeman "Going Higher: Oxygen, Man, and Mountains." The Mountaineers Books. 2005. (March 20, 2008) http://books.google.com/books?id=nmfxsroNQ70C
- Massicot, Paul. "Wild Yak." Animal Info. Updated March 5, 2005. (March 24, 2008) http://www.animalinfo.org/species/artiperi/bos_mutu.htm
- Neal, Jonathan. "Tigers of the Snow." MacMillan. 2002. (March 17, 2008) http://books.google.com/books?id=Fnchj8KptbIC&printsec=frontcover&dq =sherpas&lr=&sig=AA25eupnyWzv1adY4hoS7L_AyMA#PPA31,M1
- Ortner, Sherry. "High Religion: A Cultural and Political History of the Sherpas." Motital Banarsidass Publications. 1992. (March 17, 2008) http://books.google.com/books?id=-LiX0Qjvs-oC&printsec=frontcover&dq= sherpa&sig=dImSkiZTLhccATwOQPCoSDho1lc#PPR8,M1
- Ortner, Sherry. "Life and Death on Mt. Everest: Sherpas and Himalayan Mountaineering." Princeton University Press. 1999. (March 19, 2008) http://books.google.com/books?id=wLgim3BZ5mwC&pg=PP13&dq=sherpa &sig=DFxN1vgNN0Ad4NK6XXbv9GCB7No#PPA34,M1
- Powers, John. "Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism." FrontLine. Public Broadcasting Systems. 1995. (March 19, 2008) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh//pages/frontline////shows/tibet/understand/ intro.html
- Reid, T.R. and Kendrick, Robb. "The Sherpas." National Geographic. May 2003. (March 17, 2008)
- Reynolds, Kev. "Everest: Trekking Routes in Nepal." Cicerone Press Limited. 2005. (March 18, 2008) http://books.google.com/books?id=CKhgE0qgSHIC&pg =PA18&dq=khumbu&sig=mc64SxTdHwY5g9y2nw6n BT6x_8U#PPA19,M1
- Tengboche Monastery Development Project. (March 19, 2008) http://tengboche.org.
- Tenzing, Tashi. "For Sherpas, a Steep Climb." The New York Times. May 29, 2003. (March 19, 2008) http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res= 9F02E7DB1E31F93AA15756C0A9659C8B63
- The Government of Nepal. "Sagarmatha National Park." Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation. (March 19, 2008) http://www.south-asia.com/dnpwc/Sagarmatha%20national%20Park/ sherpa.htm
- The Government of Tibet in Exile. "The Nyingma Tradition." (March 19, 2008) http://www.tibet.com/Buddhism/nyingma.html
- Whalen, Kelly. "The Legacy of Sherpa Women Mountaineers." PBS Frontline World. May 2003. (March 20, 2008) http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/nepal/lhamu.html
- Wise, Tad. "Blessing on the Wind: The Mystery & Meaning of Tibetan Prayer Flags." Chronicle Books. 2002. (March 19, 2008) http://books.google.com/books?id=dNFIECupWqwC&pg=PA25&dq=tibetan+prayer+flags+symbolism&sig=WwN4bIgCXPo0kU9viJs2VbwsX2w#PPA8,M1
- World Bank. "Nepal Data Profile." April 2007. (March 19, 2008) http://devdata.worldbank.org/external/CPProfile.asp?PTYPE=CP&CCODE =NPL/li