We Western climbers are very quick to make sure our Mount Everest climb to the summit is recorded. But what about the Sherpa and other Nepali climbers who put in all the ropes, carry all our stuff and then lead us to the top? Who records how many Sherpas have climbed Everest? The simple, scandalous answer is: no one.
Rather shocked at this, I asked my Sherpa friends and colleagues, looked at existing climbing databases and tried to find out how many Sherpas had climbed the mountain. After all, we couldn’t do it without them.
Approximately 3000 Sherpas have climbed Mount Everest, though the real number is not known. Bear in mind that many Sherpas climb the mountain multiple times, so the number of Sherpa ascents is much higher – over 5000 to date.
Ascents are recorded more accurately, where Sherpas are part of a team with Western climbers. The number of “Hired Successes” is listed as 5,108 (Source: Himalayan Database). “Hired successes” means people paid to assist climbers on an expedition, who also get to the summit themselves.
The complication is that many Sherpas get to the summit more than once during their career. The reason 5,108 isn’t the number of Sherpas who have climbed Everest is because many of them have climbed it more than once.
For example, Phurba Tashi Sherpa, who I climbed with personally for several years running has 21 Everest summits under his belt, and Kami Rita Sherpa has summitted no less than 25 times. Apa Sherpa is well known for climbing the mountain 22 times and is nicknamed “Super Sherpa”. So the true answer may only be known to an official somewhere in the Nepali Government.
I asked my friend Dawa Sherpa and he had this to say:
“The Sherpas who are working on Everest during Normal Season are around 260 and among them mostly 250 goes on the top. But it depends on how many tourist are there for each seasons.-Dawa Sherpa (in a personal email to the author)
For example: In 2018, there were about 262 successful Members (tourists) with total of 298 Sherpas who summited in the same year.
According to my experience, I think there has been around more than 3000 individual Sherpa who has summited Mt.Everest till 2019.”
If ever a simple question about Everest opened a can of worms, this is it – and it started with the first Sherpa to climb Everest.
Who Was the First Sherpa To Climb Mount Everest?
The ethnic group known as Sherpas have become inextricably linked to Mount Everest.
Tenzing Norgay was the first Sherpa to climb Mount Everest. He summited the mountain in 1953 with Edmund Hillary.
However, the way the ascent was recorded is – as I’ve discussed above – unfair and unjust. For example, under the listing for Spring 1953, the British Mount Everest expedition which put Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on the top is listed as one successful “Member” ascent, and one successful “Hired” ascent. Norgay was paid for his work.
On the mountain, though Hillary and Norgay climbed as an equal partnership. This disparity has continued down the years since 1953 and has become a source of irritation for the Sherpa and other Nepalis who, let’s face it do all the hard work on the mountain.
Part of the purpose of this website is to inform everyone about the true facts about Mount Everest, as far as we can establish them, facts which have become covered by blizzards of ‘alternative facts’.
The Sherpas, porters and expedition organizers make climbing Everest possible – and it’s time they were given equal credit.