What\’s the mortality rate for Sherpas on Mount Everest?

What\’s the mortality rate for Sherpas on Mount Everest?

Understanding the Mortality Rate for Sherpas on Mount Everest

Mount Everest, standing at 8,848 meters (or 29,028 feet), has been the crown jewel for mountaineers since it was first successfully ascended in 1953. Its iconic status has led many daring individuals, from professional climbers to ambitious rifers, to make the perilous yet exhilarating journey to its summit. But amid the brave souls on this mountain are the Sherpas, mountaineering guides and porters who are the spine of any successful Everest expedition. Despite their paramount role, recent studies have shown that their mortality rates are alarmingly high.

Who are the Sherpas?

Sherpas are a Nepalese ethnic group recognized for their exceptional climbing skills, intimate knowledge of the mountain, and extraordinary physiological ability to cope with low oxygen levels at high altitude. Predominantly, they work in the lucrative but lethal climbing industry as guides and porters, carrying heavy loads, fixing ropes, setting up camps, and guiding foreign climbers safely on Mount Everest.

Mortality Rates of Sherpas

Mortality rates for Sherpas on Mount Everest are distressingly high. A comprehensive study in the British Medical Journal noted that Sherpas have a significantly higher death rate on Everest than the climbing population. Between 1921 and 2006, an estimated one-third of all deaths on the Everest climbing routes were Sherpas. More recent statistics indicate that from 2000 to 2014, the fatality rate among Sherpas was approximately 1.2% per year, nearly 12 times higher than the mortality rate for military personnel in Iraq during the height of the conflict.

The Dangerous Work of Sherpas

Their perilous work often exposes Sherpas to greater risk. Truth be told, Sherpas make the most treacherous trips across icefall more times than the climbers, as they transport equipment, erect ladders across crevasses, and lay ropes for their clients. Hence, they repeatedly risk exposure to the deadliest sections of the mountain, making them the hidden victims of Everest’s glory.

Steps to Reduce Sherpa Mortality

This pressing issue has got international attention, leading to an increase in compensation for injured Sherpas and the families of those who lose their lives on Everest. Initiatives like the Sherpas Fund, a charity started by Black Diamond Equipment founder Peter Metcalf and climber and photographer Cory Richards, have been put in place to support the Sherpa community.

Yet, it needs more than financial compensation. There is a pressing need for better safety measures, training, and equipment for Sherpas. Insurance policies and enforceable guide-to-client ratios are also crucial. Ultimately, a careful evaluation of the inherent risks and benefits associated with the commercialization of Mount Everest need to be considered more seriously.


The stark reality of the Sherpa’s mortality rate on Mount Everest underlines the enormous risks these brave individuals undertake to help others achieve their dreams. Perhaps it’s time the world goes beyond admiring the summit of Everest to appreciating the Sherpas who make the conquest of this giant possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the exact mortality rate for Sherpas on Mount Everest?

The mortality rate for Sherpas on Mount Everest from 2000 to 2014 is approximately 1.2% per year which is drastically high compared to other high-risk professions.
2. Why do Sherpas face a higher mortality rate on Mount Everest?

Sherpas generally endure the higher risk because they traverse the hazardous icefall more times than climbers while carrying considerable loads, setting up ropes, and erecting ladders.
3. What actions are taken to reduce the mortality rate of Sherpas?

Steps such as increased compensation, the institution of funds for the Sherpa community, better safety measures, advanced training, and implementation of better insurance policies, are being taken to reduce the mortality rate of Sherpas.
4. What role do Sherpas play in Everest expeditions?

Sherpas act as guides and porters during Everest expeditions. They carry heavy loads, fix ropes, set up camps, and lead climbers safely on Mount Everest.
5. Are Sherpas physiologically different from others?

Yes, Sherpas are known to have a superior ability to cope with low oxygen levels at high altitudes due to their genetic adaptation and extensive exposure to these conditions.