Are you part monkey? That’s what most parents suspect about their kids when they’re young, because most kids like to monkey around! Whether it’s playing on the monkey bars or climbing trees, at some point or another most kids like to reach new heights by testing out their skill as a climber.

For others, though, climbing becomes a hobby and maybe even a passion. We’re talking about serious mountaineers who enjoy climbing the world’s highest peaks. For many of these people, the ultimate goal is to climb the world’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest.

Climbing Mount Everest is no easy task, though. Marking the border between Nepal to the south and Tibet to the north, Mount Everest sits in unforgiving terrain. The path to the top is difficult and requires many supplies.

Fortunately, there are people who live in the area who are able to help the many climbers from around the world who try to tackle Mount Everest every year. These people from Nepal are called the Sherpa people.

The Sherpa people got their name from the Tibetan words for “eastern people.” They live in the high Himalayan Mountain regions of Nepal. Their ancestors were most likely nomadic Tibetans. Today, their population is estimated at over 150,000 people.

Because they have lived in the area for hundreds of years, the Sherpa people are experts when it comes to the local mountainous terrain. Naturally, they’re also advanced mountaineers. This made them a perfect choice as guides for the first expeditions up Mount Everest.

In fact, the Sherpa people are such excellent mountain guides that many people refer to any good mountain guide as a Sherpa. Technically, though, the name only applies to the Nepalese people who have lived in the area for many years.

The Sherpa people have lived at high altitudes for so long that their bodies have adapted to life in the area. This enables them to climb with great strength and stamina. For this reason, many Sherpa people carry heavy loads of equipment on mountain climbing expeditions, while the people they guide concentrate on the basics of climbing in unfamiliar territory.

One of the most famous Sherpas of all time is Tenzing Norgay. Along with Sir Edmund Hillary, he became one of the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1953. Another famous Sherpa, Apa Sherpa, has reached the summit of Mount Everest over 17 times!

58 Join the Discussion

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  1. Sorry I didn’t comment yesterday I wasn’t feeling well. I thought today’s wonder was really cool since I have never heard of a sherpa. They are very interesting. I have heard of Tenzing Norgay, Sir Edmund Hillary, and Apa Sherpa.

    I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about when you close your eyes what do you see.

    • We hope you’re feeling better today, Wondergirl101! We are so excited that you are WONDERing with us today about sherpas– you learn something new when you visit Wonderopolis! Can you imagine hiking and climbing in extreme weather at such a high altitude? We think sherpas are true Wonder Friends! Thanks for sharing your guess for the next Wonder of the Day®– we’ll see you tomorrow! :)

    • We think Sherpas are very brave, Jacob B! Some of our Wonder Friends are not too fond of heights, either. We hope you learned something new with us today! :)

  2. We think it would be amazing to climb Mt. Everest and meet the Sherpa people. We looked at pictures of Sherpa people on National Geographic Kids. It looks like it would be cool to live there.

    We think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about a staring contest.

    • What an adventure! Our Wonder Friends in Ms. Bayko’s Class have been doing even more WONDERing on their own– nice work! We Wonder if we can come visit you, should you choose to live near Mt. Everest!? Thanks for sharing your AWESOME guess for the next Wonder of the Day®, too! :)

  3. Hello. What does it take to become a Sherpa expert? How do you become a Sherpa expert. Do you have to apprentice with a seasoned Sherpa? How long does it take to know the area well enough to be a guide?

    We would like to have a wonder about Hurricane Sandy.

  4. Dear Wonderopolis,
    We learned a lot in today’s wonder. We did not know what nomadic people were and that there were so many Sherpa people. The link to the map helped us better understand where Nepal is. We’ve been learning about nonfiction features and maps are one of the things we’ve been studying. We liked how Nepal was blinking on the map. It made it stand out.

    Thanks for the great wonder!
    Mrs. Johnson’s 4th grade
    Hilliard, OH

    • HOORAY, our Wonder Friends from Mrs. Johnson’s 4th grade class are here today! We learned where Nepal is located, too! Thanks for summarizing all the great things you WONDERed about, including geography, cultures and nomadic lifestyles! We hope to see you soon, Wonder Friends! :)

  5. I just learned something very interesting: I had no idea of what the word “sherpa” stands for. Climbing mountains is exciting, but the extreme conditions of weather and physical strain brings mixed feelings to me. I enjoyed climbing the snowy mountains in Wyoming, and part of the Great Tetons. But those were daily trips. I like camping in warm weather. I admire the people who can endure such adventures.

    • Isn’t it amazing what Sherpas can accomplish, Ana Clara? We think it’s so cool that you are an adventurer yourself! We think it’s awesome that you enjoy camping and climbing, even if it’s during the warmer seasons! :)

  6. We have kids afraid of heights too in this class. :) Could you write a wonder about animals that live near the equator?

    Are there different levels of expertise assigned to each sherpa?
    P.S. we have kids interested in Hurricane Sandy too.

  7. Dear Wonderopolis,

    Thank you for the post on sherpas today! Your blog inspired us to do a mini inquiry into Mt. Everest! We have learned so much. We also read Steve Jenkins The Top of the World and found Mt. Everest on Google Earth. Tomorrow we will make podcasts to share our learning. Thanks for a great post!

    • How awesome– nice work, Wonder Friends in Ms. Ziemke’s class! We bet you are having a SUPER time WONDERing about Mt. Everest and super climbers! We can’t wait to see your podcast, too! We’d love it if you shared it via twitter (@Wonderopolis), on Facebook, or by email ([email protected])! :)

    • That’s a SUPER question, Wonder Friends in Library Class! We Wonder if you can do some research of your own… we bet you would find a big change when comparing Mt. Everest’s elevation to the elevation in Ohio! :)

  8. Wowa!
    We thought it was really cool to see people climbing Mt. Everest. We predicted before watching the video clip. We are still wondering..
    1. How do they stay alive in the cold weather?
    2. How do they keep themselves warm?

    We now know what a SHERPA is, thank you!

    -(Gula Gula) Third Grade Braves

    • HOORAY, we’re so excited that the Third Grade Braves are here today! We’re so glad you learned something new about the Sherpa people today! We would love it if you helped us answer your own Wonders! We are interested in learning about the survival tips for living in such extreme temperatures! Keep up the GREAT work, Wonder Friends! :)

  9. We liked that we got to see how they lived and slept in the coldness. It was amazing how they survived in the high altitude. It was cool how they could use the ladders to make bridges to walk on so they wouldn’t fall off. We liked how they were able to survive the climb since the mountain was so tall and the climate was so unforgiving. We liked how they survived the ultimate task. It was neat to see how the Sherpas helped the climbers achieve their goals. It was amazing how the mountaineers were able to climb and have the stamina while carrying pounds of supplies.

    • We are very impressed with the Sherpa people, too! Thanks for summarizing all that you have learned today, Tigers in 4th Grade! You’ve done an excellent job of WONDERing with us– we can only imagine how challenging it is to live in such extreme conditions! :)

  10. Wonderopolis,

    We thought that today’s wonder was really interesting because we didn’t know what a Sherpa was! We both would not like to be a Sherpa because we’re both afraid of heights and it looks freezing on top of a mountain!
    Would you like to be a Sherpa?

    Mikayla & Hunza :)

    • We think the Sherpa people are very brave, too, Hunza & Mikayla T! Heights can be scary for many, including some of our Wonder Friends! We think being a Sherpa would be challenging but rewarding, too! It’s an adventurous lifestyle! :)

  11. Hi we are in Mrs. Thiessen’s class. We saw the wonder about what is a Sherpa. We also saw the video. Before we didn’t think that we need an oxygen mask for climbing Mt. Everest. Thank for showing us that you know because if we tried to climb Mt. Everest and we forgot an oxygen mask we could have died.

    • Hey there, Suhail & Kultar! We’re glad you learned something new from today’s climbing Wonder! We’re super glad that the Sherpa people have oxygen masks, too! It helps them breathe easier in the thin air at high altitudes. :)

  12. Hi it’s Gurtej and Airyanna. I have never heard of a Sherpa. I’m not afraid of heights so it’s not a problem. My friend Airyanna is afraid of heights a little bit.

    • Perhaps our Wonder Friends Gurtej and Airyanna could climb a smaller mountain together (not too high) or go snowshoeing! That’s a great winter sport– and quite a workout! We’re happy you’re here today! :)

  13. Hi I’m in Mrs. T’s class. I saw your wonder and it looked scary. I would not like to be a Sherpa because when you’re high up you can’t breathe. You need special footwear and the footwear needs spikes.

    • We bet with the right footwear and guidance you could be great mountain climbers, Wonder Friends Armaan and Juliana! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :)

  14. Hi Wonderopolis our names are Devin and Navleen we are in Mrs. Thiessen’s class. Do you still remember us? We think today’s wonder is pretty awesome. We have a few wonders for you, Devin’s wonder is when was Wonderopolis created? Navleen’s wonder is who was the first person on Earth and how did they get here? Bye for now!

    • Hello, Wonder Friends Devin and Navleen! We’re so glad you’re back today! Thanks for WONDERing about the Sherpa people today– and also for sharing Wonders of your own!!

      Devin, Wonderopolis turned two years old in November– can you believe it?! We are always interested in what our Friends are WONDERing about… we’re going to have to put our thinking caps on for your Wonder, Navleen! :)

  15. Hi Wonderopolis,
    The wonder was great! We had no idea that today’s wonder would be about Sherpas. We think Sherpas are very brave! We wouldn’t be Sherpas because both of us don’t really like heights. One of our wonders is why do people want to be Sherpas? Another one of our wonders is that do Sherpas feel nervous when they’re walking up the mountains? We think tomorrow’s wonder of the day might be about the eye doctor, staring contest or what do you see when you close your eyes?

    • We agree with you, Mikayla and Simranjit– the Sherpa people are very brave! We’re excited that you’ve developed some Wonders of your own after reading the Sherpa Wonder today! Nice work! We haven’t talked to a Sherpa lately, but we Wonder if you can do some research about their feelings toward cold weather and their nerves. We can’t wait to see you tomorrow– it will make you blink! :)

  16. Hi guys it’s Aidan & Samir we never knew what a Sherpa was until now. We liked today’s wonder. We learned lots of new things with today’s wonder. We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about a staring contest.

    • Hello, Wonder Friends Aidan and Samir! We’re so happy to hear that you learned lots of new things with us today! HOORAY! We look forward to seeing you tomorrow, Wonder Friends! :)

    • Hey there, Gina M! We’re sorry to hear that this Wonder wasn’t one of your favorites, but did you learn something new? :)

  17. Hi Wonderopolis first of all we would like to say we love your website it is awesome! We love all of your wonderful videos and discoveries . Out of all the wonder what is your favorite wonder? We loved today’s wonder. We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about tv !

  18. Hi Wonderopolis,
    We really like the video! And we saw the video number 675 scratch and sniff on the
    Laptop. We love it is so cool good job! We think tomorrow’s wonder of the day might be about lenses or a staring eye contest, what’s in the eye.

    • Alright, our Wonder Friends Keerit, Isha and Vickie are here today! Hi Friends! We’re glad you have been WONDERing about the Sherpa people and scratch and sniff! How fun! We can’t wait to find out what tomorrow’s Wonder will be… it might make you blink! :)

  19. In the video. Why were the Sherpa people shoveling rocks next to the tent?

    And…
    Why do mountain climbers have spiky boots?

    • Hi there, Wonder Friends in Mrs. C’s Class! We are so proud of your SUPER questions! We think that the rocks provide solid ground for the tents– and will help provide a barrier when the Sherpa people are sleeping in their tents. That way they’re not sleeping directly on the snow.

      Also, the spiky boots help climbers to get a good grip on the snow, which can be slick and icy. It’s another form of traction– just like the bottom of a tennis shoe or the spike on a soccer cleat! :)

    • We bet you can do it, with the right training, Danielle! We think you can do anything you put your mind to! Keep up the great work… we’ll see you soon, Wonder Friend! :)

  20. Hi All
    I am from India and would try to clear the doubt. First of all, they are a classification of people who are living in basically the Mountain areas of India, Nepal and adjacent Nations. Just like we call a guy from Mexico a Mexican, in the same way people from those areas are known as Sherpa’s who are very energetic in climbing mountains and doing physical work.

    • Hi there, Wonder Friend Prashant! We’re glad you added your own information about Sherpas– we always appreciate when our Friends help us understand things better! Nice work! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is a Sherpa?
  • Where do the Sherpa people live?
  • Can you guide others?

Wonder Gallery

SherpaVimeo Video

Try It Out

Do you think you could ever be a Sherpa? Of course, if you weren’t born in Nepal as part of the Sherpa people, then it’s hard to be a true Sherpa. But could you guide someone up Mt. Everest? Not unless you have superior mountaineering experience…

But what if you could be a Sherpa in another area of your life? What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing?

Being a guide or a mentor to someone else is a great way to serve others and pass along your knowledge and experience. Could you teach some younger kids to play soccer? How about guiding your friends on their first canoe trip on a lake? Maybe you could even teach someone to play the piano.

Think about the things you’re good at and look for ways to pass along your interest, skill, experience and knowledge to others. Ask your friends and family members if they know of any volunteer opportunities in your area you could take advantage of. You won’t believe how good it feels to help others!

Still Wondering

National Geographic Xpeditions’ Religion and Spirituality in Nepal lesson asks children to contemplate the meaning of a statement regarding Nepalese religion and spirituality.

Wonder What’s Next?

Go ahead and blink! You won’t miss tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day.

Upload a Photo or Paste the URL of a YouTube or SchoolTube Video.